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David Auerbach on literature, tech, film, etc.

David Auerbach’s Books of the Year 2018

To be a true reader or writer today is to exist primarily in a state of longing and loneliness (sehnsucht, in the German term), because the vast majority of one’s closest associates are dead. Over the course of the 20th century the world of letters separated rather violently from the world of consequence, and so loving writing as writing requires either myopic self-delusion or an absurd appreciation for the spiritual residue of artistic impact. I don’t have the former in me, so it is the latter that drives me.

A remarkable amount of excellent archival issues came out this year, particularly in fiction and literature. The two placed in the pole position are not necessarily more deserving than many others. Rather, I chose them because they seemed to be most resonant with this year, despite being written decades ago. Both are very unorthodox Cold War retrospectives, both vaguely “documentary”-like, and yet animated by almost opposite sensibilities.

Ironically, I found Anniversaries to be a gloomier tale than Kolyma Stories, in the same way that gray is a gloomier color than black, or Faith is more enervating than Closer. Likewise, Johnson’s self-appearance in Anniversaries is more despairing than Shalamov’s varied appearances in Kolyma, because there is a certain abdication of moral authority Johnson took on in writing Anniversaries that is either disingenuous or terrifying. I think it’s the latter.

I have retained last year’s subcategories for nonfiction. They remain approximate. They are there to break the lists down into more manageable chunks. The books that posed the biggest dilemma were those on mind and cognition, which got divided between Humanities and Science depending on whether the bent was more theoretical or empirical.

Special notice must go to Jan Ziolkowski for choosing to publish the six volumes of The Juggler of Notre Dame and the Medievalizing of Modernity under Creative Commons and free for all to download. Like Adrian Piper’s Kantian study Rationality and the Structure of the Self, Ziolkowski’s book is a good deal closer to what academic work should be–visionary, monumental, singular–than most of what gets published by academic presses, and I hope that their publishing choice will help spread their work further.

You will notice one hell of a ringer after the top picks. After debating repeatedly, I decided to include my own book because I did spend more time with it than any other, and so it deserves to be called a book of my year. I could say more but I think I have already said it all here.

Books under “Of Interest” are there due to one or more of the following caveats: (1) I lack sufficient domain knowledge to feel comfortable recommending them, (2) I have sufficient reservations about their content but feel they are too significant to ignore, or (3) I just haven’t read enough of them.

The picture above is by the wonderful Ella Baron.

Be well, read much, take care.

BOOKS OF MY YEAR

Kolyma Stories (New York Review Books Classics)

Price: $19.15

20 used & new available from $14.20

INEVITABLE MENTION

Bitwise: A Life in Code

Price: $27.95

23 used & new available from $2.56

LITERATURE

The Rehearsals (Dedalus Europe)

Price: $17.99

8 used & new available from $5.72

The Collected Stories of Machado de Assis

Price: $21.00

24 used & new available from $15.71

Collected Stories

Price: $15.20

27 used & new available from $11.21

The Novel of Ferrara

Price: $28.18

15 used & new available from $13.55

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Price: $11.11

49 used & new available from $9.41

Belladonna

Price: $14.99

14 used & new available from $8.40

Doppelgänger

Price: $17.80

11 used & new available from $12.38

The William H. Gass Reader

Price: $24.99

36 used & new available from $7.18

Catastrophe: And Other Stories (Art of the Story)

Price: $16.99

11 used & new available from $11.98

The Chandelier

Price: $20.97

14 used & new available from $7.59

Cathay: A Critical Edition

Price: $34.95

6 used & new available from $34.94

Letters, Dreams, and Other Writings

Price: $10.39

16 used & new available from $10.39

Stream System

Price: $6.50

70 used & new available from $1.97

A Hundred and One Nights (Library of Arabic Literature)

Price: $10.47

22 used & new available from $5.97

Doting (New York Review Books Classics)

Price: $14.00

19 used & new available from $5.77

Nothing (New York Review Books Classics)

Price: $14.00

13 used & new available from $9.10

Phoresis

Price: $35.95

13 used & new available from $30.51

The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales

Price: $17.99

8 used & new available from $9.14

HUMANITIES

Lions (The German List)

Price: $18.79

22 used & new available from $18.79

Questioning Minds: The Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner

Price: $62.18

12 used & new available from $55.80

Keith Rowe: The Room Extended

Price: $21.89

30 used & new available from $14.99

Things That Bother Me: Death, Freedom, the Self, Etc.

Price: $14.49

38 used & new available from $7.60

Elements of Surprise: Our Mental Limits and the Satisfactions of Plot

Price: $31.90

13 used & new available from $31.90

If Not Critical

Price: $30.92

23 used & new available from $16.57

The Printed Voice of Victorian Poetry

Price: $59.49

1 used & new available from $59.49

Radical Skepticism and the Shadow of Doubt: A Philosophical Dialogue

Price: $22.02

15 used & new available from $17.95

Knowledge and Truth in Plato: Stepping Past the Shadow of Socrates

Price: $59.96

15 used & new available from $59.96

Almost Nothing: The 20th-Century Art and Life of Józef Czapski

Price: $13.39

37 used & new available from $8.73

Shakespeare's Theatre: A History

Price: ---

0 used & new available from

Naked: The Dark Side of Shame and Moral Life

Price: $86.00

9 used & new available from $85.99

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect

Price: $19.99

38 used & new available from $15.80

The Order of Time

Price: $9.86

58 used & new available from $5.20

The Third Lens: Metaphor and the Creation of Modern Cell Biology

Price: $90.00

9 used & new available from $85.99

The Neuroscience of Emotion: A New Synthesis

Price: $34.09

28 used & new available from $25.97

Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray

Price: $21.49

43 used & new available from $12.02

Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data

Price: $6.00

65 used & new available from $2.25

The Philosophy of Quantitative Methods: Understanding Statistics

Price: $33.49

1 used & new available from $33.49

Mind the Body: An Exploration of Bodily Self-Awareness

Price: $17.20

1 used & new available from $17.20

Energy, Entropy, and the Flow of Nature

Price: $43.15

12 used & new available from $40.37

The Deep Learning Revolution (The MIT Press)

Price: $15.95

30 used & new available from $11.60

Re-Engineering Humanity

Price: $19.45

21 used & new available from $11.88

The Politics of Autism

Price: $19.59

31 used & new available from $3.20

HISTORY AND POLITICS

The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity

Price: $18.07

38 used & new available from $7.17

Broken Lives: How Ordinary Germans Experienced the 20th Century

Price: $18.16

37 used & new available from $18.15

Marx and Marxism

Price: $18.99

23 used & new available from $12.54

W. E. B. Du Bois's Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America

Price: $15.49

30 used & new available from $15.49

Economy and Society: Selected Writings

Price: $26.05

14 used & new available from $22.21

A History of Judaism

Price: $47.00

2 used & new available from

Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War

Price: $11.49

1 used & new available from $11.49

Jewish Materialism: The Intellectual Revolution of the 1870s

Price: $32.00

15 used & new available from $14.09

Napoleon: The Spirit of the Age: 1805-1810

Price: $29.95

15 used & new available from $8.19

From Humanism to Hobbes: Studies in Rhetoric and Politics

Price: $65.00

6 used & new available from $61.98

Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna

Price: $9.99

1 used & new available from $9.99

Consciousness Demystified (The MIT Press)

Price: $17.89

22 used & new available from $10.99

COMICS

Mort Cinder (The Alberto Breccia Library)

Price: $29.99

13 used & new available from $15.99

Garlandia

Price: $32.59

18 used & new available from $16.95

The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987

Price: $17.44

37 used & new available from $6.74

Hasib & The Queen of Serpents: A Thousand and One Nights Tale

Price: $17.70

26 used & new available from $3.99

Piero

Price: $12.99

17 used & new available from $7.88

The Song Of Aglaia

Price: $12.72

32 used & new available from $6.20

Weegee: Serial Photographer

Price: $14.79

28 used & new available from $4.49

Von Spatz

Price: $14.38

33 used & new available from $5.91

About Betty's Boob

Price: $11.18

27 used & new available from $7.61

The New World: Comics from Mauretania

Price: $29.29

30 used & new available from $7.61

Berlin

Price: $30.96

30 used & new available from $29.99

All The Answers

Price: $16.59

20 used & new available from $12.48

OF INTEREST

Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal

Price: $14.72

14 used & new available from $14.72

A Nation Like All Others: A Brief History of American Foreign Relations

Price: $35.00

25 used & new available from $27.51

Physics Avoidance: and other essays in conceptual strategy

Price: $75.37

18 used & new available from $71.37

Searching for Boko Haram: A History of Violence in Central Africa

Price: $23.88

23 used & new available from $14.95

The Grand Strategy of the Habsburg Empire

Price: $14.49

1 used & new available from $14.49

Orphic Tradition and the Birth of the Gods

Price: $71.17

10 used & new available from $69.14

The British in India: A Social History of the Raj

Price: $20.14

27 used & new available from $9.95

The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life

Price: $15.08

55 used & new available from $7.89

2 Comments

  1. These are great. I’m so glad you put both Vera and Eli on your list!

  2. Wow. What a great list! I hope you do one for this year, too.

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