One last 2018 wrap up post! This tag was created by Adam @ Memento Mori on booktube – I’m not sure if anyone else in the blogging world has adapted it but I thought it sounded like a really fantastic way to highlight some of those books that tend to fall through the cracks at this best and worst list time of year.
1. The longest book you read this year and the book that took you the longest to finish.
According to Goodreads the longest book I read (and I am so embarrassed by this since the page count isn’t even that crazy) is Emily Wilson’s translation of the Odyssey, coming in at 582 pages. That obviously includes the intro, etc, but I did read this cover to cover.
The book that took me the longest to finish was probably Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, which I apparently started on June 30 and finished on October 30. As I explained in my review I was really enjoying this and then I just fell into a period where I wasn’t in the mood to read it at all, but once I got back into it I started loving it again.
2. A book you read in 2018 that was outside of your comfort zone.
Sabrina by Nick Drnaso: the only graphic novel I’d ever read before wasn’t even a graphic novel, it was a graphic memoir, and that was Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, so this was a pretty big change from my usual fare. I enjoyed this, it didn’t change my life or anything and I’m not convinced it earned its spot on the Man Booker longlist, but I’d definitely be interested in reading more graphic novels going forward.
3. How many books did you re-read in 2018?
Only 4 – The Odyssey, Antigone, and the Bakkhai, translated by Emily Wilson, Robert Bagg, and Anne Carson respectively, as well as Macbeth by Shakespeare. Almost worryingly on-brand.
4. Favorite re-read of 2018.
All 4 for different reasons. The Odyssey because I think Emily Wilson is superb and one part of her translator’s note (below) nearly made me cry; Antigone because I was rereading it after finishing Home Fire and pairing them together really enriched both texts (and because I was coming off a really fucking stupid argument about how I apparently do not understand Antigone in the slightest, which I just found amusing); the Bakkhai because I am worshipful of what Anne Carson can do with words; and Macbeth because I reread it in preparation for seeing Sleep No More the second time which I got so much more out of with the text fresh in my mind.
“It is traditional in statements like this Translator’s Note to bewail’s one’s own inadequacy when trying to be faithful to the original. Like many contemporary translation theorists, I believe that we need to rethink the terms in which we talk about translation. My translation is, like all translations, an entirely different text from the original poem. Translation always, necessarily, involves interpretation; there is no such thing as a translation that provides anything like a transparent window through which a reader can see the original. The gendered metaphor of the “faithful” translation, whose worth is always secondary to that of a male-authored original, acquires a particular edge in the context of a translation by a woman of The Odyssey, a poem that is deeply invested in female fidelity and male dominance.” – Emily Wilson
5. A book you read for the first time in 2018 that you look forward to re-reading in the future.
The Pisces by Melissa Broder, Milkman by Anna Burns, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.
Also, I anticipate reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley at least two more times (and I have already read it twice). First because I used one of my audible credits long ago to get the audiobook since it’s narrated by Dan Stevens and I enjoy his voice immensely. And second because I want to read the original 1818 text at some point.
6. Favorite single short story or novella that you read in 2018.
I love this question. I’m torn between these two:
The Universal Story from The Whole Story and Other Stories by Ali Smith: A man buys a secondhand copy of The Great Gatsby in a used bookshop. The narrative switches focus about a hundred times in a couple of pages and it’s just spectacular. I don’t know how to explain this. Just read it.
Hell Screen by Akutagawa Ryunosuke, from The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories edited by Jay Rubin: A talented painter is commissioned to create a folding screen that depicts Buddhist hell. As he’s unable to paint an image that he hasn’t seen firsthand, he inflicts torture on his apprentices.
And, if it counts as a novella (what’s the qualification for being a novella as opposed to a short novel anyway, does anyone know? Please tell me):
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss: A teenage girl and her parents accompany an anthropology course on an excursion to Northumberland, where they live for a few weeks as Iron Age Britons once did. This book is subtle and harrowing all at once.
7. Mass Appeal: A book you liked and would recommend to a wide variety of readers.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I have seen a couple of negative reviews of this, but for the most part I’d say it’s near-universally adored, and for good reason. You’re going to want to put your skepticism aside and just give this one a try, because it actually does live up to the hype. The characters are wonderfully vivid and the story itself is immersive and heartbreaking and just lovely. I read this in two days and I couldn’t put it down.
8. Specialized Appeal: A book you liked but would be hesitant to recommend to just anyone.
I’m going to go with two different retellings of Euripides’ Medea:
Medea by Christa Wolf: It’s not that I think you wouldn’t find this book enjoyable if you don’t have a working knowledge of/obsession with the Medea myth, because I do think it’s exquisitely written regardless, but the real joy for me in reading this was seeing Wolf’s unique subversion of the familiar story, so I would hesitate to recommend this to anyone not already interested in Greek mythology, as opposed to something like Circe which holds a much wider commercial appeal.
By the Bog of Cats by Marina Carr. This is one of the best plays I have ever read, but I think you would need to share my morbid fascination with all things tragic and macabre to appreciate this downer.
9. Reflect on your year as a bookish content creator (goals met, good/bad memories, favorite
videos blog posts you made, etc).
This was a perfectly steady year for my blog – I didn’t make many changes, but I did continue to post regularly and I’m very happy with that. I also decided this year that rather than following Top 5 Wednesday etc. I have more fun when I’m inspired to create my own book lists for no particular reason.
One such list that I’m proud of is my Adult Books About Young Adults post which I wrote in the hopes of lessening the misconception that all adult literature is about 40 year old straight white men.
I’m also proud of finishing the Man Booker longlist in time for the winner announcement, as it was the first time I’ve ever read a literary prize longlist in its entirety: in case you missed that you can read my longlist reaction, shortlist reaction, longlist recap/winner prediction, and reaction to the winner announcement. I’m still pleased with myself for predicting the winner correctly.
I do quite love these two literary prizes and I had a lot of fun with both this year.
10. Tag some fellow bookish content creators.
Definitely feel free to skip it etc. And tagging anyone else who wants to do this!