Top Books of 2018 for American Road Tripping

Two novels set on the open road and two accounts of life in Trump's White House all made for journeys deep into America today

Top Books of 2018 for American Road Tripping

The most enjoyable book I read this year was Gary Shteyngart's Lake Success (Random House), a modern-day road novel, of sorts. Our antihero, a Wall Street billionaire, takes a cross-country Greyhound bus trip as his personal and professional lives are self-destructing. Set in pre-election 2016, the story provides a scathing and witty assessment of an America throttled by income disparity, corporate malfeasance, political corruption, and ethical compromise.

A road novel of a totally different sort is Panhandle native Randy Kennedy's excellent debut Presidio (Touchstone), a noirish tale of two estranged brothers who become inadvertent kidnappers and try to outrun the law to the Mexican border. Set across the harsh expanse of West Texas, the vivid descriptions of the unforgiving landscape render it an omnipresent character in its own right.

My reading year was roughly bookended with two red-meat exposés on our president, Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Henry Holt and Co.) and Bob Woodward's more recent Fear: Trump in the White House (Simon & Schuster). If you've been following the news closely for the past two-plus years, then you'll probably be familiar with the most egregious and disturbing revelations entailed in both books. It's not a pretty picture, to say the least. The fact that Wolff, a writer for USA Today and The Hollywood Reporter, was allowed to park himself outside the Oval Office for months and speak to whomever he pleased should tell you all you need to know about the chaos that characterizes this frightful regime.

Only die-hard book lovers will likely make it all the way through The Invented Part, by Argentine author Rodrigo Fresán (Open Letter Press, translated by Will Vanderhyden). This sprawling doorstop of a novel about writers and writing is dense, frenetic, and challenging, but Fresán's lengthy forays into F. Scott Fitzgerald, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Kinks, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, and other noteworthy cultural touchstones tend to ease the burden of this thought-provoking tome.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Top 10s
Rosalind Faires' Top 10 Fiction Books of 2019
Rosalind Faires' Top 10 Fiction Books of 2019
Here’s to a year of rollicking adventures, laughing, weeping, and rooting for those crazy kids to wind up together in the end

Rosalind Faires, Dec. 20, 2019

Jay Trachtenberg's Top Books of 2019
Jay Trachtenberg's Top Books of 2019
From the social upheaval of the Sixties to the double life of an intelligence agent to the secular past of an Orthodox rabbi, splits resolved into memorable books

Jay Trachtenberg, Dec. 20, 2019

More Arts Reviews
"Amada Miller: Everything in Tune" at grayDUCK Gallery
The San Antonio-based artist's new show rings lunar and true

Sept. 18, 2020

"Melanie Clemmons: Likes Charge"
This solo exhibition at Women & Their Work conjures digital comfort in troubled times

Wayne Alan Brenner, Sept. 11, 2020

More by Jay Trachtenberg
<i>The Teacher</i> by Michal Ben-Naftali
The Teacher
This prize-winning novel's tale of a student piecing together the hidden life of her teacher, a Holocaust survivor who killed herself, is haunting

Feb. 14, 2020

Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges
Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges

Dec. 6, 2019


Top 10s, Top 10s 2018, Gary Shteyngart, Lake Success, Randy Kennedy, Presidio, Michael Wolff, Bob Woodward, Rodrigo Fresán

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle