Sunday, March 31, 2019

End of Year Wrap-Up (2018)

I'm back again (a little late) for my yearly list of the best books I read in 2018. All of these were read during the past year, but were not necessarily published last year.

Out of 40 books read in '18, here are my top 10:

1) PINOCCHIO by Carlo Collodi -- the strangest, wildest book-for-young-people that I have ever read. Jiminy Cricket is killed in Chapter 2, Geppetto is jailed for murder, the boy-donkeys are tortured, and the pacing is never less than break-neck speed in a very "R"-rated children's book.
2) FOR LOVE OF THE GAME by Michael Shaara -- a fantastic baseball novel, about the final game of an aging pitcher. Exciting, intense and heartbreaking ... one inning at a time.

3) SAGA VOL. 9 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples -- the latest in the continuing adventures of star-crossed lovers Marko & Alana and their narrator-daughter Hazel, as well as Prince Robot IV and The Will. A terrific end-point of the series before a year-long hiatus by the creators.

4) YOUR HEART IS A MUSCLE THE SIZE OF A FIST by Sunil Yapa -- one of the most compelling novels I've read in quite a while. Every time I had a free moment, I reached for the muli-character journey into the heart of a day-long protest of the Seattle WTO meeting, just to spend more time in this world. Just a stunning piece of work.

5) I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson -- the original zombie horror story, made into movies starring Vincent Price (The Last Man on Earth), then Charlton Heston (The Omega Man), and Will Smith. Matheson does so much with a lone man in semi-solitude, raising the tension of his isolation, his loneliness, and ultimately his battle against the soul-destroying survivors.

6) POPS: FATHERHOOD IN PIECES by Michael Chabon -- a bunch of previously published essays by the KAVALIER AND CLAY Pulitzer-prize-winning author, which touch on his own childhood, and the children he is currently raising with his wife, author Ayelet Waldman.

7) OUT OF MY SKIN by John Haskell -- a very L.A. book, about a not-exactly-stable first-person narrator who becomes a Steve Martin impersonator, changing his world one wild-and-crazy choice at a time. It reads much better than it sounds.

8) DOUBLE LIVES: TRUE TALES OF THE CRIMINALS NEXT DOOR by Eric Brach -- crooks, manipulators, and murderers have always lived among us. See my review here.

9) IN CASE OF DEATH by Brian McGackin -- a poetry book with a purpose: to explore death in all its many facets. See my review here.

10) MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON by Elizabeth Strout -- a  meditation on grief, the dreams that bloom in silence and regret, and the complicated relationships between children and their parents.

And, of course, my own small contribution to the literary landscape, A COMPANION TO THE BEAR WHO BROKE THE WORLD

For 2019, a few of the books I plan to read:

Margaret Atwater's THE HANDMAID'S TALE, after which I'll watch the first two seasons of the TV series on Hulu. 

The latest book by Lawrence Grobel, his short story collection THE NARCISSIST: STORIES

V. by Thomas Pynchon, THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt, Walker Percy's THE MOVIEGOER, and hopefully many, many more.

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