Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Best Books of 2008

I’ve read a lot of books this year, but I can’t say I have been overwhelmed with bounty. I have enjoyed many books, but I actually found it hard to find 10 that I really liked. The following is a list of my favorite books of the year, categorized by fiction and non-fiction. Not all of these are new releases:


American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld – A great read that gave me an appreciation for Laura Bush.

An Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett – This is almost a novella that recounts what happens when Queen Elizabeth of England unexpectedly visits a bookmobile, selects a book, and discovers a passion for reading. Hint: her world and that of the people she rules changes.

Any Human Heart by William Boyd – This is an “autobiography” of an Englishman in the 20th century, written in journal form.

Mary by Janis Cooke Newman – a novel about the life of Mary Todd Lincoln. I couldn’t put this book down, even though Lincoln had a very depressing life.

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton – This is a book about female friendship and writing. Who could ask for more?


Desperate Passage by Ethan Rarick – Drawing on new archeological evidence and letters, Rarick recounts the story of the Donner Party as its members make their way from the east coast to California. Rarick brings the times and people to life in a compelling narrative.

Lucia: A Venetian Life in the Age of Napolean by Andrea di Robilant – I am a big fan of this author, and not because we share the same literary agent. Di Robilant has written two non fiction books about Italy that draw on a series of letters written by his ancestors in the 18th and 19th centuries. They provide a fascinating glimpse of Europe and the upper classes.

I asked Cindy Snow, who works at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, for a list of her favorite books. Here is her reply.

Hi, Frances--Well, here it is. I look back on the year in books, and although there were many that I liked I can't say that I was absolutely knocked down by any. I found pieces of what I liked in many, true, insightful characters, wonderful description, a great plot which leaves me feeling emotionally moved and the books' ability to intrude on my thoughts and captivate me for days, leaving me without wanting to start a new book.

That being said, I really enjoyed the following books (not in order of any kind). Plus, I am sure that I am forgetting a few, especially those from the beginning of the year!

Unaccustomed Earth by Jumpa Lahiri

Deaf Sentence by David Lodge

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

An American WifeCurtis Sittenfeld

The Likeness by Tanya French

When Will there Be Good News? By Kate Atkinson

The Guernesey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The English Major by Jim Harrison

City of Thieves by David Benioff

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson and Reg Keelan

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg

The Corpse Walker by Liao Yiwu

Nancy Chirinos, another friend and avid reader, has this list:

In the Wake--Pers Petterson. I like his spare style and the exotic world of Norway.
Out Stealing Horses-Per Petterson--loved it. Beautiful writing, beautiful story
Olive Kittredge--Elizabeth Strout--loved it. Stories linked by characters and town
The Year of Magical Thinking--Joan Didion--I avoided reading it for a long time as I thought it would be too sad, but it was so well written, I loved it.
Can You Forgive Her? Anthony Trollop--my favorite Trollop so far. Social rather than political. I like Trollop because he's so dense, I can escape. I like classics when I want more involved language.
Dreams From My Father--Barack Obama--a must read, I believe
Great Expectations--Charles Dickens, what is there to say?
Mister Pip--Lloyd James--a good companion book to Great Expectations, a teacher telling the story of Great Expectations to a class of children in violent Haiti
Exit Ghost--Phillip Roth, because I love Phillip Roth

1 comment:

Paul Lamb said...

Everyone should love Philip Roth!

I keep a list of every book I've read (and the date completed), but I've never thought to go back an select my favs and not. I just keep moving on to the next book.