It was an odd year for me in many ways, and that’s certainly reflected in my reading. I only finished 29 books this year, partially because I chose some
some tough books to chew through and partially because Red Dead Redemption 2 came out at the end of October and took up all my reading time. Anyway, here’s the list of the …

… 29 Books I Read in 2018

  • Saga Vol. 8 // Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — This fantastic space opera comic continues to be a top-notch read. A good way to start the year.
  • The Logan Triad // Nathan Walpow — Back in the UglyTown days, we proudly published a few of Nathan’s books (One Last Hit, The Manipulated). I’m glad to see he’s still at it, and I really enjoyed the tales of Logan and his erstwhile crew.
  • Persepolis Rising // James S.A. Corey — The Expanse #7. I’m a big fan of the series, and this is as compelling as ever.
  • Angkor // Malcom MacDonald — This one caught my eye as I browsed the discount rack at a local used book store. After spending time in Siem Reap on our trip around the world, I was curious to see what the country was like in 1948. It’s written by Britain’s then-Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia, so it has a heavy colonial bias, but the book does go deep into the history of Cambodia and its people.
  • The Gone World // Tom Sweterlitsch — This one had a lot of press around it well before its release. Director Neill Blomkamp supposedly snapped up the movie rights before publication. So I was intrigued. I enjoyed it quite a bit—the end was a bit messy—but it features a great take on time travel.
  • A Burglar’s Guide to the City // Geoff Manaugh — More accurately, it’s a guide to how a burglar uses the city from the gent behind BLDGBLOG. It’s pretty interesting, especially when Manaugh breaks down exactly what burglary is per the legal definition known as “breaking the close.”
  • The Good Guys // Steven Brust — Brust was one of my first favorite authors when I discovered his Jhereg series on the shelf at B. Dalton. I’m pleased that he’s still writing, and I eagerly picked up this crime caper full of modern magic and secret societies.
  • The Girl with All the Gifts // M.R. Carey — An interesting twist on the traditional zombie genre that was written concurrently with the movie of the same name. Overall a good dystopian adventure romp. But, boy, Carey sure does like to use big words needlessly.
  • The Last Mortal Bond // Brian Staveley — Book three of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne. Like most trilogies I’ve read, it kind of fizzled at the end. I almost quit this one.
  • Death & Co.: Modern Classic Cocktails // David Kaplan and Nick Fauchald — This year, perhaps as a response to the state of the world, I renewed my interest in classic cocktails. This book, in particular, was helpful in developing something resembling a bartending style (and for learning to appreciate the daiquiri).
 
  • Imbibe! // David Wondrich — If you’re going to read about cocktails, start with Wondrich. Seriously.
  • Blown // Mark Haskell Smith — A great read about a crime-filled romp through the Caribbean. Funny and sexy and jam-packed with a collection of lovable oddballs that Smith writes so well.
  • Rise of the Runelords // James Jacobs, Richard Pett, Nicholas Logue, and more — After much listening to the Glass Cannon Podcast, the kids really wanted to play Pathfinder again. So I started researching Pathfinder Adventure Paths for an adventure we could all get into. And I started my research here, with the first one Paizo published.
  • The Coldest War // Ian Tregillis — Milkweed Trilogy, Book 2. I’d read Book 1 last year and enjoyed it. I’m quite susceptible to alternate timeline war stories, and this was a solid read. But, man, was it bleak.
  • Ironfang Invasion Part 1: Trail of the Hunted // Amber E. Scott — Another exploration into which Pathfinder Adventure Path to play. We eventually settled on this one for one of our games.
  • Necessary Evil // Ian Tregillis. Milkweed Trilogy Book 3 — A real solid finish to this trilogy. I’m looking forward to tacking his Alchemy Wars series in 2019.
  • Strange Aeons Part 1: In Search of Sanity // F. Wesley Schneider — Another Pathfinder Adventure Path (the search continues). This one has a Cthulhu feel. We ultimately passed on it because it was a bit too challenging for new players. A really fun read, though.
  • The Black God’s Drums // P. Djèlí Clark — I’ve long had a fascination with the Yoruban storm god Shango. Combine that with my interests in the American Civil War and alternate histories, and I couldn’t not read this tight, enjoyable story.
  • Armored Saint // Myke Cole — The description of this novella piqued my interest. I liked the concept, but in the end there wasn’t enough to bring me back for book two.
  • War Cry // Brian McClellan — I’d enjoyed the first book of McClellan’s powder mage enough that I was curious about the new world he was building starting with this novella.
 
  • Curse of the Crimson Throne // James Jacobs, Nicholas Logue, F. Wesley Schneider, and more — Another Pathfinder Adventure Path. We’re currently playing through this one. it’s a largely urban adventure with a good bit of dungeon delving and a dash of political intrigue.
  • It Can’t Happen Here // Sinclair Lewis — The story of a bafflingly charismatic man portraying himself as a champion of traditional values and winning the election as President of the United States on a populist platform. After promising to restore the country to prosperity and greatness, the country spirals into fascism. This was published in 1935 (originally written in response to the rise of Huey P. Long) and is a bit of a challenging read, mainly due to language and all the names Lewis throws at you. It’s available for free on Feedbooks.
  • Saga Vol. 9 // Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — Book nine of this ongoing space opera is as great as ever. Alas, though, Vaughn and Staples are taking a year off of the series, so there won’t be a collection to read in 2019.
  • Every Day is for the Thief // Teju Cole — A snapshot of modern Nigeria seen through the eyes of a nameless man living in New York City who returns to the city of Lagos where he lived in his youth.
  • Priest of Bones // Peter McLean — A tale from the grim dark school of fantasy writing. I liked the set up, and parts of this felt like a Dungeons and Dragons urban caper, but I got bored with it near the end.
  • Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter // Theodora Goss — I grew up reading the early science fiction tales of Robert Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Mary Shelley. This book has all that, but with an all-female cast of characters from the pages of those classic tales (plus a supporting role by Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson). Quite delightful.
  • Battle Cry of Freedom // James McPherson — An important (and dense) read. I cracked this open off and on throughout the year and finally finished it long about November. I found the battles of the Civil War less interesting than the political machinations that led to it. But still, the parallels between the politics of then and today are startling.
  • Hollywood Dead // Richard Kadrey — Any year I can finish with a Sandman Slim novel is a good reading year.
  • Ironfang Invasion Part 2: Fangs of War // Ron Lundeen. Once our adventuresome crew decided to run the Ironfang Invasion, I picked up the second volume in the series to prepare for the adventure.
 

Books I Didn’t Finish

I don’t like to give up on books, but life is short and there are a lot of books left to read.

  • Everfair // Nisi Shawl — I loved the idea of a steampunk revolution in King Leopold’s Belgian Congo. This should have been a slam dunk, but it lost me at the 78% mark (according to my Kindle). I did like the story’s set up and some of the characters, but it was told in a disjointed, time-jump style that couldn’t keep me engaged.
  • Children of Blood and Bone // Tomi Adeyemi. Billed (disingenuously) as the “Nigerian Harry Potter,” this book, like The Gone World (above), had a lot of pre-publication press and is already in development as a film by the same people who released the Twilight and Maze Runner sagas. Take from that what you will. The story started out promising enough, but the characters were too stiff for me—especially the main character’s brother who retained a straw man quality up through Chapter 60. And that’s when I found other things I wanted to read more.

In Summary

I tried something new this year. halfway through the year I noticed I was spending too much time (and money) on books that I didn’t necessarily like. So I decided to start downloading sample chapters of books that sounded interesting to the Kindle. The idea being, of course, I’d only buy the ones I enjoyed.

I ended up downloading a lot of samples and buying a few of those that intrigued me. This is still not a perfect system, though. Priest of Bones had a strong start but eventually let me down. Conversely, the The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, which intrigued from the beginning turned out to be one of my favorite books of the year.

In the end, though, I didn’t read as much as I wanted. I blame video games this year. Hopefully in 2019 I can hit the 36 or even 48 mark. We shall see.

Written by Tom Fassbender

An amateur hobbyist, expert generalist, and outdoor enthusiast who recently traveled around the world with his family.

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