Friday, January 4, 2019

Favorite Reads 2018

A couple of life disruptions put a dent in my reading this year, so my books read are down 15 – 20%. That doesn’t mean I had a bad reading year. Here are the gems, in the order in which I read them. (Books marked with * are re-reads.)

The Given Day*, Dennis Lehane. Still Lehane’s magnum opus in my eyes. I track my reads in a spreadsheet and my note for this book reads, “Maybe the best book I’ve ever read.”

All the Pieces Matter, Jonathan Abrams. An oral history of The Wire, and it lives up to its subject matter. I have no higher praise.

The Choirboys*, Joseph Wambaugh. Spreadsheet note reads: “No offense to The Given Day, but this is the best book I’ve ever read.” (Editor’s Note: I’m due to read The Onion Field again one day, so even this is subject to revision.)

Beast of Burden, Ray Banks. The last of the Cal Innes novels and I’ve never read a better series finale.

Playing Through the Whistle, S.L. Price. A brilliant look at the fall of Aliquippa PA since the departure of the steel industry as seen through the prism of the high school football team. Price isn’t from the Pittsburgh area, but he understands it as few others do.

Swann’s Last Song, Charles Salzberg. This book grew on me. I liked it as I read it, and the affection grew in the week or so after I finished it. Get the Down & Out Books edition with the original ending in an afterword. You’ll see why the author preferred it and also why the original publisher had him change it.

Absolution, Caro Ramsey. The first of her books I’ve read and a real treat. Wonderful and wholly unexpected plot twist and the procedural aspects and dialog are first-rate.

Bye, Bye, Baby, Allan Guthrie. Guthrie is one of the authors I created my list of authors who must be read periodically so the vicissitudes of life don’t allow them to fall through the cracks, and this book shows why he has a spot on that list.

Sick Puppy*, Carl Hiaasen. The first Hiaasen I read, back at least 15 years, and still a gem.

The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis. A brilliant look at two Israelis who formed an unlikely friendship and changed the way we think about how we think.

101, Tom Pitts. No one holds multiple yet connected plot threads together better than Pitts. No one. Everything makes sense, too, another quality not to be overlooked.

The Backlist, Frank Zafiro and Eric Beetner. This had been lingering on my shelf and I picked it up as part of a “clearing out the backlist of books I have lying on the shelf.” It’s books like this that make me keep such lists, as my world would have been a lesser place had this fallen through the cracks.

Plaster City, Johnny Shaw. My second Jimmy Veeder fiasco and just as good as the first. Shaw is a master at providing laugh out loud humor in violent novels without diminishing either.

Where the Bullets Fly, Terrence McCauley. Prohibition-era noir? Check. Modern techno-thrillers? Check. A World War I story? Check. Now a first-rate Western. Shows what a nice guy he is that I don’t hate him with the power of a million suns. Fucking guy can write whatever he sets his mind to.

The Hook, Donald Westlake. Speaking of people who can write whatever they set their minds to (and no offense to Mr. McCauley), Westlake was the gold standard. Spent 80% of this book wondering where he was going it and the reminder wondering how he was going to pull it off until the very last page.

Charlie 316, Colin Conway and Frank Zafiro. Scored an ARC and liked it so much I’m giving all of you a heads up. It doesn’t come out untuikl June but you’re going to want to read it. Mixes law enforcement, politics, and media as well as anything I’ve read since The Wire.


Elgin Bleecker said...

Dana – Great list. A lot of favorite authors and some new ones for me. Lehane and Wambaugh sort of fell off my radar. Need to put them on the 2019 list. Just ordered THE GIVEN DAY.

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