Good Reads: Version 2018

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I know I’m not alone in starting every year off with lofty reading goals. An neat year-end total. A promise to read more this and more that. Buy more indie, less Amazon. Read books out of your comfort zone. Read authors you’ve never heard of. Read that long biography of that long-dead person.

Life happens; these goals move from lofty to ambitious to aspirational.

My goal every year is to read one more book than I read the previous year. And yes, of course it’s aspirational. There is no accounting for illness, job stress, family stress, you know, life things — but there’s also no accounting for length of book either. There are quite a few slim reads here (Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife is 224 pages, but feels less; the Edan Lepucki and Lauren Groff books I read in December were a part of an Amazon series — with each “book” about 30 pages long).

It broke down like this: 60 books. 
19 Kindle. 19 Paperback. 17 Hardcover. 5 Audible.

A sub-goal was to read multiple books by the same author. I read two each of Ruth Reichl, Samantha Irby, Kristin Hannah and Lauren Groff.

I cancelled my Audible membership when my gym membership expired. I still have 10+ books to get through before signing up again will make sense. Alice Waters’ memoir Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook, was my favorite of that medium, though Samantha Irby reading her own work is enough to compel me toward all her future work.

Pachinko was the book I most recommended. It wasn’t even new in 2018.

After Anthony Bourdain passed away in June, I immersed myself in books on food and wine. Bianca Bosker’s Cork Dork was a particular favorite and Bill Buford’s Heat proved timely in the wake of Mario Batali’s public downfall in May. I also fell in love with Ruth Reichl’s tomes on food writing, including this year’s Best American Food Writing, which she edited. It was also a great year to read John T. Edge’s Potlikker Papers. Not only was it Nashville Reads’ 2018 Selection, it also served as the jumping off spot for Edge’s mini-series TrueSouth that aired on the SEC Network this past fall.

Circe was the book I didn’t expect to like.

The Force was the book I expected to like, and liked the least.

The Year of Less I’m already planning to read again, and may set as mandatory reading every January as the need to throw out the old comes around. I’m not ready for a no-shopping ban, but I’m definitely more mindful about what I purchase.

I was able to see Megan Stielstra, Tayari Jones, Fatima Farheen Mirza, Lorrie Moore and Celeste Ng talk about their books and it deepened the experience for me.

Books I LOVED:
Pachinko, Min Jin Lee
The Year of Less, Cait Flanders
The Heart’s Invisible Furies, John Boyne
Circe, Madeline Miller
The Potlikker Papers, John T. Edge
Cork Dork, Bianca Bosker
The Wrong Way to Save Your Life, Megan Stielstra
An American Marriage, Tayari Jones
You Think It, I’ll Say It— Curtis Sittenfeld

Hardcover: Exit West — Mohsin Hamid
Kindle: DO / STORY: How to tell Your Story so the World Listens — Bobette Buster
Kindle: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things — Bryn Greenwood
Kindle: The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store — Cait Flanders
Kindle: Behold the Dreamers — Imbolo Mbue
Paperback: The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays — Megan Stielstra
Paperback: Pachinko — Min Jin Lee
Audible: The Force — Don Winslow
Audible: We Are Never Meeting in Real Life — Samantha Irby

Hardcover: Brass — Xhenet Aliu
Kindle: The Heart’s Invisible Furies — John Boyne

Paperback: Neon in Daylight — Hermione Hoby
Paperback: Ready Player One — Ernest Cline
Kindle: Purple Hibiscus — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Hardcover: An American Marriage — Tayari Jones

Hardcover: Look Alive Out There — Sloane Crosley
Hardcover: Heart Berries: A Memoir — Terese Marie Mailhot
Hardcover: Circe — Madeline Miller
Hardcover: You Think It, I’ll Say It — Curtis Sittenfeld
Paperback: The Idiot — Elif Batuman
Paperback: All Marketers Are Liars: The Underground Classic That Explains How Marketing Really Works — and Why Authenticity Is the Best Marketing of All — Seth Godin
Kindle: Loteria — Mario Alberto Zambrano
Kindle: Laurie — Stephen King
Audible: Meaty — Samantha Irby

Hardcover: Florida — Lauren Groff
Hardcover: Warlight — Michael Ondaatje
Hardcover: The Nightingale — Kristin Hannah
Kindle: Women in Sunlight — Frances Mayes

Hardcover: The Great Alone — Kristin Hannah
Audible: Miss Subways — David Duchovny
Kindle: Rainbirds — Clarissa Goenawan
Kindle: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly — Anthony Bourdain

Hardcover: A Place for Us — Fatima Farheen Mirza
Hardcover: His Favorites — Kate Walbert
Paperback: Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany — Bill Buford
Paperback: Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste — Bianca Bosker
Paperback: We Were Liars — E. Lockhart
Kindle: Matty Matheson: A Cookbook — Matty Matheson

Paperback: Less — Sean Andrew Greer
Paperback: Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table — Ruth Reichl
Paperback: The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South — John T. Edge
Paperback: If the Creek Don’t Rise — Leah Weiss

Kindle: Let’s Get Fizzical — Pippa Guy
Kindle: Wine Reads: A Literary Anthology of Wine Writing — Jay McInerney
Paperback: A Simple Favor — Darcey Bell
Paperback: The Best American Short Stories 2018 — Roxane Gay, ed.
Paperback: Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table — Ruth Reichl

Hardcover: Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work — Matthew B. Crawford
Hardcover: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World — Cal Newport
Paperback: The Wife — Meg Wolitzer
Paperback: Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living — Manjula Martin
Kindle: Wine Reads: A Literary Anthology of Wine Writing — Terry Theise
Audible: Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook — Alice Waters

Hardcover: There, There — Tommy Orange
Hardcover: Unsheltered — Barbara Kingsolver
Paperback: The Best American Food Writing 2018 — Ruth Reichl
Kindle: Instructions for a Funeral: Stories — David Means
Kindle: Such Good Work — Johannes Lichtman
Kindle: Boca Raton — Lauren Groff
Kindle: There’s No Place Like Home — Edan Lepucki

There were disappointments and bars probably set too high on a previous read that are ultimately unfair but, that’s how we are. Plenty of us give up if we aren’t engaged within the first few pages and to each his own, but there are some great reads worth the build.

If I started the year with this as my prospective reading list, I would’ve felt overwhelmed and I can almost promise I wouldn’t have finished. I’ve really tried to treat reading time as self-care, which is probably why there’s such a balance in the platforms on which I consume.

I got a book a month from a local bookstore (An American Marriage, etc.), others on a whim (Such Good Work), by recommendation (The Nightingale), availability at the library (Deep Work), because they were based on places I traveled (There, There), and some as gifts (If The Creek Don’t Rise). Most of these books aren’t read in a month — in fact, there’s a Leonardo di Vinci biography on my Currently Reading list since January of last year.

It’s not about the quantity; it’s about the experience. As a writer, it keep quantifiable goals because it keeps me on track. As a reader, I keep a log because I want to remember where I’ve been; that it took me forever to read this, but I plowed through another book in a single day. There’s no wrong way to do it; just open a book and begin.

I’m a freelance Nashville-based writer and content-producer.
Web @ / Twitter @ essayem 
Keep up with what I’m reading on Good Reads.