There’s three weeks left in the year, but I honestly don’t expect to get much reading done till my Christmas break (beginning the 20th!!!), so I thought I would start my yearly retrospective a bit early.
These were my reading goals for 2018:
- Bring back Book Journals – Kind of a fail. I started a book journal with Ben-Hur but lost momentum early on. I’m still tacitly reading it, and maybe during my break will start posting about it again.
- Read more non-fiction. Check! Of the 45 books I read (or partially read) this year, almost a third were non-fiction, and some of the fiction was based heavily on real life. That’s pretty good for me.
- Escape the comfort zone. Check. I read a number of books this year that definitely challenged me, and some made me extremely uncomfortable.
- Revive the blog. Check. While podcasting, I made an effort to write posts that complemented the episodes, and that worked out nicely.
In spite of having more or less reached my 2018 goal of 40 books, I have to admit only a fraction of the books really stand out to me as I think about it now. Some were duds; others were momentarily entertaining but failed to leave a long-lasting impression.
Here, then, are my top ten books of the year (excluding re-reads):
10. The Undead: Organ Harvesting, the Ice-Water Test, Beating Heart Cadavers–How Medicine Is Blurring the Line Between Life and Death, by Dick Teresi
What a title… This wasn’t a cheerful read, but I thought it was very educational, especially the sections on the ambiguity of death itself.
9. Please Look after Mom, by Kyung-Sook Shin
A moving and memorable novel about family, old age, and culture.
8. Various stories by Flannery O’Connor
Can’t believe I hadn’t read O’Connor before.
7. The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea, by Bandi
Disturbing, dark, and challenging to anyone who is a writer.
6. About Orchids: A Chat, by Frederick Boyle
A sad history story about one of my favorite flowers.
5. Embers, by Sándor Márai
Another book I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read before. The ideal book for fans of the introspective, nostalgic novel, almost like something by Ishiguro…
4. 84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff
A short, poignant book to make you laugh, then cry.
3. A Pale View of Hills, by Kazuo Ishiguro
I don’t generally like or read ghost stories, but this one is a masterpiece. It’s also featured in one of my favorite podcast episodes from this year – “What Is a Classic?“
2. CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping, by Kerry Brown
To my own surprise, I really gravitated to this biography of a very powerful, and somewhat mysterious, leading figure of 2018. Absolutely worthwhile.
1. The Sea and Poison, by Shūsaku Endō
This book is a Kafkian “axe” if ever there was one. I spent the better part of a week in shock over the book itself, as well as over my research for the episode “Doctors, Murderers.” Hard as it was, I’m glad I pushed myself and tackled a subject I was almost too afraid to talk about on the podcast.
That’s it for me. What were some of your favorites from this year?