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My 18 Reads of 2018

For those of you who were keeping abreast of this blog throughout the past calendar year, you will remember that I set myself the challenge of reading 12 books over the course of the past 12 months. As we have reached the year-end, (drumroll please), let’s review the final count…

…well the title is likely a giveaway isn’t it? D’oh!

Eighteen reads throughout the year is something that I am quite proud of to be honest. What started out as something of a challenge become an engrossing adventure with many, many engrossing tales en route (don’t get me wrong, there were some duffs along the way too – more on the book reviews later).

The 18 Books of 2018

An eclectic mix no doubt. Some were read in a very small number of sittings, while some went on and on and on. Of course that is as much mood and workload dependent as it is to do with the publication itself. And now, getting to the publications – I’ve included a short review for each of the books below in the chronological order in which they were read:

1. Song of Solomon

The first book of the year for me was an all-time classic that explores racism, gender, and power. A meandering tale, it wasn’t the easiest to get through but don’t let that put you off.

2. Animal Farm

From one classic to another, George Orwell’s satirical, social commentary on corruption and hypocrisy in government, is metaphorically told by our furry friends.  

3. Tarry Flynn

A throwback, albeit perhaps not that too far back, to yesteryear rural Ireland, and the perils of a bachelor man, and his relationships with the women in his life, and his yearning for a life in poem.

4. The Kite Runner

If Tarry Flynn was a throwback to a different time, this too was another, taking the reader through time and space, as Khaled Hosseini’s emotional tale follows the lives of Amir and his friend Hassan in Kabul. Page turner.

5. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

One of those books that was read in a very small number of sittings, TPOBAW is a coming-of-age novel told through the eyes of introverted Charlie, a freshman in high school with themes such as suicide, molestation, abuse, homosexuality, drug use, mental illness and abortion.

6. It’s Kind Of A Funny Story

It’s not – the title is very misleading! The central motif follows on from the precursor (blame Amazon and its recommended reading for this one). That being said, it offers real insight into the conflict in one’s mind.

7. A Short Story Of Nearly Everything*

‘Oh asterix?’, I hear you say. Well yes, let me explain – after the relative ease of the previous two novels, I ventured into the world of science with Bill Bryson’s view of the world or galaxy as he may say. One section read, my head hurt, and it was on something less taxing.

8. Conversations With Friends

And less taxing it sure was, Sally Rooney’s novel was a speed read in truth. In truth, I wasn’t too keen on any of the characters and their overlapping, interwoven storylines.

9. Everything Everything

A bland story of requited teenage love with a good dollop of life-altering illness thrown on top, this would prove to be the end of this genre for me for the year, and saw a return to something more familiar.

10. A Thousand Splendid Suns

A second novel by Hosseini but could be better The Kite Runner? Yes, indeed he could. The novel is a split narrative and centres on two main female characters: Mariam, an illegitimate child who suffers from both the stigma surrounding her birth along with the abuse she faces throughout her marriage, and Laila, born into a somewhat privileged upbringing a generation later. As the story develops, their lives intersect and Laila is forced to accept a marriage proposal from Rasheed, Mariam’s husband. Fantastic read.

11. The Secret Race

A complete step away from Afghanistan, this read was timely, in hand during the summer’s Tour de France. As a novice cyclist, I was particularly interested in the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that Hamilton and his cohorts got up to were put up to.

12. The Book Thief

Coming recommended (thanks Mr D’Arcy) and it did not disappoint. Wow! A real page turner. I was really struck by the way in which this novel was told (no spoilers) and it’s central theme of relationships, the Holocaust and a quest to keep-safe a family friend who happens to be a Jew. Outstanding.

13. Wuthering Heights

Certainly not unlucky – an all-time classic, but it probably suffered in that it came after the engrossing tale of its predecesor. I wasn’t particularly bothered about any of the characters including Heathcliff (soz!).

14. The Gospel According To Blindboy

If Wuthering Heights is deemed an all-time classic, who knows in years to come Blindboy’s may too keep the same company as Emily Bronte. An incredible collection of off-the-wall short stories that somehow start off believable and then take dramatic twists and turns down meandering and dimly-lit avenues of WTFery.

15. Here Are The Young Men

If this is what society has produced we’re in for a rough time. Rob Doyle creates a wonderfully constructed narrative that focuses on different characters and their different takes on life.

16. The Glorious Heresies

A really enjoyable look at the lives of five misfit characters following the hapless murder of a low-level criminal in recession-hit Cork city. The characters are really well-developed and you will grow emotionally attached to them and the outcome of this sorry tale.

17. All The Light We Cannot See

Another recommendation from Mr D’Arcy and once again he comes up trumps. ATLWCS is a masterpiece. Set in WWII in France, the story revolves around on a blind French girl, and a clever German boy, who’s lives interweave in the war-torn era. Spectacular.

18. Prisoners Of Geography

…and now to finish with something completely different, Tim Marshall’s informative piece on global geopolitics was very insightful in terms of past wars and conflicts, and offers intrigue for the future make-up of regions around the world.

Top Reads…

As for the top reads, in no particular order, Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns are both incredible, while the WWII duo of The Book Thief and All The Light We Cannot See are outstanding reads.

Here’s to 2019 – 19 reads? Now that’s an entirely new challenge.

The Reading Challenge

At the turn of the year, the one that we’re a full gestation period into, I set myself a challenge to read one book per month. I enjoy reading, though one of the side effects of a PhD is that reading becomes something akin to an enduring experience as opposed to an enjoyable one. Endurance test aside, I took to the challenge with gusto, and an armful of books that had been gathering dust to some degree.

12 in 12.

…and to be fair, it has been enjoyable and not at all endurable, though some of the reads I have found tough going at times. At the minute, I’m at book number 16 for the year, which I’m quite chuffed with to be honest. The target is to reach 20 by year end, which is another challenge considering the academic year is soon upon us.

I’ll leave my ‘Top 5’ reads list until the festive season. Suffice to say, there are some really great reads in this pile. There’s another pile of similar size awaiting, but if you want to recommend a read, do get in touch. Book club anyone?

Last read: ‘Here Are The Young Men’

Current read: ‘The Glorious Heresies’