2008 Wrap up - the best books I read this year

Well, it only too me 25 days, but at last I am ready to do my 2008 reading wrap up.  It was quite a year - I read more this year than in any year since I started blogging (from 138 in 2006, to 192 in 2007 to 216 in 2008).  Now, granted, 66 of them were by Agatha Christie (you’ll just have to trust me - I have a spread sheet), but I still think it’s a reasonably impressive tally.  Anyway, without further ado, here are my favorite reads of the year.

First, the best (in the order that I read them).  I have to say, when I think about the year, it doesn’t seem like a year of great reads - there aren’t as many books as usual that just leap to mind out as some of the best books I’ve ever read.  But when I look back at the list, I see a bunch that I very much enjoyed...


Run, Ann Patchett - I love Patchett - I think she is the best kind of writer,  a person who can write like anything and still manages to tell a good old fashioned story, with real human emotions (unlike, say The Sea by John Banville, which despite it’s Booker award winning status seemed to me to be all writing and no heart).  This story, about a Boston Irish-Catholic political family, their two adopted black children, and what happens when their birth mother reenters their life seems resonates even more for me now post election then it did when I read it last January...

Long May She Reign, Ellen Emerson White - This is so well written - particularly for a young adult book - , and such a page turner (even though little happens, particularly compared to the book that precedes it in the tetralogy) that it would have made the list even if it wasn’t the long, long awaited sequel to one of my very favorite series of young adult novels.  The story of the first female president’s daughter is so compelling - particularly when she is as tough and prickly and cool as Meg is, and honestly, these novels are so good it’s too bad that they are in the YA ghetto.  The fact that Twilight is a best seller and this is not is criminal

The Emigrants, W.G. Sebald - Well, Sebald is a far cry from Ellen Emerson White, hmmm?  Despite my sometimes pedestrian taste, this book knocked my socks off.  My dad pushed the Sebald books on me, and I started with Saturn’s Rings, which I didn’t get at all, and I worried that I was going to have to make polite noise at him about his new passion.  But then I read this book, which basically tells the story of the the Holocaust without mentioning the word, and encapsulates the tragedy of it in the most explicit terms without you even realizing that is what is going on.  And it (even in translation) is so well written that you kind of despair.  

The Absolute Sandman, Neil Gaiman.  Technically I have only read the first three volumes this year - but even without having completed the story I will say that these graphic novels deserve their iconic status.  They are like nothing you’ve read before - stories of horror and myth and humor and dream all wrapped up in one package, with phenomenal pictures to boot.  If you don’t know about the eternals, you should.    

Great Modern Short Stories, Bennett Cerf, ed. - This is sort of a cheat, because its a collection of great stories by other authors, but this modern library collection just knocked my socks off.  I mean, on the one hand, duh, “Heart of Darkness” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” are great stories, but for whatever reason this collection really caught me off guard with just how good it was - particularly the Faulkner.  I don’t think its in print, at least in this form, but if you can find a copy, its a seriously great collection of modern short stories (oh look, truth in advertising!).

Passionate Minds, Claudia Pierpont Roth -  This collection of criticism, which tells of a number of famous woman writers perfectly straddled the line between biography and criticism, which is my favorite kind of writing.  You wouldn’t think that a collection of essays about Olive Schrieber and Margaret Mitchell (et al) would be a page turner, but this one is.

A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby - This might be light fiction, but I just loved it. I tore through it, laughed out loud (which I rarely do, when reading) was touched by it, etc.  Hornby can write, pure and simple - he may not be the fanciest author, but I love his stuff.  

Fathers and Sons, Alec Waugh - This is how memoir should be written - not an oh woe is me tale of some sort of past tragedy, but a witty and moving tale of an actual interesting story - here, four generations of writing Waugh men and how these fathers and sons interacted. 

Hotel du Lac, Anita Brookner - A Booker award winner that deserved it, this novel manages, with little fanfare to capture the inner life of a woman who is trying to figure out how to rebuild her life after its fallen apart.  Loved it.

 The Rest is Noise, Alex Ross - This work explaining twentieth century music was a perfect book to end the year on - it had me understanding music in a way I hadn’t before and loving what I learned.  A great book. 


Honorable mentions: A Short History of Nearly Everything, The Interpreter of Maladies, “Have You Seen...”, Shakespeare Wrote For Money, Nation, Edith Wharton




The 2008 Complete List:

1.   Walt Disney: The Triumph of American Imagination, Neal Gabler

2.   The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, & The Perverse Pleasure of Obituaries, Marilyn Johnson

3.   Stardust, Neil Gaiman

  The Great Pretenders: The True Stories behind Famous Historical Mysteries,      Jan Bondeson

5.    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz

6.    Absolute Sandman Volume I, Neil Gaiman et al.

7.     The Absolute Sandman, Volume II, Neil Gaiman et al

8.    The Victorian Underworld, Kellow Chesney

9.     In A Strange City, Laura Lippman

10.    Old New York, Edith Wharton

11.    A Spot of Bother, Mark Haddon

12. Equal Rites, Terry Pratchett

13. Run, Ann Patchett

14. Roman Fever and Other Stories, Edith Wharton

15. Prayers For Rain, Dennis Lehane

16. Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers And Bums In America, Tom Lutz

17. Nemesis, Agatha Christie

18. Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, Agatha Christie

19. A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson

20. Long May She Reign, Ellen Emerson White

21. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst

22. Set This House In Order, Matt Ruff

23. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, Agatha Christie

24. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Anne Tyler

25. Hickory, Dickory, Death, Agatha Christie

26. Police At The Funeral, Margery Allingham

27. Magic By The Lake, Edward Eager

28. Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective, Agatha Christie

29. The Sea, John Banville

30. The Brimstone Wedding, Barbara Vine

31. The Pale Horse, Agatha Christie

32. Vintage Murder, Ngaio Marsh

33. Double Sin and Other Stories, Agatha Christie

34. The Labors of Hercules, Agatha Christie

35. Darkness Take My Hand, Dennis Lehane

36. The Deserter, Jane Langton

37. Dead Man’s Folly, Agatha Christie

38. Steeplechase, Jane Langton

39. Sacred, Dennis Lehane

40. Cards on the Table, Agatha Christie

41. Death in the Air, Agatha Christie

42. Ordeal By Innocence, Agatha Christie

43. Evil Under The Sun, Agatha Christie

44. The Tuesday Club Murders, Agatha Christie

45. Capote in Kansas, Kim Powers

46. What the Dead Know, Laura Lippman

47. Murder is Easy, Agatha Christie

48. Endless Night, Agatha Christie

49. True History of the Kelly Gang, Peter Carey

50. A Suitable Vengeance, Elizabeth George

51. The Black Dahlia, James Ellroy

52. Edith Wharton, Hermione Lee

53. The Devil and Daniel Webster and Other Stories, Stephen Vincent Benet

54. The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai

55. The ABC Murders, Agatha Christie

56. Housekeeping, Marianne Robinson

57. The Book of Daniel, E.L. Doctorow

58. Smoke and Mirrors, Neil Gaiman

59. The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

60. (The Illustrated) Zuleika Dobson, Max Beerbohm

61. The Maul and The Pear Tree, P.D. James & T.A. Critchley

62. Ysabel, Guy Gavriel Kay

63. The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy

64. The Willoughbys, Lois Lowry

65. The Meaning of Everything, Simon Winchester

66. Prove The Nameless, Terence Faherty

67. Loving, Henry Green

68. The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles

69. Bridge of Sighs, Richard Russo

70. The Rings of Saturn, W.G. Sebald

71. Towards Zero, Agatha Christie

72. Nights of Rain and Stars, Maeve Binchy

73. Whose Body, Dorothy Sayers

74. Human Croquet, Kate Atkinson

75. To See Every Bird On Earth, Dan Koeppel                   

76. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Dorothy L. Sayers

77. The Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri

78. Unnatural Death, Dorothy L. Sayers

79. In The Teeth Of The Evidence and Other Mysteries, Dorothy L. Sayers

80. The Blessing, Nancy Mitford

81. The Professor And The Madman, Simon Winchester

82. Life Class, Pat Barker

83. A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire, Amy Butler Greenfield

84. U.S.A. (The 42nd. Parallel & half of 1919), John Dos Passos

85. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen

86. A Question of Upbringing [A Dance to the Music of Time, First Movement] Anthony Powell

87. A Buyer’s Market [A Dance to the Music of Time, First Movement] Anthony Powell

88. The Acceptance World [A Dance to the Music of Time, First Movement] Anthony Powell

89. The Accomplice, Elizabeth Ironside

90. The Big Four, Agatha Christie

91. Sabbath’s Theater, Philip Roth

92. American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White The Birth of the “It” Girl and the Crime of the Century, Paula Uruburu

93. The Emigrants, W.G. Sebald

94. The Summer Tree, Guy Gavriel Kay

95. Clouds of Witness, Dorothy L. Sayers

96. Living Large in Small Spaces: Expressing Personal Style in 100 to 1,000 Square Feet, Marissa Bartolucci

97.    Generation Dead, Daniel Waters

98.  Opera Offstage, Milton Brener

99.  The Secret of Lost Things, Sheridan Hay

100. Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from Show Boat to Sondheim, Geoffrey Block

101. Absolute Sandman, Volume III, Neil Gaiman et al.

102. Then We Came to the End, Joshua Ferris

103.  The Old Bank House, Angela Thirkell

104.  Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood’s First Openly Gay Star, William J. Mann

105. Pudd’nhead Wilson, Mark Twain

106.  The Din in the Head, Cynthia Ozick

107.    The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe and The Invention of Murder, Daniel Stashower

108. A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby

109.   The Architect of Desire, Susannah Lessard

110.   The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells

111.   The Crucible, Arthur Miller

112.   A Bend in the River, V.S. Naipul

113.    The Plane Janes, Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rigg

114.    Last Night at the Lobster, Stewart O’Nan

115.   Great Modern Short Stories, Bennett Cerf, ed.

116.  Passionate Minds: Women Re-writing the World, Claudia Roth Pierpont

117.  Well Schooled in Murder, Elizabeth George

118.  The Unknown Masterpiece and Other Stories, Honor de Balzac

119.    The Lighthouse, PD James

120.  Salt: A History, Mark Kurlansky

121.   The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury

122.   Fathers and Sons, Alexander Waugh

123.   Life Sentences, Joseph Epstein

124.     In the Presence of the Enemy, Elizabeth George

125.      Payment in Blood, Elizabeth George

126.  Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst

127.     In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner, Elizabeth George

128.     Castle Waiting, Linda Medley

129.    About a Boy, Nick Hornby

130.    Nostromo, Joseph Conrad

131.     Murder in Retrospect, Agatha Christe

132.  Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories, Roald Dahl, ed.

133.  Tourists are for Trapping, Marion Babson

134.    Reel Murder, Marion Babson

135.  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie

136.    Murder With Mirrors, Agatha Christie

137.     The Murder on the Links, Agatha Christie

138.  Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman

139.  The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco

140.  Elephants Can Remember, Agatha Christie

141.     The Collector, John Fowles

142.  The Feast of Love, Charles Baxter

143.     They Came to Baghdad, Agatha Christie

144.    The Mystery of the Blue Train, Agatha Christie

145.  The Quiet American, Graham Greene

146.  The Book of Lost Things, John Connelly

147.  The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John Le Carre

148.  The Mysterious Affair At Styles, Agatha Christie

149.  The Lace Reader, Brunonia Barry

150.  A Widow For One Year, John Irving

151.    Watchman, Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

152.  Nation, Terry Pratchett

153.    Going Postal, Terry Pratchett

154.   The Truth, Terry Pratchett

155.    The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

156.   Poirot Investigates, Agatha Christie

157.   The Secret Adversary, Agatha Christie

158.   Making Money, Terry Pratchett

159.    The Man in the Brown Suit, Agatha Christie

160.   The Ghost Orchard, Carol Goodman

161.   Death Comes as the End, Agatha Christie

162.   Parade’s End (Some Do Not), Ford Madox Ford

163.   Parade’s End (No More Parades), Ford Madox Ford

164.   Partners in Crime, Agatha Christie

165.   Lord Byron’s Novel, John Crowley

166.  The Secret of Chimneys, Agatha Christie

167.   20th Century Ghosts, Joe Hill

168.   The Sittaford Mystery, Agatha Christie

169.   Maps and Legends, Michael Chabon

170.   Peril at End House, Agatha Christie

171.    Have You Seen…? David Thompson

172.    Sleeping Murder, Agatha Christie

173.  The Ginger Man, JP Donleavy

174.    Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie

175.     The Seven Dials Mystery, Agatha Christie

176.  N or M? Agatha Christie 

177.    The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, HP Lovecraft

178.  The Hound of Death and Other Stories, Agatha Christie 

179.  And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie

180.  The Listerdale Mystery, Agatha Christie

181.  The Murder at the Vicarage, Agatha Christie

182.  Straight Man, Richard Russo

183.  The Mysterious Mr. Quinn, Agatha Christie

184.  What Mrs. McGuillcuddy Saw, Agatha Christie

185.     An Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England, Brock Clark

186.  My Most Excellent Year, Steve Kluger

187.  The Peppered Moth, Margaret Drabble

188.  A Boy Named Shel, Lisa Rogak

189.  Hotel du Lac, Anita Brookner

190.  By The Pricking of My Thumbs, Agatha Christie

191.  The Mirror Crack’d, Agatha Christie

192.  The Three Blind Mice and Other Stories, Agatha Christie

193.  The Underdog and Other Stories, Agatha Christie

194.  The Regatta Mystery, Agatha Christie

195.     Into The Wild, Sarah Beth Durst

196.    Appointment With Death, Agatha Christie

197.  The Body in the Library, Agatha Christie

198.  The Clocks, Agatha Christie

199.  There is a Tide, Agatha Christie

200.  One Drop, Bliss Broyard

201.    The Hollow, Agatha Christie

202.  Death on the Nile, Agatha Christie

203.  Hallow’een Party, Agatha Christie

204.  Pocket Full of Rye, Agatha Christie

205.  Curtain, Agatha Christie

206.  Shakespeare Wrote for Money, Nick Hornby

207.  The Private Patient, P.D. James

208.  Passenger to Frankfurt, Agatha Christie

209.   The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories, Agatha Christie

210.  A Murder is Announced, Agatha Christie

211.   Destination Unknown, Agatha Christie

212.     Funerals are Fatal, Agatha Christie

213.     The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories, Agatha Christie

214.  Lord Edgeware Dies, Agatha Christie

215.    Absent in the Spring, Agatha Christie

216.  The Rest Is Noise, Alex Ross


© Carrie Dunsmore 2017