Various


I remember, vividly unfortunately, the signals my lower gut communicated to my mouth and brain that time I overdid it on quality whisky. Standing in a warm public house but to all intents and purposes dropping down the spine of a sudden wave, feeling the pitch and roll of a large vessel beneath me, the Skipper’s knuckles bone white against the wheel as he held to his course and prayed his ship would make the climb up the other side, all internal and external liquids at odds. Hints of woodsmoke, salt and molasses, sulphur and brine. I was sick as a dog.

I remain seaworthy, but can no longer stomach whisky. At times, this feels like a raw deal. After all, how often will I need to board an ocean-going vessel, yet how often does my brain suggest it’s time to get back on the single malt horse? The ratio, heavily weighted towards the latter, is annoying. Both the quantity of alcohol and the outcome were unnecessary.

I feel a little like that about the socialising of personal lists. They are a natural fit for social media. We do like a list; what would happen if we had nothing left to do? Whether anyone else ‘out there’ gives a hoot about these lists appears irrelevant, yet we’ll gamely craft them and sacrifice the Champagne of certainty against their birth regardless.

At this time of year there’s a list for everything, from everyone. Not wanting to be left out, here’s mine. These are the books I read in 2018. I shall probably speak at length about some of these, or their authors, in 2019.

I enjoyed them all, and one or two, upon reflection and re-reading, look set to enter into the dangerous territory of ‘favourite’, for which read: the pantheon, the inner sanctum, that library of manuscripts that sits unperishing in the rarefied air of Minas Tirith, to be spoken of in hushed tones and defended on social media with an indignant moral superiority that’s sure to engender instant hatred. Like a really good whisky, perhaps, but in moderation.

If you feel remotely queasy at any time, you have my permission to stop. Really; don’t let this experience haunt you for years to come.


January

1 All My Friends Are Superheroes Andrew Kaufman
2 We Have Always Lived In The Castle Shirley Jackson
3 How To Become A Writer Lorrie Moore
4 Beyond Black Hilary Mantel
5 It Can't Happen Here Sinclair Lewis
6 The Underground Railroad Colson Whitehead

February

1 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Anita Loos
2 The Rift Nina Allan
3 How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won The FA Cup J L Carr
4 The Tie That Binds Kent Haruf
5 Lincoln In The Bardo George Saunders
6 Where You Once Belonged Kent Haruf
7 Foes Lorrie Moore
8 The Lottery Shirley Jackson
9 Destination Unknown Joanna Campbell

March

1 The Essex Serpent Sarah Perry
2 The Fifth Season N K Jemisin
3 The Vigilante John Steinbeck
4 The Obelisk Gate N K Jemisin
5 The Burning Ground Adam O'Riordan
6 The Stone Sky N K Jemisin

April

1 Some Kind Of Fairy Tale Graham Joyce
2 Thin Air Michelle Paver
3 Grief Is A Thing With Feathers Max Porter
4 White Tears Hari Kunzru
5 The Transition Luke Kennard
6 Up The Junction Nell Dunn
7 Reservoir 13 Jon McGregor
8 The Psalm Killer Chris Petit
9 The Missing Girl Shirley Jackson

May

1 I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou
2 Command And Control Eric Schlosser
3 London After The Bomb Owen Greene
4 Call For The Dead John le Carre
5 Slade House David Mitchell
6 Hiroshima John Hersey

June

1 The Honours Tim Clare
2 To Serve Them All My Days R F Delderfield
3 Injection Vol.1 Warren Ellis
4 Injection Vol.2 Warren Ellis
5 Read This If You Want To Be A Great Writer Ross Raisin
6 Fair Stood The Wind For France H E Bates
7 The Thin Man Dashiell Hammett
8 Neverwhere Neil Gaiman

July

1 This Is Memorial Device David Keenan
2 Injection Vol.3 Warren Ellis
3 Spare And Found Parts Sarah Griff
4 Eventide Kent Haruf
5 Benediction Kent Haruf
6 Heartburn Nora Ephron
7 The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August Clare North

August

1 Record Of A Spaceborn Few Becky Chambers
2 Just An Ordinary Day Shirley Jackson
3 2020 Commission Dr. Jeffrey Lewis
4 Slow Horses Mick Herron
5 Ancillary Justice Ann Leckie
6 My Name Is Leon Kit De Waal

September

1 Something To Answer For P H Newby
2 Daredevils Shawn Vestal
3 American War Omar El Akkad
4 The Lost Lady Willa Cather
5 We Yevgeny Zamyatin

October

1 Dead Lions Mick Herron
2 Melmoth Sarah Perry
3 The Green Mile Stephen King
4 Bone Lines Stephanie Bretherton
5 Descender 1 Jeff Lemieux

November

1 The Right Stuff Tom Wolfe
2 Baseball - A History George Vecsey
3 By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept Elizabeth Smart
4 The Hound Of The Baskervilles Arthur Conan Doyle
5 Jesus' Son Denis Johnson
6 The Promise Ann Weisgarber
7 Reborn 1 Millar/Capullo
8 Descender 2 Jeff Lemieux

December

1 The Clocks In This House All Tell Different Times Xan Brooks
2 The Last Headbangers Kevin Cook
3 Fox 8 George Saunders
4 Everything Under Daisy Johnson
5 The Drop Mick Herron