Pondering the palimpsest and panoply of the planet.

What I Read in 2018: 118 Books

This is the fifth edition of my end-of-the-year book list, and the upward trend continues unabated with this year just barely beating last year’s record 115 books. As usual, this counts both traditional paper books and audio books. A handful of unfinished books I have marked with an asterisk. Although I read very little for almost the first two months of the year, I made up the pace with a very productive summer in which I also did a lot of writing. While I greatly enjoyed the vast majority of this year’s list, I underlined ten or so of my favorite and most memorable books of the year. After some reflection, I will give the top honors to Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman’s epic novel of the Battle of Stalingrad and its aftermath. 

I continued to try to read more books by women (28) after realizing a few years ago that I was falling embarrassingly short on that front. I continued with my interest in books by African and African-American authors (16) for the third year in a row. This year I read a much greater quantity of short stories than usual in preparation for my attendance at the International Conference on the Short Story in June. I’ve included the collections here, but omitted mention of most of the individual stories.

Paper or E-Books (80):

The Longest Night by Andria Williams

The Shawl and Other Stories by Cynthia Ozick

Selected Stories by Cynthia Ozick

Quarrel and Quandary by Cynthia Ozick

Philosophy and Social Hope by Richard Rorty

Achieving our Country by Richard Rorty

Rorty and His Critics by Robert Brandom (editor)

Here’s a podcast in which I discuss Rorty.

The Only Story by Julian Barnes

Levels of Life by Julian Barnes

Barn Burning by William Faulkner

Barn Burning by Haruki Murakami

Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

Drown by Junot Diaz

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Amok and Other Stories by Stefan Zweig

Collected Stories by Stefan Zweig

Chess Story by Stefan Zweig

Beward of Pity by Stefan Zweig

The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig

Shooting Stars by Stefan Zweig

The Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig

Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig

Memoirs of Antisemite by Gregory von Rezzori

Snows of Yesteryear by Gregory von Rezzori

The Antichrist by Joseph Roth

Leviathan by Joseph Roth

I wrote an essay about the above Austrian authors here.

Good Soldier Sveyk by Jaroslav Hasek

My Life at the Limit by Reinhold Messner

Here’s my essay comparing Messner with Nietzsche’s Overman.

Alone on the Wall by Alex Honnold

Training for the New Alpinism by Steve House

Beyond the Mountain by Steve House

Solo Faces by James Salter 

Snow Blind by Nolan Peterson

Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakauer

Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

The Inheritors by William Golding

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro

Lord of Delusion by Garry Craig Powell

The Joke by Milan Kundera

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor

Jump and Other Stories by Nadine Gordimer

Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black by Nadine Gordimer

July’s People by Nadine Gordimer

Rock Spring by Richard Ford

Gods and Soldiers by Rob Spillman (editor)

Reptile House by Robin McLean

Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman

Outline by Rachel Cusk

Transit by Rachel Cusk

Kudos by Rachel Cusk

A Life’s Work by Rachel Cusk

Aftermath by Rachel Cusk

The Bradshaw Variations by Rachel Cusk

A Week in the Airport by Alain de Botton

Spoils by Brian van Reet

Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

The Russian Revolution* by Leon Trotsky

A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

I awarded this author my 2018 Alternate Nobel Prize.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson

Red Cavalry by Isaac Babel

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Selected Stories by John Cheever

Koba the Dread by Martin Amis

I reviewed a book about Stalin in another essay before I had read this one.

The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen

A Place on Earth* by Wendell Berry

Stay Illusion! by Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster

The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing

A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch

The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch

The Bell* by Iris Murdoch

The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

A Dance to Music of Time: Volume One by Anthony Powell

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

Kintu* by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Audio Books (38):

A History of The Thirty Years’ War by Friedrich Schiller

The History of England from the Accession of James II by Thomas Macaulay

The History of England: Volumes 1-6 by David Hume

Elective Affinities* by Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Lost Illusions* by Honore de Balzac

Hunger by Knut Hamsen

Selected Stories by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Poor Folk by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Childhood by Leo Tolstoy

Boyhood by Leo Tolstoy

Youth by Leo Tolstoy

Father Sergius by Leo Tolstoy

Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy

The Warden* by Anthony Trollope

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad

The Gentleman from San Francisco and other Stories by Ivan Bunin

A Hero of our Time by Mikhail Lermontov

The Steppe by Anton Chekhov

The Duel by Anton Chekhov

An Anonymous Story by Anton Chekhov

Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley

Winds of Doctrine by George Santayana

Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling

Mabinogion by Unknown

Lusiads* by Unknown

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray

The Conjure Woman and Other Stories by Charles Chesnutt

The House Behind the Cedars by Charles Chesnutt

The Colonel’s Dream by Charles Chesnutt

The Wife of his Youth and Other Stories by Charles Chesnutt

The Marrow of Tradition by Charles Chesnutt

Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington

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