When compiling Books 2018 I often felt I forgot something. ‘I didn’t read any fiction in 2018? I only read one non-fiction book? Clearly, that must be wrong.’ Nope, this is the list of what I read.
There are a few things I read in 2018 missing from technicalities. I read large portions of a couple of business books for work that I have not completely finished. They will likely appear on 2019’s list. I also finished reading two editions of The Economist’s double holiday issue (2016 & 2017), which, in addition to the news of the edition’s publication week, is the best collection of #LongRead essays I have experienced. I look forward to purchasing the double holiday issue every year even if some editions take longer than a year to read.
And then there were all of the free digital comics from Marvel and DC I read. I have a plan to create a review page for them, but that’s a larger project, and, frankly, I never really considered them a part of Books 2018.
The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles that Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor
As business culture and management books go The Happiness Advantage is too cutesy. The principles are less guiding principles and more book section headers. Even then the book sections are uneven, with some well supported, and others more stream of anecdotes (“Why is this true? Let me tell you a story…see? True!”).
There are gems and learnings to be sure; enough to warrant recommending, but the rest is insubstantial and quickly forgotten.
As You Like It by William Shakespeare
There are some very famous parts in this light comedy:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts
But the plotting also makes little sense. Why does everyone flee into the woods?
I was the prompter for the Original Practices Shakespeare production.
Betrayal by Harold Pinter
I played Robert in Sunset Playhouse’s production.
The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman
My skin crawls when bad people – and the young Mary is a bad person – cause hurt and pain to good people for no reason but to hurt them. Depressing.
The Children’s Hour holds up fairly well through its age; there’s some clunky, verbally stated emotions dialogue, but that likely could be smoothed over with a good director and cast.
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by Jack Thorne
There is no reason this should exist and it adds nothing to the Harry Potter ethos. Instead Cursed Child serves as a theatrical way to relive all your favorite parts of Harry Potter, assuming your favorite parts are random world building and not vital plot points. The writing is shallow and merely an intermission before more special effects. Any emotional impact coming from Cursed Child would result from literary nostalgia and heroic efforts by the actors to give meaning to wooden dialogue.
The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh
Dark. But that’s McDonagh.
Summers in Prague by Deanna Strasse
A cute play about the relationship between a woman and her escort. The world outside of the hotel room does not feel real, or maybe their trists hold it at bay, but slowly reality creeps in and exposes a real relationship between the two. Are they friends? Do they understand each other? Can summers last forever?
The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
I played Curtis and The Widow in SummerStage of Delafield’s 24 hour Shakespeare fundraiser.
Tartuffe by Molière
What an absurd, silly comedy. I performed as Cleante with SummerStage.
Comic Books/Graphic Novels
Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family
Written by Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Artist: Greg Capullo
A solid continuation of Snyder and Capullo’s Batman run. Death of the Family lacks the fireworks and uncertainty of Court of Owls, but picks up after the good not great City of Owls.
Black Panther (#168-172, #1 & 2)
Written by Ta-nehisi Coates
#168 Art by Brian Stelfreeze
#169-172 Art by Leonard Kirk
#1 & 2 Art by Daniel Acuña
Avengers of the New World concludes in #168-172. The confrontation with Klaw has some solid action, but the the silence in #169 may be the single best issue of Coates run to date. The Adversary is a nice bonus villain but not used enough.
Black Panther then started a completely different story: The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda. Gone is the commentary on politics, dialogue of this Black Panther is sparse, and the art does not fit my preferences. I dropped the title.
Black Panther Annual
Back in Black by Christoper Priest
Art by Mike Perkins
Fun, but feels dated. The men are too macho, the style not jiving with Coates Panther.
Panther’s Heart by Don McGregor
Art by Daniel Acuña
Panther’s Heart failed to move mine.
Back to the Future, Part II by Reginald Hudlin; Art by Ken Lashley
Great. An alternate future that’s light and quick with details. Lashley’s art adds easter eggs everywhere and keeps the mostly one voice narrative moving.
Hawkeye: Little Hits
Written by Matt Fraction
Artists: David Aja, Francesco Francavilla, and Steve Lieberman & Jesse Hamm
A typical middle entry in a longer story. Hawkeyes Barton and Bishop have great (platonic) chemistry and there’s great new characters added including Barton’s ex-(romantic)partners, but more questions are asked than answered. Barton also wallows in self-pity a lot, which is less interesting than his escapades. Fraction’s voice keeps this worth reading.
The Mighty Thor: Vol. 1, Thunder in Her Veins
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Russell Dauterman
Reread before reading Vol. 2. I just really like this book. (See my thoughts in 2017.)
The Mighty Thor: Vol. 2, Lords of Midgard
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Russell Dauterman
#6 & 7 Art by Rafa Garres
#12 Art by Frazer Irving
Lords of Midgard starts with an Old Viking story and art that is a momentary slowdown in a great continuing story of The Mighty Jane Foster Thor. Loki’s final words to the dragon are a touching, sorrowful epitaph.
Agger’s Imperative excellent jumps back in. The various villains’ personalities clash with Thor’s well, Jane Foster (sans Thor) has multiple chances to shine, and you even root for Agger a bit. Jason Aaron balances complex motivations well in the punch, punch, repeat comic book format. There’s even some reading on the history of Mjolnir.
The Mighty Thor: Vol. 3, The Asgard-Shi’ar War
Written by Jason Aaron
#13 & 14 Art Steve Epting
#15-19 Art by Russell Dauterman with Valerio Schiti
An intergalactic god war is a great premise, backed up by a smart justification for kidnapping Thor to start it. The Asgard-Shi’ar War blow by blow, however, is either too short (Midgard invasion) or too implausible (fighting the Phoenix). If the Phoenix really burns everything, everyone should be dead. And X-men jokes aside (X-men ARE weird), the X-men tie in felt forced on Jason Aaron by Marvel editors:
“Jason, you have to tie in the Phoenix/Jean Grey story.”
“That doesn’t …”
“Well, at least my tie-ins don’t break narrative flow.”
Props for narrative flow.
(Read my other books of the year lists.)