I read a lot. For most of my career, I read for a living. For the last ten years of that career, my bosses paid me to sit in a room, surrounded by teen, and READ. Books covered every wall, and many horizontal surfaces. Kids read. I read. It was grand.
Now since I've retired, ironically, there is less time to read! I keep track of my books on a great website called Goodreads.com. My students called it 'FaceBook for book nerds," and it is. On Goodreads, I'm connected to some of my favorite authors, my favorite teacher friends and favorite former students. If you're a reader, join and find me.
Goodreads allows you to keep track of your reading, set annual goals, create bookshelves that are searchable. I can 'shelve' books as I'm reading, and when I finish. I write reviews (left over from my teaching days when I tried to model how to talk about books), and keep count.
My 2018 goal was 152 books. A strange number, I know...Just a tad down from the 155 from the previous year, when I didn't make my goal.
My first book of 2018 was The Alchemist, a reread of a favorite, and the last book of the year was Dear Martin, a gritty young adult.
My friend and I do a summer classics project, and this year we went for South American magic realism. We bailed on 100 Years of Solitude...might have actually been the edition of the book...print too tiny and mashed together. Paper too thin. I revisited Shadow of the Wind and Marina, and found a book, new for me, that made my list.
I try to do a Top Ten, but I always cheat. This year, I saw patterns in my favorite reads. I found international authors and books, I found amazing YAL from some of my favorite authors. I read great literary fiction, found new nonfiction, and read the entire Alphabet series by the late Sue Grafton.
Inspired by my friend and long-distance reading buddy, Nancy Flanagan, who always gets her list out super early, here is my, in no particular order, favorite reads of 2018.
YAL -- I revisited two favorites, friends, and life-saving authors.
People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins -- the 'biography' of a handgun and the havoc it wreaks. Hopkins actually writes in prose and poetry here, in the multiple voices that make her work so rich. Yes, people kill people....but...
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher -- a reread, companion piece in my mind to Crutcher's new book, Losers Bracket, which is just as good and could easily be in my top ten...but I've loved Sarah for years so she got the nod.
Fear by Bob Woodward -- that man can write and dig into a story. I'm beginning to amass a full book shelf of 'books about Trump by people who see through the bluff
Dear White Americans by Tim Wise -- subtitle: "Letter to a new minority." We can do better and must do better. This short book can help
Almost Everything by Ann Lamott -- I needed hope and she gave it to me. “Love and goodness and the world’s beauty and humanity are the reasons we have hope.”
My mom and I started reading Sue Grafton's mysteries together in the 1980's. But along the way I stopped reading, maybe because Mom wasn't there to talk to. Grafton was not a fast writer, and I just moved on to other books and other series. She recently died, just having published Y is for Yesterday. In her will she made it clear, no one...NO ONE...would write Z. So, I knew I was going to be able to read (with my ears) all of the books and find a kind of closure. I believe Grafton knew Y would be her last. She dedicated the book to her grandchildren, one named Kinsey!! So. I read them all, and cried listening to the last one, knowing that smart-mouth Kinsey Milhone would never make me laugh again. I miss Mom and Grafton and Kinsey. And I'm counting these 25 books as one of my Top Ten. Try and stop me!
International authors new to me
Dona Barbara, by Rómulo Gallegos, a Venezulan politician and terrific novelist...This was the surprise of my summer reading. It was on the list of 100 best novels compiled by PBS. So glad I found it.magic, revenge, love, hate...and a beautiful, young country as the backdrop. I was dazzled.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi was breathtaking...and I couldn't begin to tell you much about the plot...the book was about letting a culture wash over me and simply experience. I read this with my ears, and Emezi narrated it. She read it to me individually.
Literary Fiction -- both in Audible
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders blew me away. In the audible version, there were over 50 voices, each portraying one character...you'd get a voice you recognized and you'd just settle in...I was so intrigued by the voices and the multi-genre elements of the narration that I bought the hardback, just to SEE...to see the words on the pages. A tour de force.
Circe by Madeline Miller -- I read this one and then immediately read Song of Achilles...but Circe claimed my mythology-loving heart. I loved how Miller made Circe a witness to so many mythical events. And the ending? I did not know her story circled around to the characters in The Odyssey. If you twisted my arm behind my back and demanded I name my FAVORITE, I think this is the one I'd name.
So, that's ten...or ten plus 24, but who's counting?
So many great books also earned five stars (I have always been a generous grader) -- Neal Shusterman's new series Sythe...The Alchemist, Losers Bracket, Marina, Braving the Wilderness. The Tao of Pooh...
So many books. So little time.
So many books. So little time.
Dare I ask you to suggest your favorite from last year?