2018 in Books

I ended up finishing 90 books this year, which is far more than I usually read. I have no idea what changed in my reading life. Did I spend less time doing something else? Did I use my time better? Did I learn how to read faster? I honestly have no idea. But what a wonderful reading year it was!

It’s too hard to choose my favorites, so instead I’ll list some books I loved within specific categories. I’ll also include my one-sentence blurbs.

Best Self-Help

Do less dumb stuff so you can do more smart stuff.

Best Literary Fiction (Tied)

Institutionalized racism hurts people.

Family is hard.

Best Creepy Read

This woman’s revenge plot is messed-up (and totally deserved).

Confessions by [Minato, Kanae]

Best Ripped From the Headlines Novel

It’s hard to know why people do horrific and tragic things.

Best Sci Fi

It’s easier to solve a space mystery if you have more than one body.

Funniest Book (Tied)

Extroverts are very tiring, especially if you are married to the queen of them all.

Humans are confusing to space aliens.

Best Historical Fiction

Love for a child grows in even the most challenging circumstances.

News of the World

Best Nonfiction

Happiness, as a concept, functions to marginalize people in ways that are insidious and dangerous.

What were your favorites of 2018?

Finished, Reading, Will Read Next

December 6 2018

I just finished The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker. The writing was fantastic, but the story didn’t pull me in as much as I hoped it would. I’d recommend to anyone who likes books about art and artists. In some ways it reminded me a lot of The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.

I’m currently reading The Wife Between Us. It’s the perfect type of brain-candy-psychological-thriller book that I need at this time in the semester when I’m generally too preoccupied with grading to concentrate on anything else. I know some readers found it derivative and not riveting enough. It’s working for me in part because it isn’t demanding much from me. I also love books about flawed women and rich people.

Next up is A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne. I really loved The Heart’s Invisible Furies when I read it last year. This one also seems to be getting a lot of praise by reviewers and bloggers I trust. NPR described it as Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife meets Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. I liked both of those books when I read them years ago. I figure this will be a slam-dunk for me. This book is my treat after I submit final grades.

Two Books That Made Me LOL

 

Julie Schumacher.png

It takes a lot to make me laugh. And even when I do laugh, it’s usually just an internal chuckle. I have a weird thing where I rarely laugh out loud. (I internalized ideas as a child about the importance of being silent.)

Anyway, I read a book over Thanksgiving that did make me laugh out loud; it’s a sequel to another book that I lol’d over twice.

The first in the duology is Dear Committee Members. The second is The Shakespeare Requirement.

The author, Julie Schumacher, masterfully captures how ridiculous and petty and outright vicious academia can be. She also lovingly captures moments of grace and kindness–helpful reminders that all is not lost even if we faculty are mostly clinically unwell.

I guarantee at least ten or twelve decorous laughs.

 

 

Finished, Reading, Will Read Next

 

Finished: The Cabin at the End of the World

Brief Summary: A band of four weirdos show up at the New Hampshire vacation cabin of a married couple, Eric and Andrew, and their daughter Wen. The weirdos tell Eric and Andrew that unless one of them willingly kills the other, the world will end. Are they wackos or visionaries? Who’s getting out of the cabin alive?

My Report: Meh. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you absolutely love horror novels and are looking for something that’s well-written and creepy. I just didn’t love the way it played out.

***

Reading: The Clock Dance

Brief Summary: Willa Drake revisits pivotal moments in her life, beginning with the day her mother disappeared in 1967.

Initial Thoughts: Anne Tyler can do no wrong. Charming and insightful as usual. Tyler is a deceptively thoughtful writer. By that I mean that you almost forget how profound she is because she makes it seem so easy.

***

Will Read Next: The Book of Essie

Why I Put It on My List: It’s about reality TV and a cult-like religion and a female protagonist who begins to question everything. Yes, please.

#MeToo Reading List

People Holding Banner Near Building

Like many Americans, I watched the Brett Kavanaugh hearings last week. The hysterical behavior of Kavanaugh, Lindsey Graham, and Orrin Hatch, among others, turned the hearings into a pageant of perceived male victimization. For anyone who doesn’t benefit from white male privilege, the performance was a disgusting slap in the face–a reminder that many of our political representatives prefer to believe an angry, unhinged man rather than actually investigate a credible accusation.

Trump’s comments yesterday at the swearing-in ceremony demonstrated the hold white male patriarchy still has on America. Trump gave his new friend a tongue-bath, declaring him “innocent” and apologizing for his having to endure questions at a job interview.

Even if an investigation revealed no evidence of a sexual assault, Kavanaugh’s behavior at the hearing showed a man who can’t control his emotions, can’t hold up under pressure, can’t defend himself without resorting to rage, and can’t address issues without bringing in his personal biases. Can you imagine if a woman had reacted that way? Or a person of color?

So, yeah, it’s a troubled time in America. My plan–besides voting–is to start reading more books that help me understand perspectives that our politicians desperately want to silence.

Below is a list of books I plan to tackle. What are you going to read?

“In Living a Feminist Life Sara Ahmed shows how feminist theory is generated from everyday life and the ordinary experiences of being a feminist at home and at work. Building on legacies of feminist of color scholarship in particular, Ahmed offers a poetic and personal meditation on how feminists become estranged from worlds they critique—often by naming and calling attention to problems—and how feminists learn about worlds from their efforts to transform them.”

 

 

  “In Asking for It, Kate Harding combines in-depth research with a frank, no-holds-barred voice to make the case that twenty-first-century America supports rapists more effectively than it supports victims. From institutional failures in higher education to real-world examples of rape culture, Harding offers ideas and suggestions for how we, as a society, can take sexual violence much more seriously without compromising the rights of the accused.”

 

 

 

  “In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Anxious about her prospects after leaving a stagnant job, Tambudzai finds herself living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare. For reasons that include her grim financial prospects and her age, she moves to a widow’s boarding house and eventually finds work as a biology teacher. But at every turn in her attempt to make a life for herself, she is faced with a fresh humiliation, until the painful contrast between the future she imagined and her daily reality ultimately drives her to a breaking point.”

 

 

P.S. If you want strong women in leadership, consider donating to Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign. She had the guts to stand up for her convictions at the risk of losing her senate seat next month. I’m proud to be a North Dakotan.

 

Finished. Started. Anticipating.

Finished
If you love time travel, history of the Middle Ages, and the black plague, you must read this book immediately.

It could’ve used a stronger editor because it was a little bloated at times. I can forgive that, though, because the characters were solid and the research really brought this time period to life.

I’m not sure I’ll tackle the sequels right away, but I really did enjoy reading this one.

 

 

Started
Oh, how I love a good unreliable narrator. I’m only about 15% into this one, but the sociopathic narrator is exactly the kind of  manipulative mind I like to examine from afar.

Reviewers are calling it dark. It absolutely is. If you don’t like the kind of psychological thrillers that mess with your head, this one isn’t for you.

So far, it reminds me a bit of You: A Novel by Caroline Kepnes.

 

Anticipating
I have this on hold from the library. I know nothing about it except the blurb below.

 “They were on a lark, three teenage girls speeding across the greens at night on a “borrowed” golf cart, drunk. The cart crashes and one of the girls lands violently in the rough, killed instantly. The driver, Jo, flees the hometown that has turned against her and enrolls at a prestigious boarding school. Her past weighs on her. She is responsible for the death of her best friend. She has tipped her parents’ rocky marriage into demise. She is ready to begin again, far away from the accident.”

I’m pretty sure I heard about it from Liberty Hardy on the All the Books podcast. She rarely steers me wrong!