In 2018 I moved to Los Angeles, rode a motorcycle badly and surfed worse, signed some new work, ate less meat, made more friends, lifted things, smoked too much, did very little to halt the ravages of global warming, slept a lot more than I should have, managed the occasional act of decency. I also read 266 books, of which the traditional ten are highlighted below.
But first, my 2018 playlist, carefully cultivated after hundreds of hours walking aimlessly around Los Angeles with headphones on so. Why aren’t you listening to these? Counterpoint: why are you readin gany of this?
The Dream Life of Balso Snell by Nathanael West – West’s 50 page assault on the pretensions of artists is savage and utterly unique.
Flight to Canada by Ishamel Reed – Hysterically funny, masterfully weird, Ishmael Reed’s anachronistic fantasy of a slave’s escape from bondage is part James Baldwin and part Mark Twain and altogether its own unique beast.
Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwartz-Bart – The story of three generations of women growing up in Guadeloupe is bitterly sad, beautiful and ultimately enormously uplifting.
God's Country by Percival Everett – Revisionist racial satire, the funniest western since True Grit.
The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp – The howlingly humorous autobiography of a homosexual London bohemian. Outsider art, clever and keenly insightful.
Eve's Hollywood by Eve Babitz -- Eve Babitz’s recollections of a halcyon Los Angeles childhood and the decadent sixties which followed make for 200 really excellent pages.
Three to Kill by Jean-Patrick Manchette – A savage satire of the classic hyper-masculine revenge story, Manchette is the French Jim Thompson, as mean a noir writer as ever sharpened a pen.
Omensetter's Luck by William H. Gass – Gass’s masterpiece, a work of enormous complexity and real moral weight.
Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich – A polyphonic recounting of the last days of the Soviet Union, and the erosion of modern capitalism on a once great dream. Gun to my head the best thing I read this year.
Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman – Tolstoy meets Solzhenitsyn, a vast and stunning tableau of soldiers, workers, scientists, artists and prisoners trying to survive amid the horrors of the modern age.