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If you read my previous post, I shared 18-ish moments that happened last year. Those were the most notable. On top of regular ol’ Life, I also read a lot of books. The most I’ve ever read, and the most fiction I’ve ever read. I also watched a good number of films but I’ll put all those in another post.

Between using my library card and a gifted Movie Pass (RIP) account, 2018 was definitely a year of literary and film appreciation. Read on for my top five books, in no particular order…

Mother Land (Paul Theroux)

I first read Theroux’s Kingdom by the Sea a few years ago. It was a birthday gift and I fell in love with it: the docu-journalistic style and Theroux’s use of language. I wanted more. It wasn’t until last year that I actually picked up another book of his, Mother Land.

It’s a novel that reads like an autobiography. I nearly forgot that it was fiction. The characters, the emotions, and the behaviors — they were too real. The protagonist is a writer from a family of many siblings. Each in their own way the children vie for their mother’s love, except the protagonist who, by all accounts, appears to see the game the matriarch plays. The tension between the mother and her adult children, the tension between the protagonist and his siblings is an electric shock.

Deep South (Paul Theroux)

Soon after finishing Mother Land, I sought the next one: Deep South. This one I eagerly waited for after I listened to Theroux talking about it on a radio broadcast. I was not disappointed, except when the book ended (because all books have to end at some point). The book is split into four “seasons” in which Theroux unfailingly describes his travels in the “forgotten” South. The South no one ever goes to or talks about unless you already live there. I don’t know how his interactions were like but reading about the people he met over the course of the year, I was mesmerized by the general hospitality and ease of rapport that appeared to develop. Is it really so easy?

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (Michelle McNamara)

Crime stories and horror are my guilty pleasures and McNamara’s posthumously published book is no exception. I have to admit my interest was further piqued when I learned she was Patton Oswalt’s wife. Then I did some reading about her and became enamored with her. How did I not know about her? As a j-school graduate it felt weird that I’ve never even heard of McNamara or her crime writing.

The book is an expedition of the best kind for those who appreciate crime writing, fiction or nonfiction. McNamara’s near-obsession to solve the puzzle reminded me of my own interest in investigative journalism and research: to figure out the puzzle. And for me, there’s the added excitement of being able to tell other people’s stories.

These next two authors I have vaguely heard about but never read. I didn’t even know Philip K. Dick wrote the book that inspired Blade Runner until I looked to see what other books he authored. I didn’t even know Lovecraft was the originator of the Cthulhu!

Ubik (Philip K. Dick)

I read Ubik and was immediately swept away. The mindfu*kery of the plot was unexpected and had me “gripping the edge of the chair” (or whatever the book equivalent of that is). I have a list of other books I’m looking forward to reading this year.

The Dunwich Horror (H. P. Lovecraft)

And then there’s Lovecraft’s Dunwich Horror. It’s not as complex as Ubik and it’s precisely the simplicity of the plot that won me over. The psychological horror experienced by the characters reminded me of when I first read Hound of the Baskervilles, except on steroids. I had chills when I finished the book.

What were some favorite books you read in 2018? What are you reading in 2019?

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