Thibeau's Books 2018
A Great Year for Reading
2018 contained within it's boarders a lot of wonderful days and moments. I stayed in a yurt, went to Vermont, got a new car, attended a Wabanaki pow-wow and birch bark canoe flotilla, made delicious food, saw Louie fricken Anderson perform stand-up, cleaned dozens of houses, camped out in Acadia, and I hiked mountains in 3 states, including an epic climb of Mt. Katahdin that left me feeling better, and stronger than I have in a long time. And as always I read. I read mainly from my 2 libraries: Maine State Library & The Gardiner Public Library. But I want to give a shout out to a few bookstores, Left Bank Books in Belfast, Devaney Doak & Garrett in Farmington, Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick, and The Peoples Book Shop in Mount Vernon.
I read 43 book this year; 27 works of fiction, 16 works of nonfiction; 15 female authors, 28 male. All of these books were objects I held in my hands. We've come to a place where that needs to be explained. I read books. There is only 1 book on the whole list that I didn't like and think is trash. Everything else was engrossing, interesting, and sometimes challenging. It made for a hard ranking, but I hammered it out. I separated fiction and non to make things work. I tried to chat a bit about my favorites, I like when other people do that. Reading is a symbiosis. What the reader brings to it is equally as compelling, often. Can't wait to check out all the year end lists from my book people. #nerdlove
1. There There, Tommy Orange 2018
This book was so fierce, so new, so beautiful, and so fresh. 12 characters circling a pow-wow in Oakland, California. Tommy Orange is a brand new writer, this is his first novel. Excited to see what he'll do next.
2. The Virgin and the Gypsy, D. H. Lawrence 1930
People have described this short novel as complex, or layered, but I found it simple and beautiful. I love D. H. Lawrence. I love his writing, and the complicated and troubling journey he took. Hounded as a pornographer, struggling in poverty for a good 80% of his life, he was a rare man, and in my estimation a genius. This novel is trim yet lush, deep and syrupy, beautiful and fine, a thing to be savored; language wrought with skill and artistry. Lawrence died in 1929 of Tuberculosis and this novel was published after his death.
3. They Came Like Swallows, William Maxwell 1937
William Maxwell grew up in the Midwest, was well educated, and was the fiction editor at the New Yorker from 1936-1975. I sought him out this year, knowing nothing of him. I read two novels, and one book of shorts by him. I can't say that he swept me off my feet, his other books you'll find much further down the list, but this novel was incredibly moving. It tells the story of a young mother dying (spoiler), from several perspectives, including that of her 10 year old son. Maxwell's own mother died when he was ten, and in a letter to a friend he wrote, "It happened too suddenly, with no warning, and we none of us could believe it or bear it...the beautiful, imaginative, protected world of my childhood swept away." That sentiment is beautifully expressed in this book.
4. Breathing Lessons, Anne Tyler 1988
I started reading Anne Tyler this year and now I can't stop! What a gem. Breathing Lessons won the Pulitzer in 1989. Though deceptively modest in theme, the 80 mile journey of a married couple to a funeral, this book manages to dive deep into the human experience and stay, dare I say, fun, and funny. Maggie Moran, the wife in this drama, is absolutely impossible not to love.
5. The Autograph Man, Zadie Smith 2002
Zadie Smith is one of my favorite living authors. This is her least popular novel, but I really adored it. The deal with Zadie is that she takes you to places you never expect to go, seamlessly, so like in a dream at night, you don't question anything, you simply get swept along in the beautiful language and the amazing and unusual characters, so well developed, and presented with a master's skill. This novel follows Alex-Li Tandem, a Jewish-chinese Londoner who is in search of a long forgotten famous actress's autograph. He's a collector. I really liked him, as frustrating and confusing as he could be at times. As usual Smith's characters crackle with life on the page.
6. Beware of Pity, Stefan Zweig 1939
Wes Anderson cited this book as inspiration for the tone and rhythm of Grand Budapest Hotel. It was a surprisingly fun read given it's set in Austria in the 30's. Melodramatic, funny, and deeply moving.
7. The Accidental Tourist, Anne Tyler 1985
8. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson 1962
9. The Stolen Child, Keith Donohue 2006
10. The Outsider, Stephen King 2018
Classic King. I keep expecting this man to loose steam and ride on his enormous reputation but every time I sit down and read another giant monster novel I am amazed at how damn good it is. Best living storyteller? Probably.
11. God's Snake, Irini Spanidou 1998
This novel is set in Greece and follows a young girl. It is full of passion, magic, darkness, and a strange energy. I liked it a lot.
12. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote 1966
Finally got around to reading this! I classified it as crime fiction, as that is what Truman stated in his later years he felt it was.
13. Mrs. Caliban, Rachel Ingalls 1982
This is an awesome little novel, cited as inspiration for The Shape of Water.
14. Sleeping Beauties, Stephen King & Owen King 2017
I really liked this book. I'd have to classify it as classic poppa King.
15. Annihilation, Jeff Vandermeer 2014
16. State of Wonder, Anne Patchett 2011
17. The Corrections, Johnathan Franzen 2001
18. Elevation, Stephen King 2018
19. The Old Man at the Railroad Crossing, William Maxwell 1966
20. Let Me Tell You, Shirley Jackson 2015
This is a collection of short stories, and essays. I love Shirley Jackson and if you do too, definitely check it out. There is a lot of good, there is also just A LOT, but any fan will enjoy it.
21. The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer 2018
22. The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo, Oscar Zeta Acosta 1972
Hunter S. Thompson's attorney was a real person. Sort of.
23. Between Thought & Expression, Lou Reed 1991
24. The Witch Family, Eleanor Estes 1960
25. Time Will Darken It, William Maxwell 1948
26. Gordon, Edith Templeton 1961
27. The Middle-Aged Man and the Flying Trapeze, James Thurber 1935
I love Thurber but these essays and stories did not connect with me as much as his past works. I recommend The 13 Clocks and My Life and Hard Times to anyone looking to dip a toe in with this author.
28. Mutant Message Down Under, Marlo Morgan 1990
This book was awful. I am not sure what it is supposed to be; published as a work of fiction, the forward contains a suggestion that the story is in fact true, but so unbelievable that Marlo was forced to publish it as fiction. Later, the tribe of aboriginals that Marlo claimed to have traveled with denied all truthfulness to her account. The story is rife with racism, is poorly written, and just a real awful piece of garbage.
1. We Should All be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 2014
This is a brilliant personal essay answering the question, what does Feminism mean today? A loaded question if ever there was one. Chimamanda writes with humor, levity, and honesty, and presents a piece of writing that leaves one refreshed and inspired. Simple and well thought out her thoughts on this subject reflect my own and articulate them in ways I never could.
2. On the Move: A Life, Oliver Sacks 2015
Ever since reading a memoir last year written by Oliver Sacks' partner, I have been reading everything by him. This is definitely my favorite. On The Move is an autobiography that reveals an intelligent person seeking a happy and useful life, and struggling along the way. It was surprising to see the round, soft spoken, articulate older man I'd come to know in his other books as a young, muscle clad biker, barrelling across the United States like a mad man in the night, hiking mountains, jumping into lakes, pumping iron on Venice Beach, and abusing amphetamines! It added a wholeness to him that is incredibly pleasing, and it colored my experience of the other 4 books I read by him this year (all were fantastic.)
3. The Widower's Notebook: A Memoir, Jonathan Santlofer 2018
This little memoir I randomly picked up and it really surprised me with it's warmth, honesty and humor. Jonathan is a respected and much acclaimed author, but here he writes a very personal account of the event of his wife's sudden death, and the months following it. Grief is a weighty subject, and often mishandled in popular culture, but here it is given it's due. The complexity of bringing your grief into the world, how long and deep such losses can be felt, and the long term effects of such trauma are expressed here in a way I deeply admire. This is a real gem of a book.
4. Gratitude, Oliver Sacks 2015
"I cannot pretend that I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. Above all I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure."
5. Calypso, David Sedaris 2018
David's newest collection of essays is his best yet. Hysterically funny (you'll laugh, I promise) and also reflective and contemplative. David is getting older, and so is his family, who much of his work has focused on his entire storied career. Some important people are gone, and he doesn't shy from speaking honestly about the aftermath, the moving on in a world where valued things are lost, one after another. But. It's really funny too.
6. Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life, Steve Martin 2007
7. Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches, John Hodgman 2017
8. The Stranger in the Woods..., Michael Finkel 2017
This story took place just northwest of the town I grew up in, so it had some personal resonance. It's an interesting read.
9. Island of the Colorblind, Oliver Sacks 1996
10. Hillbilly Elegy, J. D. Vance 2016
11. A Naturalist at Large, Bernd Heinrich 2018
12. Awakenings, Oliver Sacks 1973
13. Patagonian Road, Kate McCahil 2017
14. Uncle Tungsten, Oliver Sacks 2001
This is Oliver's biography that speaks to his childhood. But what it really focuses on is his childhood love of chemistry, which he goes into in rather excessive detail. If you don't want to read about chemistry at length than skip this one.
15. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy Kaling