The Reading Life: 2018

January 21, 2019 | No Comments

You can tell by the length of this list that not a lot of writing got done in 2018! Oops. Still, I almost hit my goal of reading one hundred books in a year, so every cloud etc…..

As usual, I’ve asterisked those that I particularly enjoyed. Once again I never read enough poetry, and once again it was the poetry that helped me the most. I’ll be eternally grateful for Mary Oliver, Robin Robertson and Helen Dunmore. My gender split errs more towards men than women this year (sorry gals), and, as usual, I’m hard-pressed and a tad reluctant to choose favorites.

Nevertheless… Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13, Walter Kemposwki’s All for Nothing, and Kudos, the conclusion of Rachel Cusk’s trilogy were outstanding. Paul Beatty’s The Sellout is probably the best book I’ve read recently about contemporary America, far surpassing (for me, anyway) Lincoln in the Bardo.

I read a lot of worthy non-fiction this year, but Ma’am Darling by Craig Brown was a joy, because it made me laugh. And 2018 was year much in need of laughs. (An honorable mention also goes to Geoff Dyer’s Broadsword Calling Danny Boy—a book about a film that’s more fun than the film.)

Elevated to a slot on my ‘in case of fire grab these first’ shelf (drum roll, please!) is Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. It’s been moping on my ‘should’ve read by now’ list for years, and I finally got around to it. I dipped into it like a day book, sipping one entry at a time. Is it poetry? Is it fiction or non? Who cares? With pathos and tender humor, Pessoa perfectly distills the experience of melancholy and insomnia, and for someone like myself who suffers from both, it provided much-needed solace. This, he confirms, is what it often feels like to be alive.


  • The Collector by John Fowles
  • In the Cage by Henry James
  • A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman
  • The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott*
  • Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  • The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gayle Honeyman*
  • At-Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien
  • Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
  • Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
  • Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
  • The Midwitch Cuckoo by John Wyndham
  • Grace Notes by Bernard McLaverty
  • Reservoir 13 by Jon Mcgregor*
  • Utz by Bruce Chatwin
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
  • The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble
  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith
  • Larchfield by Polly Clark
  • Bad News by Edward St. Aubyn
  • Never Mind by Edward St. Aubyn
  • Some Hope by Edward St. Aubyn
  • Heartburn by Nora Ephron
  • Kudos by Rachel Cusk*
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque*
  • The Spoils of Poynton by Henry James
  • The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene
  • Treasures of Time by Penelope Lively
  • The Accident on the A35 by Graeme Macrae Burnett
  • The Legacy of Spies by John Le Carre
  • All for Nothing by Walter Kempowski*
  • Antigua, Penny, Puce by Robert Graves
  • The Distant Echo by Val McDermid
  • To Die in Spring by Ralph Rothmann
  • Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
  • The Sound of the Sea by Colin Mackay
  • This Must be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell
  • The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney
  • The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner*
  • The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler
  • Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote
  • Night Waking by Sarah Moss*
  • The Takeover by Muriel Spark
  • The Librarian by Salley Vickers
  • Caroline’s Bikini by Kirsty Wark
  • A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter
  • None But the Dead by Lin Andersen
  • Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
  • The Professor’s House by Willa Cather*
  • Careless Love by Peter Robinson
  • The Only Problem by Muriel Spark
  • Less by Andrew Sean Greer
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
  • Snap by Elizabeth Bauer*
  • The House of Doctor Dee by Peter Ackroyd
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty*
  • The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton


  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson*
  • Women and Power by Mary Beard
  • Passchendaele 1917 by Robert J. Parker
  • Draft No.4 by John McPhee
  • Silence by Erling Kagge
  • Yul – The Man Who Would be King by Rock Bryner
  • Gut by Guilia Enders*
  • A Sort of Life by Graham Greene
  • The Queen’s Conjurer by William Woolley
  • The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy*
  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamarra
  • The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
  • The Glass Castle by Jeanette Wallis*
  • The Inflamed Mind by Edward Bullmore*
  • Black Milk by Elif Safak
  • Ma’am Darling by Craig Brown*
  • The Life of Stuff by Susannah Walker
  • Wounded: The Long Journey Home from the Great War by Emily Mayhew*
  • Broadsword Calling Danny Boy’ by Geoff Dyer*
  • Passchendaele: A New History by Nick Lloyd
  • The Lion and the Unicorn by George Orwell*
  • The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa*
  • The Error World by Simon Garfield
  • Lenin on the Train by Catherine Merridale
  • The Diary of a Bookseller by Shawn Bythell*
  • Deaths of the Poets by Paul Farley and Michael Simmons Roberts
  • The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Gross
  • Forensics by Val McDermid
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • Bedlam by Catherine Arnold
  • The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamieson*


  • Langston Hughes
  • The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks*
  • Inside the Wave by Helen Dunmore*
  • Love Poems by Carol Anne Duffy
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • New and Selected Volume I by Mary Oliver*
  • The Long Take by Robin Robertson*
  • Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times by Neal Astley*


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