2018 was the year I realized I should have fewer expectations. This was supposed to be the year I got a literary agent and also a year my mom didn’t get cancer, and neither of those things happened. My collection was too short and my mom has cancer. Good things did happen, though: I married my boyfriend on the winter solstice, I went on the best run of my life on the Oregon Coast, and started work on a podcast. But also, our government separated children from their parents and my mom has cancer.
In any case, I read, and thanks to my husband, listened to books, as well. Here’s my list:
In the Garden of North American Martyrs, Tobias Wolff
A Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
A Hand Reached Out to Guide Me, David Gates (DNF)
Never Mind, Edward St Aubyn
Bad News, Edward St Aubyn
Some Hope, Edward St Aubyn
Mother’s Milk, Edward St Aubyn
No Logo, Naomi Klein
The Wife, Meg Wolitzer*
This is Meg Wolitzer at her best: deliberate, smart, and compelling. I couldn’t fall asleep after reading this book.
The Vegetarian, Han Kang
Wabi-Sabi, Leonard Koren
Pachinko, Min Jin Lee*
If you would have asked me what was going on in my life while I was reading Pachinko, I would have said, I’m reading Pachinko. Centered around ethnic Koreans in post-World War II Japan, Pachinko opens up a whole world, and as an epic family saga, reminded me of the basic pleasure of reading.
Free Food for Millionaires, Min Jin Lee
You Think It, I’ll Say It, Curtis Sittenfeld (L)*
If you’ve read this book and want to discuss whether the narrator in Plausible Deniability is in love with his sister-in-law or really is that emotionally unavailable, hit me up.
The Birth of Korean Cool, Euny Hong
Asymmetry, Lisa Halliday *
After Philip Roth died, I couldn't read enough tributes; Asymmetry was the perfect grief read. Also, I didn’t realize I had a fantasy to be objectified by Philip Roth, but this book scratched that itch as well.
The State of Affairs, Esther Perel (L)*
Kudos, Rachel Cusk *
In this book, Rachel Cusk makes the story of someone else’s dog dying compelling. She can do anything.
Motherhood, Sheila Heti (L, DNF)
The Painted Word, Tom Wolfe
Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado (DNF)
Seeds from the East, Bertha Holt
The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson*
Calypso, David Sedaris*
I’ve never been so high-brow as to think David Sedaris is low-brow, or even mind if he’s mid-brow. Whatever reservations the intelligentsia may have about him, he tackles mortality, family, and the limits of loyalty with wit and honesty in this collection.
LaRose, Louise Erdrich (DNF)
The Folded Clock, Heidi Julavits*
Not much happens in this memoir, but Heidi Julavits is so charming that it doesn’t matter.
All Joy and No Fun, Jennifer Senior (L)
The Two Kinds of Decay, Sarah Manguso
To Save the Children of Korea, Arissa Oh
The Lost Salt Gift of Blood, Alistair MacLeod
All You Can Ever Know, Nicole Chung
Sleepless Nights, Elizabeth Hardwick
The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson
Becoming, Michelle Obama (L)*
What you’ve heard is true: Becoming is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. Michelle Obama’s coming of age story as a smart, hardworking Southside girl who goes on to be First Lady is a necessary reminder of what’s great about this country.
Blue Nights, Joan Didion
The Savage Detective, Roberto Bolano (DNF)
I’m off of casual misogyny in literature. There’s just too much to read to spend 500 pages with a character who doesn’t see women as anything more than objects.
My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante (L, R)*
I’ve now read, listened to, and watched My Brilliant Friend, and in every form, it’s hard to get into, but ultimately brilliant.
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
No one tells you this because suicide isn’t a joke, but this book is funny.
*: Raronauer recommend
DNF: Did not finish