Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Best Books I Read This Year (2008)

Out of the over 100 books I read in 2008, only 14 garnered 4.5 points on my 5-point scale. Only 3 were perfect 5's. For those of you in need of a new book or looking to use those holiday gift cards, here's the list of the best books I read this year. Click on the title to view the review.

The Perfect 5’s:

The 4.5-Point Novels:

The 4.5-Point Story Collections:

The 4.5-Point Non-Fiction Titles:

The Runners-Up: These earned 4 points, but looking back, I'm now thinking they actually deserved 4.5 points.


bermudaonion said...

Of those, I've read Matrimony and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Home is in my TBR pile.

S. Krishna said...

This is a great idea - I might borrow it for my blog (if I can find time to put together the post!)

rjnagle said...

This of course is a wonderful list (and you've called my attention to several titles).

Just out of curiosity, which of these titles caught you by surprise?

My fave title for the year, Laughing Sutra by Mark Salzman, I just picked up at a bookstore and went home and immediately began reading. I almost never do that anymore. (To be fair, I knew Mark Salzman's writing already, but I had no idea that Laughing Sutra would be so fun).

Gwen Dawson said...

Hmmm...several of these caught me by surprise, but Writing in the Dark and Disquiet probably most of all. I picked up each of these off my library's front table on a whim and not knowing anything about them (though I am familiar with Grossman's excellent fiction). The fact that each of these off-the-beaten-path, not-particularly-accessible titles was selected by a librarian to sit in a coveted position on the front table is pretty astounding to me. Knowing that somewhere in the Houston Public Library system there is a librarian wanting to introduce a reader to Julia Leigh's deeply unsettling novella gives me great hope.

I was also surprised by Songs for the Missing. The premise (disappearance of a high school girl) seemed too trite and thriller-ish to result in the sensitive and complex treatment O'Nan gives it. I have since explored some of O'Nan's other works, and they're all good, though Songs for the Missing is still my favorite.

Anna van Gelderen said...

My favourites:
Farewell Gulsary by Chingiz Aitmatov (by an author from Kyrgyzstan, which is where I read it)
The World of Late Antiquity by Peter Brown (who brings the period from 150-750 AD alive in beautiful, literary prose)
The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins (science at its most wonderful)
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris (not everybody's cup of tea, but I loved it)
Run by Ann Patchett (simply beautiful)

And I also discovered a number of very lovely short novels/novellas:
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
The Blue Fox by Icelandic poet Sjón
A Hero of Our Time by Russian writer Mikhail Lermontov, who died in a dual in 1841 when he was only 26.

Harvey Freedenberg said...


Thanks for a great blog this year. I'm looking forward to more from you in 2009.

Here's my 2008 Top 10. All of them are books I reviewed for one of the three sites for which I write.



CITY OF THIEVES by David Benioff


INDIGNATION by Philip Roth


HOME by Marilynne Robinson


AMERICAN LION: Andrew Jackson in the White House, by Jon Meacham

THE BOOK OF CALAMITIES: Five Questions About Suffering and Its Meaning, by Peter Trachtenberg

A VOYAGE LONG AND STRANGE: Rediscovering the New World, by Tony Horwitz

THE NIGHT OF THE GUN: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life. His Own, by David Carr

THE DELIGHTED STATES: A Book of Novels, Romances, & Their Unknown Translators, Containing Ten Languages, Set on Four Continents, & Accompanied by Maps, Portraits, Squiggles, Illustrations & a Variety of Helpful Indexes, by Adam Thirwell

mattviews said...

I wish you the best in this holiday season, full of joy and memories, and a healthy, bookish new year! Merry Christmas! :)

rjnagle said...

Gwen, I too remain pleasantly surprised at how often the Latest Books table/shelf in public libraries will bring interesting finds (though not usually fiction).

Usually at libraries the for-sale rack has more interesting fiction. I'm reading now a random sci fi book (a once a decade occurrence for me) and Forest Gump (!?) which I found off the used book sale rack at HPL.

Sherry said...

Nice list. I'm looking forward to Home since I enjoyed Gilead so much.

The Saturday Review at Semicolon is dedicated to year-end lists such as this one. Please come by on Saturday and leave a link to your best-of list so others can enjoy it.