(Or I Read A Lot This Year)

By M. B. Herring

In 2018, I made one new year’s resolution: To write at least 100 words on every film I watched throughout the course of the year. This lasted about two weeks before reality and laziness lead me to abandon it.

Yet, around March, when I discovered John Fish’s Youtube channel, I made another resolution. Fish’s 2018 resolution was to read 52 books, or one book every week. Since at that point I had already about 15 books, I decided, “Why not? I’ll take the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge too.”

Now, nine months later, I can report that I didn’t read 52 books in 2018; I read 56. Each book is list below, along with my thoughts on each one in exactly 10 words.


We Are All Weird by Seth Godin: Be weird. It’s the only worthwhile way to live life.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher: Why didn’t I know that Carrie Fisher was a writer?

The Infidel and The Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship That Shaped Modern Thought by Dennis C. Rasmussen: We need more books about the friendships of great minds.

Star Wars: Tales From a Galaxy Far, Far Away; Aliens by Landry Q. Walker: “A Recipe for Death” is the #Best Star Wars story ever.

Film Preservation: Competing Definitions of Value, Use, and Practice by Karen F. Gracy: Read while applying to an internship that I didn’t get.

Autobiography of a Red by Anne Carson: Modern adaptations of ancient works, are always fun and clever.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: Every book should have funny and insightful foot notes

The Pianist by Władysław Szpilman: Don’t watch the Roman Polanski film. Experience the untainted story.

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakuer: Refuse to let Pat Tillman be politicized! Study his life.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith: This should be Adam Smith’s most read and dicussed work.

If the Tabliods Are True What Are You? by Matthea Harvey: What is your best answer to the title’s vague question?

Ghost Bread by Sonja Livingston: Sonja Livingston deserved a better childhood because she is wonderful.

Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith: The damn finest book of poetry I have ever read.

In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes: This is a must read/reread for the #MeToo era.

Die Geschichte von Herrn Sommer by Patrick Suskind: The first book/anything I’ve ever read entirely in German.

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola: A difficult, powerful, beautiful, and above all a necessary read.

The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith: You know, more people should actually read this world shaper.

The Best American Essays 1994 by Various: “Does Homer Have Legs?” is the standout amongst many greats.

Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View by Various: A noble experiment, with great, good, bad, and boring stories.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien: I cannot write anything that can do this work justice.

The Best American Essays 2015 by Various: Favorites include: “The Crooked ladder” and “My Daughter and God.”

Menander’s Plays and Fragments by Menander: “The Bad Tempered Man” is timeless and ripe for adaptation.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolf: The literary equivilant of a McDonald’s Cheeseburger; I devoured it.

My Father’s Tears and Other Stories by John Updike: John Updike writes the best stories about old, white men.

The Electric Woman by Tessa Fontaine: This memoir’s ending is simultanously devasting and beautiful

The Best American Essays 1995 by Various: Not a single essay in this volume resonated with me.

Barrel Fever by David Sedaris: Other than “The Santaland Diaries” nothing holds up very well.

The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend by Glenn Frankel: An expertly contructed piece of both film and American history.

Interpreting Our Heritage by Freeman Tilden: An essential read for anyone who calls themselves a storyteller.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Indian Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann: Contrasts the ideals of America with its grim, horrible realities.

Images of America: Civilian Conservation Corps in Virginia by Joe & Parry Elton: In 2019, I think I’ll research the CCC much more.

Old Songs in a New Café by Robert James Waller: Perhaps my most pleasant and relaxing reading experience of 2018

The Humbling by Phillip Roth: Absolutely terrible and the protagonist is an utterly repulsive creep.

Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn: This book actually lived up to the absolutely tremendous hype.

Let’s Explore Diabetes Withs Owls by David Sedaris: There is one essay about owls, but no diabetes whatsoever.

The Necklace and Other Short Stories by Guy De Maupassant: “The Necklace” is timeless. Everything else is so 1871 France.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein: A VITAL read about the impact housing segregation still has.

Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller: Hands down, the dullest piece of modern, Star Wars Canon.

Educated by Tara Westover: Tara’s journey to come into herself, deeply resonated with me.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Start-Up by John Carreyrou: Silicon Valley needs to stopped being idealized and scrutinized more.

Short Takes: Brief Encounters with Contempary Nonfiction by Various: One of the best and most diverse collections of essays.

The Best American Short Stories 2016 by Various: I need more stories like “The Other Side” right now!

Chesapeake Reflections: Stories from Virginia’s Northern Neck by J. H. Hall: Local stories from local authors are needed much more often.

Pictures at a Revolution: Five Films and the Birth of New Hollywood by Mark Harris: Both extensive and enjoyable, Harris captures 1960’s Hollywood with passion.

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy: Tells the same story as “Mirrorings” but with less punch.

The Rappahannock Indians of Virginia by Frank G. Speck: Read local history! Discover forgotten information about your own community!

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green: I seem to have outgrown the writings of John Green

Interpretation for the 21st Century by Larry Beck and Ted Cable: Much more academic and expansive than Tilden, but very useful

The Grapes of Wraith by John Steinbeck: God, why didn’t I read this sooner? A MUST READ!

How to Think Like a Survivor by Tom Watson: Why, yes, I am going through a second survivalist phase.

Chesapeake Oysters: The Bay’s Foundation and Future by Kate Livie: If you live in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, read this

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie: The lessons in this book are ample, tried, and true.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green: A fun and breezy, but also deeply mediatative debut novel.

Dr. Frank Crane’s 4-Minute Essays: Vol I by Frank Crane: Stay tuned to my website for future writings about this.

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis: A good starting point for anyone interested in Behavioral Economics.

The Best American Essays 2017 by Various: “The Book of the Dead” is the must read essay.


Note: The order of this list is the order I read these books in. It is not any sort of ranking from best to worse. However, if you do want to know my top five, shoot me an email.

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