Home > About reading, Personal Posts > My 2018 reading year in twelve books

My 2018 reading year in twelve books

In 2018, I read or started a total of 55 books, not a lot compared to other bloggers. It’s stable from one year to the other, I guess that one book per week is all I can manage. I abandoned five of them either because I didn’t like them or because they were too difficult to read. It was a good reading year, but not outstanding.

After showing you some of my 2018 bookish moments and wrapping up my year of reading Australia, allow me to share my twelve favorite reads of the year.

Best atmospheric crime fiction: The Neon Rain by James Lee Burke

I loved being in New Orleans with Dave Robicheaux and I want to go to Louisiana now.

Best companion book: The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud

Kamel Daoud retells the story from Camus’s famous classic The Stranger from the Algerian perspective and gives a thought-provoking vision of colonization and post-colonial Algeria. A punch-in-the-gut book, important to read along the original.

Best political crime fiction: Spada by Bogdan Teodorescu

I hope, I really hope that Spada will be translated into English because it shows the underbelly of political communication and how the exploitation of a crime in the media transform politicians into pyromaniacs who set the country on fire.

Best oxymoron book: The Anarchist Banker by Fernando Pessoa

A banker’s speech that will convince you that indeed, no one is more anarchist than this bourgeois banker. Incredible. Funny as hell.

Best coming-of-age novel: The Poor Man’s Son by Mouloud Feraoun

I’m not sure it’s really a coming-of-age novella, since I’m not good at putting books in neat literary boxes. The Poor Man’s Son gives a good vision of life in poor Algerian villages during the French colonization. It’s based on the writer’s own experience.

Best almost-feminist book: The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

The sad story of two sisters, one who follows the expected path of marriage and motherhood and the other who tries to break free of this yoke.

Best African-French book: Small Country by Gaël Faye

Gaël Faye relates his own story as a child in Burundi when the civil war starts in Burundi and during the genocide in Rwanda. Poignant.

Best crazy serious book: The Alienist by J.-M. Machado de Assis

How a doctor who wants to cure madness turns a city into a madhouse inside and outside his psychatric ward. Voltaire would have loved this. It’ll make you laugh and think.

Best Australian literary fiction: I, For Isobel by Amy Witting

Also a coming-of-age story, I guess. Isobel is trying to find her independance and shake off her childhood to become her own person. It’s a well-drawn story of a young girl who loves to read in a family who doesn’t value books and tries to smother her personality.

Best I-want-to-give-it-to-all-my-friends book: The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy

I loved The Tin Flute for the accurate and loving depiction of working-class neighborhoods in Montreal during WWII. It’s really a shame that there is no recent English translation of it. English speaking Canadians are missing out on an excellent book.

Best end-of-my-world book: The Emperor’s Tomb by Joseph Roth

Poor Trotta lives through the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and cannot recover from it. Neither could Roth. Don’t read it as historical fiction to learn historical facts but more to see what history does to a man.

Best book to raise awareness about a sensitive topic: Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, edited by Anita Heiss

Very brave indigenous Australians share with us their personal experience of growing up Aboriginal in Australia. They come from the whole country, from various backgrounds and are of all ages. It helps the reader understand what racist barbs and ingrained prejudices do to the people who receive them right in their faces. Powerful.

I’ve already talked about my project to read American literature in 2019 in my Happy New Year billet. I will read La Débâcle by Zola along with Marina Sofia in May. Join us if you want to.

For the rest, I hope to read more Australian lit and books from the TBR. I really need to read more from it than I buy books otherwise I’ll end up in the same position as this year: the TBR is as high as the end of the year as it was at the beginning. Only its composition has changed… Oh well, there are worst things in life!

To live without reading is dangerous. You’d have to believe what people tell you.

  1. January 6, 2019 at 11:36 pm

    I like the sound of pretty much every single one you mention and have only read Spada from it. I still hope Spada will get translated too – and quite a few of the others you menton deserve it too.


    • January 7, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      Just heard that La Daronne will be published in English in the Fall. Yay!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. January 7, 2019 at 12:38 am

    Wow. Impressive. Nearly all of the authors in your list I have neevr heard of before. I am hoping I’d be able to at least read the ones on your list. 🙂


    • January 7, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      It happens to me all the time when I read other bloggers’ lists.
      So many great books to discover out there! 🙂


  3. January 7, 2019 at 12:50 am

    “To live without reading is dangerous” – how true!


    • January 7, 2019 at 2:08 pm

      I can probably find vignettes for everything in Mafalda comics.
      I really love them and they’re popular in France.


  4. January 7, 2019 at 5:35 am

    some really neat books here. For my French audiobooks, the next one will be HHhH, and then Petit Pays. I like Faye’s voice, so he should work, as he narrates the book himself.
    When I’m done with my 50 classics for Classic Club, I want to reread all of Zola in order. To kind of get an overall picture.
    My favorites of the year are here: https://wordsandpeace.com/2019/01/01/year-of-reading-2018-part-1-my-top-14/
    One book is by a French author and there’s another one set in Paris


    • January 7, 2019 at 2:10 pm

      Thanks. I’m not tempted by the Binet but I imagine that Petit Pays read by its author will be amazing.

      I should read Zola in the right order too. I’m not sure I can stomach too many of them in a row, though. It’s not exactly optimistic.

      Thanks for the link.


  5. January 7, 2019 at 9:59 am

    It’s great to see The Easter Parade on your list. I think it’s my favourite Yates, certainly based on those I’ve read so far. It’s less dramatic than Revolutionary Road, but so beautifully written. Lots of interesting stuff on the rest of your list too, particularly the Amy Witting – I know you’ve mentioned that to me before.

    Wishing you all the best for the year ahead, Emma. May it be filled with plenty of good books and literary escapades. 🙂


    • January 7, 2019 at 2:14 pm

      I thought Yates’ prose was beautiful. I had an issue with the ending of The Easter Parade but it’s still a terrific read.

      I think you’d like the Witting. (also recommended by Guy, if that helps)

      I also wish you the best for 2019, in books and in everything else.


  6. January 7, 2019 at 10:03 am

    I can’t imagine visiting America, but New Orleans would be the first place I visited if I did. I often have to say to other bloggers I haven’t read any of those books, but it hurts to say to a French blogger I’ve read neither of those Australian books.


    • January 7, 2019 at 2:17 pm

      I’m not sure I want to go to America while Trump is president but with the way things are going, not a lot of countries will be visitable if I stick to my moral compass.

      You can’t have read all the Australian books published. Both are worth reading though, for different reasons. You’d be interested in the Heiss but you’d also enjoy Witting prose and Isobel’s story.


  7. January 7, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    The amount doesn’t matter but whether you enjoyed them or not. I loved The Alienist and I may have sourced a copy of The Anarchist Banker…. ;D


    • January 7, 2019 at 2:19 pm

      Work less to read more is my new motto. 🙂

      The Alienist is a stunning piece. It’s comical and at the same time is goes deep into how far science and scientist can go, how wild a population can become and how the best intentions can be diverted for power. Impressive.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. January 7, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    New Orleans is so great. Just ignore everything Burke writes about how corrupt it is. That is true, but not relevant to tourists. Also, do not visit in the summer, if possible.

    Good year of books! I just finished Radetzky March, so I am catching up to your Roth.


    • January 7, 2019 at 10:01 pm

      What he writes sounds true but you’re right, not everything is relevant for the tourist.

      I want to do a Highway 61 roadtrip. Without kids who can’t go into bars because they’re under 21.

      Did you enjoy Radetzky March?


  9. January 7, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    Great list! I love Pessoa & Machado de Assis, and The Easter Parade was also one of my best reads in 2018. Happy New Year! 🙂


    • January 7, 2019 at 10:02 pm

      We seem to have a lot in common, as far as reading tastes are concerned.

      Happy New Year to you too.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. January 8, 2019 at 9:25 am

    Some great reads here, even if overall it wasn’t an outstanding year. I hope 2019 has some outstanding books in it for you Emma!


    • January 9, 2019 at 7:41 am

      Now I need to be like you and read out of the TBR.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. January 8, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    New Orleans is also on my list of places I would love to visit.
    A very nice list. I think I’ll pick up some of these as well.
    Happy New Year, Emma


    • January 9, 2019 at 7:43 am

      I think you’d like the Witting, the Burke and the Heiss.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. January 9, 2019 at 12:42 am

    After having read ‘The Book of Disquiet’, I do want to read The Anarchist Banker by Fernando Pessoa as soon as I find it at a price I want to pay. They have the paperback on Amazon for $20.00.


    • January 9, 2019 at 7:46 am

      I saw that The Anarchist Banker was harder to find in English.
      It’s been republished in French and in paperback. (a paperback cost around 7 euros)
      I hope you can find it. Maybe through this wonderful network of libraries you have in the US?


    • January 9, 2019 at 4:25 pm

      Forget that expensive edition, unless you want the Portuguese text, and get, or borrow, The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa, tr. Richard Zenith.


      • January 9, 2019 at 7:15 pm

        Thanks, Amateur Reader. That’s a great idea. I will do that.


  13. January 9, 2019 at 3:27 am

    That’s funny: you did categories this year and I didn’t. I thought about it but my book choices didn’t really fit.


  14. January 11, 2019 at 12:46 am

    i read far fewer than many other bloggers too but it doesn’t really matter that much. I could read more but that would mean giving up a lot of other hobbies and social events ….


    • January 13, 2019 at 9:25 am

      It’s not that I feel like we’re in sort of a competition. I’m just envious, I wish I could read more, without cutting on the rest except my hours in the office.


      • January 13, 2019 at 12:06 pm

        Exactly Emma, I think some years back when I started blogging and saw how much other people were reading I did feel like I was failing in some way. But I’ve got over that – if I want to read more I can but it will mean sacrifices in other areas.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. January 11, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    I read fewer too Booker, you’re not alone…

    The Roth is a must read for me, but I haven’t read Radetzky yet so not yet. The Burke I have read and I agree is brilliant. I’ve not gone back to the series because they’re great and atmospheric and I don’t have space for another series right now. I also loved Easter Parade of course, and I’m glad it makes your list even with your reservations (I would say that nobody ever seems to get out of a Yates book happy, regardless of age, gender or whatever. He’s not a merciful author to his characters).

    Alienist and Anarchist I haven’t found in decent editions yet, but were already on my radar thanks to your other reviews.

    Spada I think I’d missed, and sounds great but sadly not in English. Ah well, hopefully that may change.


    • January 13, 2019 at 9:41 am

      I don’t think you really need to read Radetzky March before, at least not to understand The Emperor’s Tomb.
      However, it’s interesting to have read it before because the tone is so different. The Emperor’s Tomb is a lot more emotional than Radetzky March.

      The Yates is a very fine piece of literature. I loved his style.

      I really hope you’ll find a copy of The Alienist and The Anarchist Banker. It’s easily accessible in French. I always wonder about these differences between what is published in French and in English. Does that mean that the French readers are more likely to read The Alienist and The Anarchist Banker per se or is it just a question of selling translated books. (again)

      I really hope Spada gets translated. I wished there were a website set up by independant publishers and where we could report books that we think deserve a translation in English. Because let’s face it, an English translation means a lot of visibility for a writer.

      I’m so happy that Sandrine Collette’s Il reste la poussière is now available under Nothing But Dust and that La Daronne by Hannelore Cayre will be published in September under The Godmother. (a well-chosen name, btw. She’s more mafia than fairy tale)

      Keep your eyes open for La Daronne. It’s short, it’s fast paced, it’s brilliant crime fiction with an unusual character. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this ride.
      I think you’d like Nothing But Dust too but I’m certain you’ll have a great time with La Daronne.


  16. January 14, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    We just got a new translation “The Alienist” last year, a good one, in The Collected Stories of Machado de Assis. Finally all of Machado’s short fiction is available in English – an event!

    I should read La Daronne. I know there is a copy in the house somewhere.


    • January 14, 2019 at 10:47 pm

      Great, let’s hope Tony will find it.

      La Daronne is full of slang, it’s going to be educational. 😊


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