Here are 20 good books I read in 2018, in no order other than the order in which I read them:
Tape For The Turn of the Year
In 1963, Ammons got a roll of adding machine tape from the hardware store and decided to write poems on it every day until the tape was used up. I started the book on December 6 of last year, and followed along with each entry until January 10th.
Largesse of the Sea Maiden
A perfect swan song.
Takes a look at Bach’s work through the recordings of his works throughout the years. I especially liked reading about Glenn Gould and Pablo Casals.
A Natural History of the Senses
I originally thought Keep Going would have more about the senses in it, so I picked this up for research. Very dense, lush book.
Prince and The Purple Rain Sessions
A day-by-day play-by-play of Prince in the recording studio at the height of his powers. I did a lot of skimming and skipping around, but really enjoyed it.
A Philosophy of Walking
You & A Bike & A Road
A comic diary of Davis’s bike across the south. I love her work so much. If I had to pick, this might be my favorite book I read this year. (I also read How To Be Happy and her newest one, Why Art? Both very much worth reading.) She’s on fire, and I can’t wait to read what’s next.
Meet Me In The Bathroom
An oral history of NYC music from 2001-2011. How much you enjoy it will probably depend on your familiarity with the music — I was eighteen and a freshman in college when I saw The Strokes in Newport, KY, in 2001, so it made me pretty danged nostalgic.
I mean, what’s there to say? The dude makes me laugh out loud… and he keeps getting better and better. (I also enjoyed the visual compendium of his diaries.)
Considering how much Ways of Seeing influenced me, I’m ashamed I haven’t read more Berger. This was the last book he published before he died.
A gorgeous, gigantic tome dedicated to the work of one of our great Midwestern artists.
Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances
By far the most expensive book on this list. (I bought it for my wife years ago, but I’m not sure she ever read it.) Gorgeous printing, with life-size facsimiles of Martin’s notebook pages bound in with the regular pages.
I was a year late to this, but it’s as advertised: Smart, smutty, and laugh-out-loud funny.
Twentieth-Century Boy: Notebooks of the Seventies
I loved this book, which was edited from Hannah’s actual diaries that he kept as a young man in 70s NYC. My only gripe is that the book doesn’t include images of the actual notebooks, which are wonderfully visual.
The Hildafolk Series
It’s a rare, wonderful thing when stars align and you love reading the same books as your kids. (Last year: Jon Klassen’s Hat Trilogy) Pearson’s Hilda comics are like a cross between Miyazaki and my beloved Moomins with a dash of unschooling. Magic.
Words Without Music
Devoured this one, and afterwards, was surprised it took me so long to pick it up. Glass writes about so many of my favorite topics: creativity, day jobs, parenting, lineage, etc. Totally accessible, and made me want to listen to more of his music.
The Folded Clock: A Diary
I’m not so sure that Julavitz and I would get along together at a party, but dang, I liked her book.
What I wrote about Slow Days, Fast Company in last year’s roundup works here, too, so: “I love reading and thinking about Los Angeles, and I love writing that’s smart and trashy, so I liked this a lot.”
They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us
Abdurraqib and I were born in the same year and grew up within a 45-minute drive of each other in Ohio, but our worlds were so very, very different. Columbus — a city I never felt much affinity for, despite its proximity in my youth — is one of the main characters here, and the book exposed me to a different side of it.
* * *
Here are 20 other good books I read, many of which, on another day, or in another month or year, could be in my top 20 (again, listed in the order in which I read them):
- Tove Jansson, Fair Play
- James Carse, Finite and Infinite Games
- Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential
- George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London
- Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without A Country (re-read)
- Horace, Epistles
- John McPhee, Draft. No 4
- Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland
- Moisin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist
- James Lowen, Lies My Teacher Told Me (re-read)
- Jean Stein, Edie: American Girl
- John Hendrix, The Faithful Spy
- Lawrence Weschler, Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences
- Tamara Shopsin, Mumbai New York Scranton
- Benson Bobrick, Knotted Tongues: Stuttering in History and the Quest for a Cure
- Herman Melville, “Bartleby The Scrivener”
- Jason Lutes, Berlin
- Rob Walker, The Art of Noticing (advanced copy)
- Edward McClelland, How To Speak Midwestern
- John Gall, Collages: 2008-2018
Note: I usually don’t post my favorite reads until the very end of the year, but I’m poking through this annotated Walden and Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey right now, so I think it’s safe to say I won’t finish any other books before 2019 arrives.
See the past 13 years of my reading, here.