Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Reading List, 2018, Part Final

Hello again! A week later, happy 2019. I hope all of you had an enjoyable holiday season. I was fortunate to have two plus weeks off at the holidays, owing to the fact that I needed to burn a bunch of vacation time before the end of the year, and that my boss, in recognition of all the extra hours we put in throughout the year, closes the office for the Christmas week. The downside of all that down time is that it’s very hard to go back to work and get back in that groove. It was nice that last week was a three-day week, since we get New Year’s Day as a holiday.

Well, like work last week, I’m going to ease back into the blogging thing by finishing off my 2018 reading list. To see what else I read last year, visit here, here and here. Onward! (Or, actually, backward!):

Reading List, 2018, Part IV (October-December):

Olive Kitteridge (2008), Elizabeth Strout. I get why this won the Pulitzer. Great book.

Full Dark, No Stars (2010), Stephen King. Whenever I have nothing new to read, I grab some King off the shelf. Haven’t read this one since it came out, and it’s pretty good.

The Bartender’s Tale (2012), Ivan Doig. This was one of these books I saw on a list, like “20 books everyone must read by the time they’re 50” or something like that. I was underwhelmed.

Elevation (2018), Stephen King. Surprisingly optimistic homage to Richard Matheson, though it wears it’s politics like a MAGA hat. Or an “I’m With Her” shirt.

The Unconsoled (1995), Kazuo Ishiguro. I nearly put this down ten pages in following a three-page monologue by an old baggage carrier. I’m glad I stuck with it. Absurdist? Surreal? Yes and yes, and ultimately rewarding.

Capital (2012), John Lanchester. Also on one of those lists, and also underwhelming.

The Flicker of Old Dreams (2018), Susan Henderson. A mortician’s daughter in a dying town in Montana. Very nicely done.

The Rooster Bar (2017), John Grisham. Way back when, I read The Firm, A Time to Kill, The Client and (probably) The Pelican Brief. Like everyone else. I don’t know if Grisham’s books were always like The Rooster Bar or if he just swung and missed with this one. Protagonists are not especially likable, and every character sounds pretty much the same.

Looking at the year overall, I read 34 books, which feels a little short. I went through a couple of periods where I didn’t read at all for a couple of weeks, for reasons I can’t remember. Of the books, 31 were fiction, 3 were non-fiction. Eighteen were written by male authors, 15 by females, and one by I-don’t-know-they-used-initials. If pressed, I would say my favorite book of the year was American War, by Omar El Akkad, followed closely by Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout; my least favorite book was Catskill, by John Hayes, with The Rooster Bar a close second; and the most important book I read was Oops: Tales from a Sexpert, by Vivian Peters.

Quote of the Year: 

“Nativism being a pyramid scheme, I found myself contemptuous of the refugees’ presence in a city already overburdened. At the foot of the docks, we yelled at them to go home, even though we knew home to be a pestilence field. We carried signs calling them terrorists and criminals and we vandalized the homes that would take them in. It made me feel good to do it, it made me feel rooted; their unbelonging was proof of my belonging.” From American War, Omar El Akkad.

On to 2019!

What about you? Did you have a good reading year in 2018? What were some of your favorite books?
 

2 Responses

  1. I find it difficult to pick favorites, hence there are two potentials listed. And on any given day, I might tell you Olive Kitteridge edges out American War!

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