Looking back is sometimes easier than looking forward. Scrolling through my reviews for 2018 brought back connections I made through books, and, as I tried to identify one book from each month, I remembered the year. I found a book for each month except June, and the one posting for that month titled A Prescription for Comfort Books was a reminder of my fall.
Here are my favorites for 2018 – have you read any?
- January, 2018 – I started the year with Roz Chast’s Going Into Town, my favorite book of the year.
- February, 2018 – a complicated puzzle of lives and loves – The Maze at Windermere by Gregory Blake
- March, 2018 – Eleanor Roosevelt and her true love in Amy Bloom’s White Houses
- April, 2018 – a thrill a minute in Christine Mangan’s Tangerine
- May, 2018 – Ruth Ware returns with another mystery thriller in The Death of Mrs. Westaway
- June, 2018 – oh, my aching back – a good title for my memoirs
- July, 2018 – Anne Tyler returns to Baltimore in Clock Dance
- August, 2018 – Delia Owens, a naturalist, writes her first fiction book in Where the Crawdads Sing
- September, 2018 – a creepy thriller – Louise Candish’s Our House
- October, 2018 – the power of women in Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls
- November, 2018 – a children’s book with a message for adults by Kate DiCamillo – Louisiana’s Way Home
- December, 2018 – nonfiction – The Library Book by Susan Orleans
The election results tonight is a nail-biter, and I have been trying to distract myself by looking for book lists. A list of favorite books by a favorite author – Ann Patchett – caught my eye. Patchett, author of Commonwealth, also owns an independent bookstore in Tennessee – Parnassus Books. Parade magazine asked her to pick seventy-five of her favorite books from each decade for the past seventy-five years. You can see the complete list at Ann Patchett’s Seventy Five Books.
I picked one book from each decade from her list:
- 1940’s – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
- 1950’s – Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- 1960’s – Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
- 1970’s – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
- 1990’s – The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- 2000’s – Old Filth by Jane Gardam
- 2010s – The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn
I did not forget the 1980’s; none of the books listed were among my favorites. I would have picked Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively.
Need more lists?
Real Simple Magazine has 31 authors pick their favorites: Authors Pick Their Favorites
The Strand Bookstore has The Author’s Bookshelf: The Author’s Bookshelf
Right now I am reading Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, the book that inspired the Broadway musical. Hopefully, its 731 pages will get me through this night.
If you want to understand who a person is, look at their book shelves. It was no surprise when I recently found rows of mystery paperbacks on a friend’s shelves as I helped clear out her stash, but it was a surprise to find the complete set of Elena Ferrante from My Brilliant Friend to The Story of the Lost Child. It was no surprise to find Vogue fashion but the complete set of Playbills took me back. Not so much what we read, but what we save after we read often tell stories about what we value and perhaps what we dream about.
Realizing this, I wondered if I should reconfigure my own shelves. I wouldn’t want to be misunderstood by the books I left behind. Maybe it was time to ditch Margaret Dods’ The Housewife’s Manual or my mother’s 1933 copy of The Modern Handbook for Girls. Harris’ Twenty Minute Retreats could stay as well as The Thurber Carnival. But maybe the complete set of Harry Potter could make room for other books. The Shaker Handbook, a gift to thank me for making a speech years ago and the Annapolitan Quality of Life, with an article on my younger days, remind me of when I was more productive, so they will stay – along with all the cookbooks and treasured children’s books. I still smile when I look at the cover of the old Free To Be You And Me; it seems more anachronistic in its advice than The Modern Handbook for Girls.
Once upon a time I had a wall of books, dating from childhood, through college and graduate school, with whispers of career days, and on to the luxury of reading whatever I wanted to read. Sadly, the wall is gone, replaced by only a few shelves. One shelf has the current reads, rotating with library books and those books I could not get out of a bookstore without buying – all regularly replaced. But the other shelves have those old friends I cannot part with – telling the story of who I am.
But not everyone will understand. Someday, someone will clean out my shelves and wonder why I saved W.B. Yeats: Romantic Visionary. They will think I loved the poetry, but, alas, the book was only a reminder of a Dublin adventure.
As I continue my search for a good book “to lose myself in,” an article from Real Simple magazine found me, with a list of books recommended by authors – 31 Noted Authors Share Their Favorite Books. Many were classics (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Maltese Falcon, Giant); others recently popular (Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Gilead, Beautiful Ruins); some I’ve read:
Although you might find more to pursue, I’ve only ordered one from the list –
Friendly readers have come to my rescue with more recommendations:
The search for a good book never ends…what are you reading?
Reading all these books before the new year may be an overly ambitious undertaking, but at least consider them as part of your New Year’s resolutions.
They were among my favorite reads this year.