Updated: Jun 26
I like to read. A lot.
In fact, each year I attempt to read one book a week.
It never quite works out.
But it does guarantee that I make my way through quite a few.
Here are some brief reviews of the five best books I read in 2018.
Tyler's Top Five
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
George Saunders is a genius. Certifiably. And this book - Saunders’ first full length novel - shows why the MacArthur Fellowship winner has been heralded as one of the finest writers of our time. His prose is equal parts hilarious, profound and imaginative. And, though he’d probably bristle at this description, I’d go so far as to call this text inspiring. Indeed, Saunders’ masterpiece of historical fiction paints a beautiful picture of a father’s love, a son’s innocence, a crowd’s selfishness, and humanity’s complexity. It’s a delightful, and satisfyingly philosophical read about life’s true value.
Going Solo by Eric Klinenberg
More and more people are living alone - and loving it. In Going Solo, sociologist Eric Klinenberg explores one of the largest demographic shifts in modern history. “For the first time in centuries, the majority of all American adults are single. The typical American will spend more of his or her adult life unmarried than married, and for much of this time he or she will live alone.” This reality, Klinenberg insists, has already made a profound impact on a number of civic institutions, and will continue to shape both public and private life in this country for decades to come.
Clowning in Rome by Henri Nouwen
There are some things that just don’t make sense - solitude, celibacy, prayer, and contemplation number among them. But in Clowning in Rome, Henri Nouwen explores the mystery of life in silence, of love between friends, of communion with the divine, and reflection on what’s truly beautiful. These things are awkward, he insists. They are marginalized to the periphery of life, while more exciting and dramatic realities claim center stage and receive headlining attention. And yet, Nouwen argues, “what really counts is something other than the spectacular and sensational”. In small moments of frailty, or quiet moments by ourselves, the human soul deepens and grows. This book is an invitation to those moments - an invitation I was glad to accept.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood, and writers love books about writers. But when it comes to Arthur Less, what’s not to love? The story’s protagonist, a 50 year old novelist whose distress in life and love has sent him running across the world in fumbling hilarity, is innocent and sweet, honest and self-deprecating. But Less isn’t the only one worthy of our attention. The novel’s narrator is downright funny. And his commentary on loss, heartache, aging, and desire is as piercing and honest as it is sassy and wise. In simple terms, this book deserves the Pulitzer Prize it received. In further terms, the story of Arthur Less had me both laughing out loud and crying uncontrollably in an airplane. If you ask me, that’s as good as it gets.
Irresistible by Andy Stanley
I know from time to time Andy Stanley is disparaged for peddling “Christianity lite” - for hocking a version of Jesus following that critics claim is watered down and simplistic. That’s not what I experienced when I read Irresistible. Rather, this bold, nuanced, and well-researched book asks us to reconsider what love requires of us, and reminds us that Jesus’s answer to that question cost Him His life.
Love, Henri by Henri Nouwen
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler
Setting the Table by Danny Meyer
The Brothers K by David James Duncan