Friday, January 4, 2019

2018 Favorites

2018 was a so-so year of reading. One of my goals, which I accomplished, was to really dig into my collection of hardcover fiction and nonfiction; I have moved house twice in the last five years, and there were a lot of things that frankly I don't want to have to move again. So I spent some time late in 2017 grouping all of my hardcover fiction together and started reading it bedside, since I don't like lugging hardcovers around in my purse. I read a whole bunch! I read things that have been sitting on my shelf for ten years. And some of those books were great, but a lot of them went into the sell pile after 50-100 pages.

So a bunch of the fiction wasn't that thrilling. But some of it was, and since I didn't write a lot of reviews this year I'll tell you about those now.

I also wanted to read more nonfiction by and about women, and I did that, too. This was much more successful and some of my favorite reads of the year were stories about and by women I read because I made the time to do so.


Favorite Fiction of 2018

My Cat Yugoslavia, by Patjim Statovici. Surreal and strange and almost impossible to summarize, it's about immigration, coming of age, marriage, finding love and finding yourself. It covers two generations of an Albanian family from the Balkans to Scandinavia.

Buddha, by Osamu Tezuka. Reading Tezuka's 8-volume
manga series about the live of Buddha is something I've wanted to do for years and it is so incredibly worth it. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Never Mind and Mother's Milk, by Edward St. Aubyn. The first and fourth volumes of the Patrick Melrose series are my favorites- but I have #5 still to go. St. Aubyn's writing is precise, crystalline and tight; every word counts, and boy do those words add up. His characters are pretty awful, but his style, insight and character-building can't be beat.

Waiting for Tomorrow, by Nathacha Appanah. Appanah wowed me a few years ago with The Last Brother, and her followup didn't disappoint, about a couple living in France who hires a nanny from the wife's native country of Mauritius and the fallout.

The Devoted, by Blair Hurley. This is a very well-crafted, psychologically astute story of a late-twenties coming of age, set in NYC and Boston, about a young woman leaving an emotionally complicated relationship and building a life for herself.

Babel Tower, by A.S. Byatt. The third of Byatt's Frederica Potter series may be my favorite, although it's been about 20 years since I read the first two. Frederica is married and leaving her husband, taking her young son into a new life for both of them.

Women Talking, and All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews. Both novels based on real-life situations, Toews writes about women's lives with clarity and tenderness. Women Talking is about the fallout from a series of rapes in a Mennonite community in Bolivia; Sorrows is about a young writer's relationship with her talented, mercurial and suicidal sister. Both are wonderful.

Favorite Nonfiction of 2018

Code Girls, by Liza Mundy. This is a fascinating and addictive story of the American women who broke codes during World War 2, a story I knew nothing about. Women came from all over the country and every background you can think of to help the war effort with their mathematical, linguistic and mechanical skills. It's a story that needs to be told.

Sargent's Women, by Donna Luce
y. Lucey gives us insight into the lives of privileged Gilded Age women through mini-biographies of four who intersected with famed portraitist John Singer Sargent. I loved this peek into women whose lives took very different paths.

Calypso, by David Sedaris. Sedaris's latest memoir is moving, sad and hilarious, about growing older and living with the life you've made. He has done pretty well for himself, but that doesn't mean there isn't tragedy, or loss, alongside his phenomenal success as a writer.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, by Samantha Irby. By far the best time I had listening to a memoir this year, Irby's book is also moving, hilarious and sometimes sad, but with more of an emphasis on the funny. That said she tackles some tough stuff too, like her difficult relationship with her mother, that I found touching and real. And that poor cat. Good Lord, that poor cat.

Queer City, by Peter Ackroyd. Ackroyd's book takes us
through a history of London through the eyes of gay history and it's a really interesting and unexpected read. I enjoy Ackroyd's books about London and this is a great addition to his bookshelf.

I'm already picking my next reads for 2019. What did you love in 2018? What are you looking forward to? Tell me in the comments!


bermudaonion said...

I loved Calypso too. I need to check out some of your other titles.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Thank you for sharing your favorite reads of 2018. I requested Buddha from the library after reading your thoughts.

Happy New Year!