The Best Book I’ve read in 2018

I asked this question earlier today on instagram, and as always the community had a lot to say. There were so many readers who chimes in to answer this question, which can sometimes be a difficult decision to make. There were a few familiar titles, some that I have been wanting to read, and even a few that I haven’t heard of before. Take a look:

Friday Black book review

I bought this book at a signing in Boston last week. The author Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah read a selection and gave some thoughts on his experience as a new writer. The book is a collection of short stories with deep, impactful themes but told in digestible and entertaining settings. These stories each mix an aspect of fantasy or surrealism with a message that we can relate to today. These stories are significant and meaningful, but easy to read and hard to forget. I blew through the book in less than a week.

Plus the colors are just right for fall. Ha!

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

I had a chance to hear this hot new author read from and sign his new book Friday Black at Harvard Bookstore in Boston.

This writer is exactly the type of person that you truly want to find great success. While the subjects of many of his short stories are dark and foreboding Adjei-Brenyah was upbeat and funny during his discussion of the writing process and while answering questions from the audience.

I have had a chance to read the first 100 pages of his book Friday Black and I am finding it very enthralling. These stories each have a definite edge, and some even have aspects of fantasy or science fiction, but they are each relevant and meaningful for the modern day.

Read Friday Black, and if you have a chance to see Adjei-Brendan in person, don’t miss it.

Cold Weather Cometh

Summer is finally and most definitely over. We had our first snow in the mountains of Utah this past week. We are preparing ourselves mentally for significantly less sunshine for the next six months… but it’s not all bad:

Hot tea and a good book. Although I just can’t seem to get into this particular book. Oh well, there are plenty more on my shelves to take its place.

Hum If You Don’t Know The Words – book review

This is the book that you come across once in a rare while that transforms you. This is a story that opens your eyes to horrible, true events in history and revisits conditions that members of our human race were forced to endure for decades in South Africa. While reading this book it is impossible to ignore that similar circumstances still exist today in locations around the world.

Bianca Marais exposes the reader to tragedy, loss, and hatred but also provides us with characters who overcome personal challenges to fight the same type of oppression that exists today. Central characters Robin and Beauty learn about love, sacrifice, and forgiveness among other things they need to survive the ignorance and violence around them.

You’ve got to read this one, then tell everyone that you know about it! It is that good.

Book recommendations from two incredible contemporary authors – John Boyne and Gabriel Tallent

Here are two of today’s best contemporary authors on their book recommendations for the upcoming months.

First, John Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and more recently The Heart’s Invisible Furies) searches his own private library of over 3,000 titles to proudly display his top ten (see comments from Mr. Boyne for each title):

John Boyne instagram

  • johnboyne So what if you wandered around your house for a couple of hours, looking at 3,000 books and choosing the best 10 novels – from the top down – that you’d ever read? You might find a couple of surprises in there !
  • johnboyne from the top down it’s the go between, David copperfield, cider house rules, my cousin Rachel, wuthering heights, Anna karenina, a widow for one year, what a carve up, northern clemency, tender

Follow John Boyne on Instagram for awesome pics, funny stories, and more book recommendations: @johnboyne

You can also learn more about John Boyne on his web page: www.johnboyne.com

 

Our second contemporary author is Gabriel Tallent. His debut novel My Absolute Darling came out just last year. Stephen King called it “one shattering, can’t-put-it-down book. Both shocking and tender.” Talent posted a list of some of his upcoming reads to social media just a couple of days ago:

gabrielle talent

Mona Lisa Overdrive – Men Explain Things to Me – Annihilation – Treasure Island – Love Me Back – Bleak House – The Things They Carried – Kidnapped – Idaho – A Double Life – Sorry To Disrupt the Peace – The Burning Girl

The only books that I have personally read from Tallent’s stack are Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell and The Things They Carried, so I have my work cut out for me.

You can follow Gabriel Tallent on Facebook: @Gabriel Tallent

Or on Instagram, where you will mostly find pictures in the outdoors all around the Western U.S. : @gabriel_tallent

 

 

 

 

The Alchemist

It’s late, but I had to finish! The Alchemist was incredible in achieving a profound account of an epic journey through several years of a young man’s life, but all within about 170 pages. I was amazed by the author’s ability to create a vivid setting and rich environment with simple, straightforward description in just a few words. It reads like a parable, but appeals to a wide audience and a variety of beliefs. “Everything is created by the same hand…”

This was a great book to start off the new year!

27 Books in 2017 – A Visual Book Review

2017 books graphic

I created this graphic to represent the books that I read in 2017. Larger images represent the books that I enjoyed the most, while smaller images are for works that were more difficult to get through.

I should mention that I really liked and would recommend any of these books, with the exception of the two smallest depicted in the lower right area of the graphic. Since those are probably too small to make out the titles, they are: Nightwood by Djuna Barnes and Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor. There were two additional titles that didn’t make the graphic because I could not finish them: Moonglow by Michael Chabon and The Girls by Emma Cline. I only made it 50 – 100 pages into each before I moved on to another work. Moonglow never really caught my interest, and The Girls contained graphic depictions of sexual abuse that I found distasteful.

My favorite books of 2017 were Hisham Matar’s The Return and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. These two books transported me through time and space and showed me a way of life that I was not familiar with. I learned lessons from each of these works that will stay with me.

The Return was the winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography and a number of other distinguished literary awards. Hisham Matar depicts his journey through a war torn Libya to search for his father, imprisoned for decades under the rule of Qaddafi. Returning to the country of his birth, the author shares his personal story as well as the experiences of several relatives and countrymen who lived under dictatorship and fought for freedom. Use this tool to find The Return at a bookstore near you.

John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is a classic icon of American literature. The story of early settlers in California’s Salinas Valley revolves around the hardships and turmoil faced by the Trask family. After their mother abandons them, twin boys Caleb and Aron are left to be raised by their father Adam. It is generally considered one of Steinbeck’s greatest novels. After hearing various acquaintances name East of Eden as the best book they have ever read, I decided to give it a try. I discovered a masterpiece written with a sense of purpose and clarity that exceeded my expectations. I was very surprised to finish 600 pages as quickly as I did. You can use the same tool mentioned above to purchase East of Eden at your local bookstore.

Which books did you love in 2017? Were there any that you didn’t care for?

Grief is the Thing With Feathers

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In this short novel by Max Porter, grief comes to a young family in the form of a peculiar and somewhat nasty Raven. He stays with the bereaved father and young children as they face the uncertainty of a future without their mother and wife.

The novel was first published a couple of years ago, but has gained more attention this year. I read it in March, then read it again later in 2017. The analogy of grief as a black, physical, somewhat obnoxious presence is poignant but meaningful.

I read recently that the work will be adapted for the stage in a work starring actor Cillian Murphy set to release in the UK early 2018. Here is an article about the adaptation:

 …the Thing with Feathers adaptation

Grief is the Thing with Feathers was the best use of metaphor that I read in 2017. Find  a local bookstore where you can buy this book:

Buy at a Bookstore near you

Five books that will blow your Western Mind

One of the greatest benefits of reading is the ability that books have to expand your mind. I enjoy a good story, but the books that I love the most are the ones that teach me something new, or help me to view the world from a perspective different than my own. The best books do not “instruct”, but “allow” the reader to learn something that was previously unknown to them. Some of the most memorable works that I have read come from authors who have a drastically different background than myself. You will be surprised by how much you can learn when you listen to (or read) voices that come from another part of the world, or from another time period.The more you read about the world around you, the more you will realize that each person sees it a little differently.  There is a miscalculation that is common, particularly in the Western world, which leads many to believe that they hold some advantage over other inhabitants of the Earth. One of the most effective ways to avoid or correct this misconception is by reading.  When you bring home a book that contains knowledge outside of your normal sphere, you have an opportunity to expand that sphere.

Here are five outstanding books that represent a different way of thinking or illustrate concepts that are outside of what I considered “ordinary”. These books have drastically different stories and origins, but they each have something in common. They represent ideas, places, people, and concepts that expanded my way of thinking in a way that I did not expect. These are five books that “blew my western mind”:

1  – Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

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Click this link to read the NY times Book review from 1969

 

2 – The Association of Small Bombs, Karan Mahajan

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Read the summary on Amazon.com

 

3 – The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land In Between- Hisham Matar

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Read about the Pulitzer Prize winning story by Hisham Matar

 

4 – The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley

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This website will give you the Three minute synopsis, then you will want to read the complete autobiography.

 

5 – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Persig

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Over 100 publishers passed on this book before it was published in the 70’s, going on to sell more than 5 million copies. Read a review of the book here: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Which books have opened up your mind or changed the way you look at the world? Please share…