Happy New Year! The calendar marks a juncture between looking forward and reviewing the year just ended.

Today, I am looking back at books I read or listened to in 2018.

My reading has been enhanced by the library’s books on CD. Those help keep me awake on road trips.

I still can’t wrap my limited understanding of info-tech around the recent tendency of manufacturers to eliminate CD players in new vehicles. I think they expect drivers to download books to iPhones and plug in. For me, that would be much more complicated than slipping a disc into a CD slot. My 2015 vehicle still has one of those!

The best-book-of-my-year award has to go to “Barkskins” by Annie Proulx. The 20-odd CD discs I listened to on a northern road trip this summer covered over 400 years of axe swinging history and the empires built on the backs of laborers and indigenous people in the woods of Maine, New Brunswick, Michigan and elsewhere. The novel follows the history, travels and migration of several immigrant and indigenous families through the centuries. The final chapters make strong environmental statements.

My next pick is “Backpacking with the Saints – Wilderness Hiking as Spiritual Practice” by retired St. Louis University professor Belden C. Lane.

A surprise find was “Our Homesick Songs” by Emma Hooper. It is both sad and delightful, set in a Newfoundland fishing village. It is a family story that switches back and forth from the 1970s when fish were plentiful and how the remaining families cope in the 1990s when the fish have disappeared.

Here is the rest of the list, in no particular order of preference:

“When Women Were Birds,” and “Refuge” by Terry Tempest Williams.

“Methland – The Death and Life of an American Small Town,” by Nick Reding.

“Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?” by Mumia Abu-Jamal.

“Best American Travel Writing – 2017,” edited by Lauren Collins.

“Lila,” by Marilyn Robinson. This novel is a prequel to Robinson’s noted “Gilead” and “Home” which I read in previous years.

“Travels with Charley in Search of America,” by John Steinbeck. I read this travel memoir decades ago, but much enjoyed re-exposure to it on CD and its fresh-eyed traveler’s look at America circa 1960.

“To America – Personal Reflections of an Historian,” by Stephen Ambrose.

“You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories,” by Curtis Sittenfeld.

“The Abundance, Selected Essays,” by Annie Dillard. The collection includes a little bit of Dillard’s well-known “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.”

Happy reading (and listening) in 2019. Remember, we are blessed with several locally-owned, independent book sellers.