Friday, January 04, 2019

the not top ten best books of 2018

Every year, I have full intention on reading more than the previous year... with 25 books in 2013, I knocked out 35 in 2014.  In 2015, I managed to get to 40, with 43 the next year, and 45 last year. So when I made my goal of 50, I just knew I'd get there.

In fact, I wrote this on January 1, 2018, about my new goal of 50...

...there will be a handful of graphic novels and short plays I want to read as well. I've got a handful of Neil Labute, August Wilson & David Mamet scripts at the ready. The first book of the year completed will likely be "Sleeping Beauties" by Stephen King & Owen King. Its a 25 hour audiobook, and coming into January 1, I was 11 hours in.

Well, I was sorta right. I did get through a couple of Mamet scripts, and finished "Sleeping Beauties" as well, all 25 hours of it. 

But I didn't get to 50. I did try... but I just didn't get there. And I don't feel bad about it.  See, anyone who knows me knows I do audiobooks, and I did 42 of those this year... 363 hours of listening, which equals out to just over 15 straight days of listening.  That's a ton, and I feel proud of that.

Because I'm a total nerd, I did my Excel sheet of stats to see what my totals look like... if you add in the 15 audiobooks I listened to in 2010 to 2012, plus the book totals I mentioned earlier, I'm basically looking at 237 books in 9 years.  Now, I have some friends who average anywhere from 75 to 100 books per year, so they look at my paltry 237 and think "that's nothing", but honestly, that's massive.  Averaging 26 per year, I think I did more in one year than I read from around 1995 to 2010.  I love reading, but never had time.  Thus, Audiobooks rule.

Anyway, the point here is to list the books I did read this year.  I do have a Top Ten, but I wanted to give a quick run through of the other 32... 

Image result for stephen king sleeping beauties
Great concept, great story... typical King by being very,
very long
(1) "Sleeping Beauties" by Stephen King and (his son) Owen King.  Using that knack for coming up with scenarios that you'd never even consider to be a plot, the Kings write a book about this unusual phenomenon where women all over the world go to sleep. The book partly chronicles what happens with only men in charge, and then also to this other world, where the women all end up and start their own society. Lots of subplots, lots of entanglement, and would land just outside my top ten.

Also by Stephen King, a novella called (2) "Elevation", a strange little story about a guy who starts losing weight.  Lest it sound like "Thinner", this guy also starts losing mass; this plot also wraps around a subplot about the man's neighbors, who happen to run a diner... which townsfolk don't like, because the diner-owners are lesbians. Strange ending. 

Neil Simon's (3) "Brighton Beach Memoirs"(4) "Broadway Bound" are part of the "Eugene Trilogy", which also contains "Biloxi Blues", which I loved. Eugene continues to come of age in the early to mid-1900s, filled with heartache, success, failure, crushes, family strife and more.

(5) "Your Erroneous Zone" by Dr Wayne Dyer. One of the best selling books of all time, it takes you on a journey through all areas of life that are full of errors, and how to get over those obstacles. Worth a re-read in 2019.

I read a handful of David Mamet scripts/plays as well, including (6) "American Buffalo", a dark comedy about a couple of unlikable guys plotting to steal a vintage buffalo nickel... (7) "Shorts", a collection of plays including "Bobby Gould in Hell", "Reunion" and "The Shawl", and finally, a play called (8) "Romance".  All are good, if you are a Mamet fan like I am, but nothing comes close to "Glengarry Glen Ross" (that I read in 2014). And all are full of language, so beware.

Dan Schultz's (9) "Dead Run" opens up with a cowboy in Colorado discovering the body of a dead guy in the wilderness... and then it opens up to recount the 1998 assassination of a local police officer by three gunman who went on a shooting spree, then disappeared into the mountains.  "Dead Run" looks at the (true!) story, the manhunt, the Native American trackers, and the crazy possible cover up. This almost made my Top Ten for the year. 

(10) "Mouseschawitz" is a short book by Angela Lovell giving her time as a cast member, and some of the crazy things that happened, while Chris Stuckmann's (11) "The Film Buff's Bucket List" looks at 50 movies from the 2000s that he fully recommends. 

A little life lesson via the military from Admiral William McRaven's (12) "Make Your Bed", which imparted to me that making the bed in the morning is one of the most important things I can do to start my day -- and I've been doing it ever since. And then I finally read Ernest Cline's (13) "Ready Player One", on the recommendation of many of my friends, including writer Chris Holmes.  I'm not a huge dystopia fan, but after the movie, I figured I'd go ahead. Here we read about Wade, a loner who escapes into this simulation game called The Oasis, where he competes in this years long contest to solve riddles and puzzles in order to finally take over the Oasis. The book is filled to the brim with 70s and 80s pop culture references, including an entire sequence that takes place in the world of Blade Runner...

SIDENOTE... While this movie was being made, so was Blade Runner 2049, and I suspect that is the reason that they didn't allow Blade Runner to be used in the Ready Player One movie. So they made that scene out of The Shining instead, which I honestly preferred. 

Y2J, the Ayatollah of Rock n Rolla Chris Jericho is back with (14) "No is a Four Letter Word", which unlike his other books, is much more motivational themed than anecdotes about his wrestling career.  Bill Carter, one of my favorite television authors, gives us (15) "Desperate Networks", which tells the tales of how American Idol was passed over by several networks before ending up on Fox, how LOST was ignored until ABC took a chance, how Survivor came to be and more... this was the abridged version, thus left out of the top ten.

Much of my summer was taken up by the (16-22) Harry Potter series, my 5th time reading through the 7 books, while (23) "Pledged" by Alexandra Robbins (a book that I bought literally 10 years ago, but just got around to it) gives a year long look at what happens in sororities - the drugs, the sex, the hazing, the spanx! Good, but uncomfortable to know this happens on campuses.  Another play, this one by Stephen Adly Guirgus, tells the tale of (24) "The Mother****** With the Hat", a basic tale about a guy who discovers his wife is cheating by finding a strange hat in the bedroom.

Darcey Bell's debut novel is called (25) "A Simple Favor", and is an intriguing tale of Stephanie, who is trying to solve the mystery of what happened to her (sort of) best friend, socialite Emily. Both the book and the 2018 Anna Kendrick/Blake Lively film adaptation are pretty parallel, until the ending. The movie is a little silly, while the book goes off the rails. 

John Grisham fan that I am, I finally read (26) "Skipping Christmas", a non legal story about a family who is trying to avoid the holidays by going on a cruise, but gets sucked back in when some random things force them to do so... I laughed a few times.  Better than the movie.

Go get this book. Seriously. Do the physical
copy, then do the audio, with all of your
lists and charts fill out.
Got my hipster college kid on by re-reading Moliere's (27) "The Misenthrope", and enjoyed it, while I finally read up on some Edgar Allen Poe in a collection called (28) "The Tell Tale Heart and other Stories", which features the title stories, as well as "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Black Cat".  Then, I read another of my favorite authors, Michael Lewis, in a quick memoir of raising a family and kids overseas, in a book called (29)"Home Game".

I read two books on the Golden State Killer, one of which you'll find in my Top Ten, and the other, (30) "Evil Has a Name", written by Paul Holes, Jim Clemente, and Peter McDonnell, was released by Audible. Perhaps its more an "episode" than a book, but I'm counting it. 

And finally, that brings us to (31) "Live Your List", by my friend Ryan Eller. It's sort of a motivational book, sort of a memoir, sort of a comedy book, and kind of a leadership book all wrapped in one. Ryan shares stories from his life, from where he almost died in a car crash and had to learn to walk again, from being detained in Cuba, from dancing with Miss America, and traveling the world. Do I recommend this book?  Absolutely, but I recommend reading it directly over getting the audiobook (which is how I read it, hence its not in my Top Ten).  The audio tells the story, and is narrated by Ryan himself, but there is so much to the book - pictures, charts, places to write your own lists -- that you need to experience the book for yourself and not just listen.  This is one of my goals this year... to re-read this one. 

Onward to the Top Ten Books of 2018, at least, as far as I read. Plus one honorable mention.

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