Some Favorites from My Year in Books (2018)

It was yet another year of (too) many books. While some people need to set goals to encourage them to read anything at all, I think I need to set goals to read fewer books (with more attention). Or, maybe I should just spend less time reading. The blog has been dormant lately as I’m trying to figure out what to do with it (let it drift off into the digital ether?), and in that spirit, this year’s list is presented with minimal comment (although a number of these have short reviews/notes on my Goodreads account). As usual, these are just the books that stick out when I think back over the year of reading – no grand claims for eternal, objective greatness. It’s in no particular order, other than fiction is at the top, everything else following:

Washington Black – Esi Edugyan (my favorite novel this year)

F – Daniel Kehlmann (a Karamazov Brothers redux … sort of)

Anathem -Neal Stephenson (sent me on a science reading kick – see bottom of list)

John Henry Days – Colson Whitehead (the adjective “virtuosic” applies)

Powers – Ursula Le Guin

Transit – Rachel Cusk (the best of the three in the “Outline” trilogy)

We Begin Our Ascent – Joe Mungo Reed

Ethics (Works, # 6) – Dietrich Bonhoeffer (reread – a cornerstone in my personal canon)

Entering into Rest (Ethics as Theology #3) – Oliver O’Donovan

Looking Before and After: Testimony and the Christian Life – Alan Jacobs

An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic – Daniel Mendelsohn (surprised me)

The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War – Andrew Delbanco (searing)

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom – David Blight

The Knox Brothers – Penelope Fitzgerald (delightful)

The Gene: An Intimate History – Siddhartha Mukherjee (I read this in January and while it wasn’t necessarily the most enjoyable book, I found myself thinking back to it again and again throughout the year)

Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman – James Gleick

Maker of Patterns: An Autobiography Through Letters – Freeman Dyson

When Einstein Walked with Gödel: Excursions to the Edge of Thought – Jim Holt (like a dinner party with a collection of scientists, mathematicians and philosophers – organized by a witty and engaging host in Holt)

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World – Tracy Kidder (currently reading, but can tell it’s a good one)