As I write this on Dec. 28, I’ve finished 97 books. I’ve currently got two in progress, so who knows—I may make it to 100. I reviewed 62 of them. The most popular post by far was my review of Amy Bloom’s White Houses, a fictional retelling of the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok. This is because a lot of people have used Google to try to figure out if Roosevelt cousin Parker Fiske, a character in the book, was a real person. He was not. That’s why my review comes up when you search for his name and not a Wikipedia page. The second-most popular post: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz, primarily for the mention of Damian Cowper, an actor who appeared in a couple of “Harry Potter” films. Guess what: he’s fake, too! To boost my readership in 2019, I think I’ll only review novels featuring invented characters who interact with real-life people.
My review of three books about the Swedish concept of lagom did really well, which I’m happy about, as I feel I was pretty qualified to write about that.
The least-popular post: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware. Oh well. However, I’m a bit sad that this particular review didn’t get a larger readership, considering that I probably spent more time on it than anything I’ve ever written for this site. I read the same book twice, in two different languages!
My favorite books that I reviewed during the past year: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin was a masterpiece. I don’t read a lot of true crime, but I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara was tremendously compelling (even though I couldn’t get up the courage to read it until after the Golden State Killer was actually caught). Brad Parks’ Closer Than You Know was the best thriller I read in 2018 (and I read a bunch). Marcia Muller’s The Breakers was a joyous return to form from an author I’ve been reading for years. I predict that Lou Berney’s November Road is going to win all the mystery awards next year, and deservedly so. But perhaps the moment of greatest book-related happiness I experienced in the past 12 months was finding out that my beloved Stewart “Hoagy” Hoag was back, and I got to revel in two brand-new David Handler mysteries.
Ordinarily, I would never mention the worst book I read in 2018, because I try to keep it positive in this year-end sum-up, but the author’s dead, so what the heck: A Clubbable Woman by Reginald Hill, which I read for my book group (and didn’t review). I’ve enjoyed other Hill novels, but this one (published in 1970) belongs in a time capsule—preferably one buried so deeply underground that it’ll never be found.
If you’re looking for more recommendations, check out Barack Obama’s reading list, and try to remember what it was like to have a president who actually read books. (His best songs list made me wonder if he’s ever heard Mitski—I think you’d enjoy her, Mr. President!—and his best movies had me dying to know if he caught “Sorry to Bother You.”) And here is a quote from the former Reader-In-Chief:
“At the moment that we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold, that magic threshold into a library, we change their lives forever, for the better. It’s an enormous force for good.”