Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.
Download those library apps, because it’s time for my annual Best Reads show where I tell you about the best books I’ve read in the past year.
And what that means for this time around is that I’m going to tell you about EVERY book I read last year. Because when I sat down to compile my list, I discovered that I had only read five books in 2018. Five books. In one year.
To put that in perspective, I usually average about 25. And two of those five were a single story broken into two books.
More on this appalling development later. As always, the books listed here were not necessarily published in the last year; that’s why the show is called “Best Reads” and not “Best Books.” Now on with the list for 2018!
Book 5) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Some of you may recall that I kinda tore this book a new one earlier this year. But here it is in my top five list by default.
In a dystopian near-future, teenager Wade Watts and most of the rest of humanity spend most of their time on a virtual reality network called the OASIS. When reclusive OASIS creator James Halliday dies, he announces a contest. Whoever can find three hidden keys in the network will inherit Halliday’s vast fortune–and total ownership of the OASIS.
A mad hunt ensues, in which Wade and his fellow hunters obsessively pour over Halliday’s favorite 80s films, tv shows and video games in the quest for clues.
And that’s Ready Player One’s key flaw. The main character’s chief arc is to successfully wallow in someone else’s nostalgia. And look, I get it. Nostalgia can be fun. But the huge success of this book is indicative of the obsessive, self-righteous, backwards-looking fandom that has overtaken our genre–with oftentimes unpleasant results.
Books 4 and 3) Star Trek: Deep Space 9: The Left Hand of Destiny, Books 1 and 2 by J.G. Hertzler and Jeffrey Lang
I went back to the DS9 relaunch series for this vacation read and was pleasantly surprised by a Klingon tale of epic proportions.
When an upstart house stages a bloody coup of the Klingon High Council, Chancellor Martok and Worf become fugitives.
What follows is Martok’s journey to redemption–a path paved with battle, bloodshed, Klingon mysticism and (of course) honor.
Author J.G. Hertzler played Martok on screen and his love of the character is evident in this page-turner. Trekkers will find a lot to like here. And if you’re a fan of Next Gen Klingons, this is a must read.
Book 2) The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers
This 1895 masterpiece helped create the occult fiction genre and was a major influence on H.P. Lovecraft, among others.
The stories in this collection have one element in common–an obscure and infamous book called The King in Yellow, which brings madness to all who read it.
What pleased me most about The King in Yellow was how much it kept surprising me. The stories take on differing tones–at turns horrific, funny and paranoid. And some have liberal doses of Science Fiction to boot.
Don’t let the 1895 publishing date deter you. Chambers’ prose is brisk and refreshing, and The King in Yellow fully deserves its vaunted place in the annals of weird fiction.
Book 1) Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft
Unassuming small town school teacher Thomas Senlin and his new wife Marya decide to honeymoon at the world’s greatest marvel–the fantastic Tower of Babel, a manmade wonder that stretches into the clouds. But the honeymoon is quickly cut short when Thomas loses sight of Marya and is unable to find her in the teeming throngs of tourists that crowd the city at the tower’s base.
Senlin’s search sends him up the tower’s ringdoms where he must navigate a dangerous maze of con men, corrupt tower authorities and petty tyrants, guided mostly by his wits and tenacity.
The fine writing and fantastic settings alone are enough to earn Senlin Ascends a spot on the Best Reads list. But what makes it truly stand out is Senlin’s transformation as his trials mount. He is the same likable and mild-mannered schoolteacher at his core, but he becomes so much more. I can’t wait to see how he continues that growth in the sequel, The Arm of the Sphinx.
So there you have them, my best–and only–reads of 2018. Despite the paucity of choices this year, most everything I read was really good. Even Ready Player One is enjoyable in a self-indulgent fanboy sorta way.
But one thing this year’s list hammered home to me: I need to find a better work/life balance, and make more reading time in 2019.
Anyway, if you read any of these books based on my recommendation, let me know what you think. And if you have any books of your own to recommend, I’m all ears. There’s always room on the shelf for one more!