2018 Reading List

This is a list of the books I’ve read so far in 2018, most recent first, with brief reviews.

Past years’ reading lists: 20172016 | 2015 | 2014

5. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

This isn’t a book I would normally have picked for myself. I don’t read a lot of fantasy (although I tend to enjoy it when I do), but my wife gave this to me (along with a varied slew of other books) for Christmas. I enjoyed it a great deal. I read it quickly, during breaks from hiking and climbing waterfalls in the jungles of Mexico (seriously!). Much of it is steeped in African myth and folklore of which I don’t have the knowledge to fully appreciate, but it’s obvious that Okorafor does, and that she crafted every allusion and plot twist with care. An engaging book with important themes, including misogyny, genocide, and female genital mutilation.

4. Deep Work by Cal Newport

This was a reread. This books is a valuable mental reminder and reset at the beginning of each year.

3. Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides (finished 2/3)

This collection of stories—a mix of old and new—isn’t as good as any of Eugenides novels (although he does revisit a couple of those novels’ characters here), but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. The titular story, which happens to be the longest, was my favorite

2. Bellefleur by Joyce Carol Oates (finished 1/20)

Oh boy, was this a tough one. In a good way. Oates’s first attempt at tackling the gothic novel, Bellefleur is long, meandering, full of parenthetical asides and digressive details and dozens of characters. It’s my kind of book. It took me nearly a month to read (I started at Christmas), but the payoff was worth it.

1. Theft by Finding by David Sedaris (finished 1/2)

I love diaries. Reading them always kickstarts my own journaling habit (although it’s not like that habit ever needs much kickstarting—I’ve been regularly making journal entries at least every few days for years now—but reading others’ tends to boost my pace to daily for a little while), and there’s immense value in delving into the internal thoughts and observations of other people, especially people who we respect and admire (and maybe more importantly those we don’t). Theft by Finding is a curated compilation of David Sedaris’s diaries 1977-2002. Sedaris’s observations are funny, often ironic, sometimes shocking, and occasionally a bit sad. What really makes this collection worth it for me is the narrative that develops over the years: watching Sedaris, through his own daily records, evolve from (arguably) a struggling drug addict alcoholic in his early twenties in to the wry, mature essayist I had the pleasure of meeting a couple years ago.