OK, so a reading year in review, following up on Barb’s review. I actually wasn’t too keen on this topic, but then when I looked back at the books I read, I discovered little nuggets of unexpected pleasure when thinking back on the books of 2018. Let me recount them.
First, our big-impossible-reading-project was Brothers Karamazov. It was the best of the 3 books we have done so far. It is a compelling book that can be read on so many different levels but still works as a straight story. Its characters and story are still relevant today. I honestly think anyone could read this book.
We didn’t blog about going to see Hamilton in November, but that certainly falls onto the literary scale. Especially since I was one of those nerds that read the Chernow biography about the time that Lin-Manuel Miranda did. The show was great. Hard to believe you can exceed expectations that are as high as the ones we took in the door. It was a lifetime memory. It also links into this year’s reading because one of the books I got for Christmas last year was the Chernow biography of US Grant, which was, of course, very good. Grant is a great character because he is so multi-faceted. Also, it shed excellent perspective on the Grant Presidency, which usually is labeled as “corrupt” and then skipped over. Lastly, the book also doubles as an education of the times he lived in.
I read two award-winning books. The first was A Horse Walks Into a Bar, which won the Man Booker. Books that win that award can be dicey–I’m sure they have high literary quality but they are often allergic to readability. This book was really good. It was presented in an original way and gradually revealed the pain that often is behind humor. I also read Less, which won the Pulitzer Prize. It was deserving as well. A great story and a great character about life in the twilight.
I also read a couple books that probably don’t go down as literary but were fantastic reading experiences. Red Sparrow is a smart spy thriller, along the lines of The Americans. The challenge is to not make the characters be cliches–you don’t need “The Russian Guy.” Also, Putin is a character. The other one was Powerhouse by James Andrew Miller. I’m a big fan of Miller’s oral histories and also a closet Hollywood-people-behaving-badly junkie, and this history of CAA was difficult to put down.
When I look back on the books I read, I see a couple of my rankings that don’t seem to stand the test of time. One is Ohio, which I gave 5 stars but maybe was a 4 in retrospect. Or maybe I’m influenced by later ratings from other readers. And then there was Who is Rich, which I gave 3 stars but remember more fondly now.
I did do a reading challenge. With the Brothers Karamazov, I tamped down the goal to 12 but I actually read 18. Goal for this year is 20, plus Ulysses, #4 in the series.