Hello there! Long time, no see. I apologize for the silence on this site for the past few weeks. I’ve been trying to explore other avenues for my writing, so I haven’t had as much time to write here. But since we are in the last few weeks of 2018, I thought I’d go down the list of my favorite books I read this year. As always, I will pick one from each of the four major genres.
2018 saw some pretty great fiction reads in The Great Divorce and The Invention of Morel, but neither compares to Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges. I read his Labyrinths first, and wasn’t half-way done with it before I picked up this collection too. It’s still my go-to book when I can’t decide what to read because its depths are inexhaustible. I keep returning over and over to “The Aleph” and “The Zahir,” but “The Circular Ruins” and “Death and the Compass” are favorites too.
Can I really have only read one play in 2018? And it was Chekhov’s The Seagull? I was crazy about Chekhov last year and that fever spilled over into this year’s posts as well, though it never manifested in an actual review of The Seagull. This is partly because I found the play just a touch boring and partly because it’s so bleak (even for Chekhov) that I was a little shy about inflicting 600 words about it on you, my lovely readers.
I’ve always loved biographies, and Robert K. Massie’s classic Nicholas and Alexandra, about the last tsar of Russia and his family, has quickly become one of my favorites of the genre. While I do believe that Massie’s emotional attachment to the Romanov family may have prevented him from being completely objective, the story is still fascinating, and Massie tells it beautifully.
Along with Borges, another wonderful writer whom I read for the first time this year was the Swedish Nobel Laureate Tomas Tranströmer. The Half-Finished Heaven is a recent collection of his selected poems, translated by his friend and fellow poet Robert Bly.
Because a lot of my favorite poetry tends to be very exuberant and ornate, Tranströmer provided a nice change of pace. His poetry has an austere beauty to it, still and serene like the winter nights which so often provide the setting for his poems. Two of my favorites are “C Major” and “Allegro” (translated here by Robin Fulton).
That’s all for now. If you’ve read any of these books, let me know what you thought of them, and feel free to share some of your favorite books of 2018 in the comments.