Books of the Year: 2018

Gnome carrying pile of booksHere are my picks for the best books of 2018, fiction and nonfiction. These aren’t the best books published this year, but rather the best I’ve read in the last twelve months. The winner in both categories is barely distinguished from the pack, and the runners up are all worthy of reading. Runners up appear in alphabetical order by their author’s surname. Each title is linked to my review of the book.

Fiction:

Winner:

Runners up:

Nonfiction:

Winner:

Runners up:

What were your books of the year for 2018?

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Author: John Walker

Founder of Ratburger.org, Autodesk, Inc., and Marinchip Systems. Author of The Hacker's Diet. Creator of www.fourmilab.ch.

15 thoughts on “Books of the Year: 2018”

  1. Second World Wars hands down was my favorite book I read in 2018.

    I also, very much enjoyed:
    Indestructible: One Man’s Rescue Mission That Changed the Course of WWII

    Thunder Below!: The USS *Barb* Revolutionizes Submarine Warfare in World War II

    The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945

    Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal

    I guess there may be a theme here of some sort. Not sure what, though

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  2. William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation (You think you know a guy..)

    Gore Vidal: 1876 (it puts 2016 in perspective)

    John Crowley: Ka:Dar Oakley in the Ruins of Ymr ( Don’t get too excited, it’s no Little, Big, but…no, anything I say risks discouraging you.  It’s narrated from the point of view of a crow, or rather, the Crow.  See?  But really it was good.)

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  3. Oh and I forgot Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels.  Those really stick with you!  Has anybody seen the HBO series?  Loox perfect,  from the stills of the actors….

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  4. Bryan G. Stephens:
    Indestructible: One Man’s Rescue Mission That Changed the Course of WWII

    Holey Moley, Bryan!  Did he ever find his family?

    This is the kind of thing that gets to me:    (from Wikipedia)

    General George C. Kenney, the new commander of the Allied air forces in the Southwest Pacific Theater, arrived in Australia in the summer of 1942. He found Gunn converting the A-20s of the3d Bombardment Group (Light)into strafers by adding four .50-caliber machine guns to the Havocs’ noses.[5]

    The airplanes are no good so he improves them. And of course this Arkansas boy does not wait around for orders.

    Accounts of C19 battles fought by the British Army include the observation that if their officers were killed, the infantry sat down where they were and waited for new officers.

    Accounts of the US Continental Army at the time of the formation of our Republic include troops of infantry electing their officers.

    This is a contrast formed by culture and by geography.  When men venture into wilderness and survive by their efforts, they do not thereafter submit to arbitrary command.

    Wallace Stegner’s book about John Wesley Powell tells the story of Powell’s exploration of the Colorado River, including the formerly entirely unknown Grand Canyon.  There were a handful of men in Powell’s party.  The Brit took off in a huff, then the Mountain Man left with a couple of others, climbing the Grand Canyon gorge rather than take those final rapids – they darn well took their chances – and the rest completed the mission alive.  They had all modified their boats and modified their techniques along the way.  Their cultural ancestral farm boys and small-town mechanics had cobbled together firearms on Civil War battlefields from parts scavenged after battle; their cultural descendants  invented airplanes in the back of their bicycle shops, and modified jeeps and airplanes and other military equipment in the field in  WWII.

    What will happen to us now?  We have vastly fewer farm boys, vastly fewer small-town mechanics, and many more microchips in all our stuff.

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  5. Thanks for the kind words about the Hidden Truth series. You’ve already mentioned some of my favorites are your own as well. I make a point of recommending other authors’ stories I particularly enjoyed in the afterwards of my own novels. Here are a few additional great works of fiction I’ll recommend as the year’s best.

    Making Peace – Adam Smith Hired by an enigmatic patron, a romance novelist must unravel a mystery, and survive a bloody civil war on a brutal planet where conventional technology is forbidden and swords and sorcery reign. Starting from a ingenious premise, this first person narrative cleverly ties together science fiction, fantasy, and mystery in a novel and engaging fashion. The story is dark at times, and may be too violent for some readers’ tastes, but the end result is an inspiring tale of hope, loss, redemption, and perseverance. Don’t forget to read the amazing afterward, and here’s to long shelves well-stocked with incredible books like this one.

    Dopamine – Mikhail Voloshin His company taken away by unscrupulous investors, an entrepreneur must thwart a high-tech criminal conspiracy to prevent a novel genetic engineering technology wreaking havoc. This is an amazingly well-grounded portrayal of the sometimes cut-throat world of venture-backed entrepreneurship and includes the best and most realistic portrayal of hacking I’ve read.

    Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves – Fenton Wood This is an amazing young adult techno-adventure reminiscent of Bertrand R. Brinley’s classic Mad Scientists Club. Set in an alternate universe nostalgically reminiscent of mid-century America, Wood tells the story of a boy and his young friends as they struggle to build and operate a radio station. I highly recommend this book, and I look forward to more Yankee Republic tales.

    Hell Spawn and Death Cult (Saint Tommy, NYPD Books 1 & 2) – Declan Finn A New York Police officer blessed with special powers must confront the powers of darkness and evil’s human allies threatening his family and city. This remarkable pastiche of urban fantasy, horror, and police procedural delivers an amazingly powerful tale of good versus evil. Gritty, violent crime novels are a dime a dozen – and cheaper than that on Kindle Unlimited. They tend to feature twisted troubled sociopathic heroes who direct their violent impulses in constructive ways against society’s wrong doers. Think of Mickey Spillaine’s Mike Hammer as the archetype for this genre, or Dexter as a more recent example. Declan does a brilliant job portraying a stalwart family man blessed with special powers who uses them to protect his family and the public at large from unspeakable evil – a hero who is as genuinely good as the villains he fights are evil.

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  6. I can’t thank you enough for mentioning The Narrative yet again. I also appreciate having a pre-screened reading list (your other fiction mentions) to refer to for the next time I’m without a book.

    I’m currently reading Eating and Disorder by Wyatt Myshkin. It’s sort of a combination of satire and horror and also in need of a good grammar edit, and I hardly know what to think of it. It’s completely over-the-top and gross. Nonetheless I can’t stop reading it. Bizarre.

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  7. Thanks to Ms. Jzdro, I bought The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency for Snooks for Christmas.   She loved it and I just ordered the next three books in that series.

    @jzdro

    Also I bought her How to Marry an English Lord, which is nonfiction.   She is about halfway through that, and gives it a positive review, also.   That is a recommendation I saw at Ratburger.org, from Sawatdeeka.

    @sawatdeeka

    Thanks to lady Ratburghers for good ideas.

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  8. My own list of books I have enjoyed this year would not be likely to be of general interest here.   Either they are books I saw recommended here, or they are about Lutheran theology.

    Here is one recommendation that should be of general interest to all Christians:  The Earliest Christian Artifacts.

    This was published by Eerdmans in 2006.

    https://www.eerdmans.com/Products/2895/the-earliest-christian-artifacts.aspx

    I am preparing a one-lesson Sunday School presentation built on materiel in this book, by Larry Hurtado, a professor emeritus in the history of early Christianity at the University of Edinburgh.

    This book is a review of interesting things that the papyrologists have been discussing in the backwaters of manuscript studies.   Most of our pre-Constantine manuscripts of the New Testament are papyrus fragments from Egypt, generally in Greek, but with some examples of Coptic and Syriac translations.   The papyrologists study such arcane elements as size of letters, use of spaces, margins, abbreviations, and proto-punctuation.

    Hurtado presents an interesting look at the early Christians based on their writings.   It turns out that the Christian books, especially the canonical books, are very distinct from other writings.   The papyrologists have lots of material to compare to, including contracts, deeds, letters, secular books and other religious works.   In comparison to all the other writings, Christians were early adopters of wider margins, wider line spaces, larger letters, paragraph spaces and punctuation.   Hurtado brings all these together, and makes a case that the New Testament books were copied in ways intended to make them easier to read for novice or nonprofessional readers.   Then he cites papyrologists who have noticed by comparison that copies of secular books and letters were generally written by professionals who seemed to follow crowded writing practices that made reading difficult.   This was evidently on purpose, as a way to maintain a class distinction between the literate upper class and the illiterate lower class.   Christianity was a book culture from the very beginning, right down to their early preference for the codex over scrolls.   The early Christians were copying the New Testament in innovative ways to make these books easier for amateur and novice readers to read aloud in worship.

    I really enjoyed this book.

    I have been following Dr. Hurtado’s blog for many years, ever since I read his massive master work, Lord Jesus Christ.   That is a massive book, very dense at 768 pages, loaded with footnotes.   It took me six years to read it (it was published in 2005), because on many occasions I would set the book aside to go find something that was cited in the footnotes.   I read about four dozen articles by other scholars and about three hundred blog posts as I progressed through that book.   It was a very thorough refutation of a lot of anti-Christian lies that are commonly found in “Historical Jesus” classes in the religious studies programs of the secular universities.   I felt I deserved a full semester of graduate credit after reading that one.   I recommend it highly for all Christian pastors and for knowledgeable laymen.

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  9. Bryan G. Stephens:
    Sounds like the Catholic Church was wrong on the whole “You can’t read this for yourself”  line.

    That is a position that many Catholics would agree with, but also many Catholics still think that putting the Bible into lay hands was a mistake.

    But Hurtado does not address this in either of the books I cited.   He confines himself to the history of the first three centuries AD, plus occasional dips into Jewish history B.C., and also the history of the “Historical Jesus” anti-Christian movement and the sources of some of their errors.

    The issue of the Catholic Church preventing the Bible from being translated into western popular languages developed in a time when the only Bibles were in Latin, and keeping it in Latin was a way to maintain communications between all the priests, especially theologians, all over the western Catholic world.   It simplified communications between scholars of theology.   And, by the way, it also restricted the conversation to the priests and the few members of the upper class who could read Latin.   In part, it reinforced the division between the Western, Latin, church and the Eastern, Greek, churches.   This period did not begin until long after Jerome, so beginning in the 500s AD and continuing until Luther, a period of a thousand years.

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  10. Bryan G. Stephens:
    Sounds like the Catholic Church was wrong on the whole “You can’t read this for yourself”  line.

    So many people died horrible deaths to make it possible for laypeople to read the Bible themselves, in their own language.

    I dunno, though:did the priestly class executioners, like Thomas More, have a point?  The OT is one long, bloody chronicle of murder, war, rapine and conquest “as on a darkling plain/Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight ” , in Arnold’s phrase.   Most people’s conception of the NT is closer to Tnomas Jeffeson’s bowdlerized version, with the “hard sayings” of Jesus  scrubbed out. And it ends with the awful nightmare chimera of torment and destruction. Think how many people have been ruined, or sacrificed, by doomsday cults drawing on Revelation’s imagery just in our own country, from the Millerites, through Jonestown, through Waco, through Heaven’s Gate.  Maybe laypeople are better off cherishing the delusion that religion calls us away from these atrocities, instead of confronting the scriptural evidence to the contrary.  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, as Pope said (no, not Francis).

    Priests.  Here’s something I’ve always puzzled over: in every religion, the priestly class knows the mechanism of the illusions which manifest the deity’s presence. Indeed they are the ones who create the stage affects.  So- are they the most  devout, or the least  devout, members of the religion in question?

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  11. Hypatia:
    Priests.  Here’s something I’ve always puzzled over: in every religion, the priestly class knows the mechanism of the illusions which manifest the deity’s presence. Indeed they are the ones who create the stage affects.  So- are they the most  devout, or the least  devout, members of the religion in question?

    Ms. Hypatia, as a Lutheran I think the Roman Catholic theology of priesthood is flawed.   But this remark of yours comes from a point of view that thinks of priests and all Christian pastors as charlatans; this comment is founded on the assumption that there is no spiritual truth to be found in Christianity.

    Which, I suppose is the root of the restless embrace of the spiritualist poets.  But their soothing thoughts are a false hope.   There is no eternity in vague theosophy.

    Jesus died to atone for your sin.   He will come again in glory.  Please, come to Jesus.   Eternity beckons.

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  12. Hypatia:
    Priests.  Here’s something I’ve always puzzled over: in every religion, the priestly class knows the mechanism of the illusions which manifest the deity’s presence. Indeed they are the ones who create the stage affects.  So- are they the most  devout, or the least  devout, members of the religion in question?

    I don’t know what you mean here. I have never seen an illusion in any church, Catholic or otherwise, to manifest the presence of God.

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