2018 end-of-year round-up

Pompeii muse
Even wall paintings from 1st century Pompeii revere reading and writing.

It feels like 5 minutes ago that I was writing my end-of-2017 post. How does time pass so quickly now? We’re not in a far-flung locale this holiday period, but instead at home in Bristol, repeatedly looking at photos from last year’s dream holiday in Japan and eating rather a lot of Japanese food to aid and abet the reminiscing.

This year I have read 67 books (I am halfway through one right now, so maybe that will be 68 by midnight) of which 25 were by men, 38 by women and the rest by multiple authors. I think this was one of my more modern reading years, by which I mean that I read 51 books from the 21st century, 15 from the 20th century and just one book from the 19th century – nothing older than that. Should I try to read more older books again? I’m not sure. I’ve liked my reading this year, even if I haven’t done as much of it as in previous years (in 2011, the first year I tracked my reading, I managed 100 books – life was quieter back then). I read 20 books in translation, of which 9 were from Japanese, again showing the influence of last year’s holiday.

Now for the important stuff: my favourite books of the year. It’s tough and I definitely can’t put these in any order, but my choices are:

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal
This is an astonishing book about a family that cannot cope and two boys who end up in the care system. The difference in the brothers’ ages and skin colour threatens to have very real consequences for their futures. What could have been a book of anger is actually subtle, empathetic and thoroughly enjoyable.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
This is an imaginative, lateral take on the Snow White fairytale. Boy, the lead character, runs away from her abusive father in 1950s New York and sets up home in a small New England town. It’s a gorgeous book about family and belonging, beautifully written and deeply humane.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Ephron’s only novel, which is famously based on her own life at the turbulent point when she and her second husband split up, is a hilarious, angry read. I don’t think I could love Ephron’s writing more, even though there’s a chance I would not have got on with her in person.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
The story of women who painted dials onto watches with radium paint and the pain and suffering that resulted from radium companies’ denial of the dangers of the material. This is a truly amazing, upsetting, brilliantly told book.

Jessica Jones, Vol. 3: Return of the Purple Man by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Michael Gaydos (artist), Matt Hollingsworth (colours), David Mack (cover art)
I love Jessica Jones and the return of supervillain Killgrave is truly scary. I guess you probably need to have read the previous volumes, but it’s worth it to reach this high point.

Plus the possible late-breaking addition of The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng, which I loved but I only finished it yesterday so I think I need to give it a week and see how it sits with me. I certainly found myself telling everyone around me about it over the past week, which is a good sign.

Overall, it’s been a mixed year. Two awesome holidays, some great gigs and quality time with loved ones. But my health hasn’t been great and the world at large feels increasingly negative. So my wish for 2019 is hope. Health and happiness would be nice too, but here’s hoping for hope.

Happy New Year everyone. Do tell me your top reads in the comments, or what you’re looking forward to in 2019.