My Favorite Books That I Read in 2018

We’ve reached that time of year to start doing a book wrap up. Kottke has a roundup of various best books of 2018 lists so if you’re curious, go there. I find some of the longer lists to be overwhelming though. But here are my personal favorite books that I have read this year (so I have no idea when any of these were actually published)

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan. This one I may be jumping the gun on since I’m only halfway through. But the first half is amazing.

Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. The book starts off with a boy and his father watching a car plunge into a lake. The father jumps in to save the driver who was apparently already murdered setting up what you would think is a straight forward murder mystery. But it really isn’t. The writing style is reminiscent of an early Stephen King novel and there are so many twists to this that I gave up trying to figure out what it was even about and just enjoyed the ride.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I enjoyed the first 2/3rds of this book more than the final third but there aren’t too many good prehistoric books that have kept me riveted as this did.

Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. A classic book that I hadn’t learned about until I read a Michael Pollan book referring to it. I stopped eating mammals back in July and have started weaning myself from poultry/fish (which is difficult) and eat more veggies and fruits. He makes a lot of strong arguments about animal suffering that I believe he’s just plain right about.

Collusion by Luke Harding. Out of all the anti-Trump books, this was my favorite and most informative. Maybe it’s because all of the jewels of Woodward’s book made it to the media, or maybe it’s because this was just better written. But Harding lays out all the facts known at the time of publication in a concise and clear narrative that just is shocking.

Grant by Ron Chernow. I picked this up to begin adapting it into a hip hop musical production but was pretty surprised at how good it actually was. (Personally, I liked it better than Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton).

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (Robin Buss translation). I have tried reading this book over the years but due to its immense size I would end up giving up. But everybody would mention the Robin Buss translation (I think I was reading whatever was in Gutenberg) so I plunked down the 12 bucks and gave it a shot. What a difference. Such an amazing book when it’s translated properly. (No way I was going to read 1100 pages in 19th century french and expect to be finished with it within the next few years). In the top 10 books I have ever read.

Here was my GoodReads challenge for the year which it appears I’m not going to hit. Leave some of your favorite books in the comments. I’m curious to see what you all have been reading.

Obama’s Recent Reading List

Because our new President doesn’t read anything besides Fox News chyron we will have to check in with what a thoughtful and intellectual President reads:

One of my favorite parts of summer is deciding what to read when things slow down just a bit, whether it’s on a vacation with family or just a quiet afternoon. This summer I’ve been absorbed by new novels, revisited an old classic, and reaffirmed my faith in our ability to move forward together when we seek the truth. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Tara Westover’s Educated is a remarkable memoir of a young woman raised in a survivalist family in Idaho who strives for education while still showing great understanding and love for the world she leaves behind.

Set after WWII, Warlight by Michael Ondaatje is a meditation on the lingering effects of war on family.

With the recent passing of V.S. Naipaul, I reread A House for Mr Biswas, the Nobel Prize winner’s first great novel about growing up in Trinidad and the challenge of post-colonial identity.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is a moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple.

Factfulness by Hans Rosling, an outstanding international public health expert, is a hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases.

GQ’s 21 Books You Don’t Have to Read

Is there an award for worst lists done by a website? GQ lists 21 books (like Catch 22, Dracula, Slaughterhouse V) and declare them overrated and give alternatives. Here’s the #1 rule for people who love books. Fuck your “I didn’t like it” lists. Give everything a try that you’re curious about. If you don’t like it, fine. But reading tastes are subjective. The only thing I found good about this list is I didn’t know some of the alternative book titles they supplied. Come on GQ. Be best!

To Kill a Mockingbird Sequel is Raising Eyebrows

This is a bit disheartening:

It was initially greeted with an outpouring of excitement, but questions soon began to be raised over the timing of the discovery, shortly after the death of Lee’s sister Alice Lee, and about the degree of Harper Lee’s own involvement in the deal.

“Alice Lee was about 12 years her sister’s senior, and she was Harper Lee’s buffer against the publicity-hungry world,” said Charles Shields, author of a biography of Lee, on Wednesday. “Alice advised Harper about financial matters, contracts, rights, and the rest of it. I can’t think it’s just coincidence that two months after Alice’s death, this 60-year-old manuscript is suddenly available for publication. Understanding the relationship between the sisters as I do, I doubt whether Alice would have allowed this project to go forward.”

After all, he added, the book “was written before Harper had the benefit of a strong, experienced editor at her eventual publisher”.

“Consider that To Kill a Mockingbird went through several complete drafts,” he said. “Although my fingers are crossed, I suspect Go Set a Watchman will show signs of what it is: a first attempt at novel-writing by a young, inexperienced author.”

Shields said it “wouldn’t be appropriate” to comment about Lee’s mental state, “but it’s well-known that she’s blind, she had a serious stroke several years ago, and in the past two years, her legal problems have been in the news several times after decades of silence. This indicates, I think, an elderly woman who’s getting poor advice.”

The novelist Philip Hensher also raised questions about the deal. “For 50 years she’s maintained the position that she’d said what she wanted to, with that one, fantastic, novel, and that she didn’t want to publish anything else. So why has she changed her mind, and has she changed her mind? … What I would very much like to see is some sort of accurate account of Harper Lee’s capacity to give consent, that doesn’t come from the publisher just saying she is in fantastic health, even though they haven’t seen her.”

In an interview with Vulture on Tuesday, Lee’s US editor told the site: “I think we do all our dealing through her lawyer, Tonja. It’s easier for the lawyer to go see her in the nursing home and say HarperCollins would like to do this and do that and get her permission. That’s the only reason nobody’s in touch with her. I’m told it’s very difficult to talk to her.”

The book that isn’t released until July is already ranked as #1 in Amazon sales.

Harper Lee to publish sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird”


The beloved author will publish her second novel this summer. “Go Set a Watchman” was written more than 50 years ago — before her Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird” — but it was never published.

In a statement released this morning, the 88-year-old author said that “Go Set a Watchman” features “Scout as an adult woman and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout. I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realized it had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”