Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Favorites of 2008

I think 2008 was a banner year for me in terms of reading. I read- and wrote- probably more than I ever have. And more widely- literary fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, manga, mysteries, Christian fiction, popular fiction. Sometimes I made great discoveries; sometimes I tried something new and it fizzled. I used my reading and writing to document my personal interests, make new friends and to enhance my career. My blog took off (along with many others) and I got the opportunity to do author interviews and giveaways, and to review many great books. I attended a blogger's conference, and had one of my reviews reprinted in a high school textbook. And I met some great people- on-line and off-line.

So, on to the top ten- actually the top eleven. It's so difficult to pick, so I'm going to do the best I can and break it out by category. Some books fit into more than one but I wanted to highlight different books in different ways. I'm calling these picks "Favorites" rather than "Bests" because that's what they are- my favorites for the year. Links are to my reviews.

Favorite overall: Oscar and Lucinda, by Peter Carey. A Booker Prize winner from the 1980s and beautiful love story and literary page-turner. I didn't want this book to end. Don't you love when that happens? An old-fashioned story of love and loss, I wish every book was as accomplished and well-crafted as Oscar and Lucinda.

Favorite literary fiction: The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga. This year's Booker winner is a gripping literary page-turner with a unique protagonist and challenging themes.

Favorite ARC/New Release: The White Mary, by Kira Salak. I don't know if it's destined to be a literary classic, but it's one of those books I just couldn't put down. I was totally hooked from word one- loved it.

Favorite nonfiction: My Father's Paradise, by Ariel Sabar. Beautifully-written and highly accessible history and a lovely family story, this one's a winner. I can understand why people might hesitate to pick it up but I promise if you read it you will love it!

Favorite Jewish-interest: The Last Chicken in America, by Ellen Litman. A moving collection of short stories about the Russian-Jewish immigrant experience. I was drawn in by Litman's voice and handling of her characters' emotions. I can't wait till she writes a novel.

Favorite manga: Nana by Ai Yazawa. Nana is a terrific manga series written for young women about two roommates and best friends, both named Nana, trying to make a go of life and love in the big city. Think Sex and the City in the Tokyo rock scene. Light-as-a-feather fun. (I don't write reviews of manga- too many of them, and they're all part of lengthy series- and it's only once in a great while that I finish a whole series.)

Favorite book about Boston and New England: Since My Last Confession: A Gay Catholic Memoir, by Scott Pomfret. I really enjoyed this funny, snarky, angry and loving book about the Catholic Church and Catholic faith.

Favorite Francophile Fun: Death in the Truffle Wood, by Pierre Magnan. I'm not a mystery buff and this book didn't change that, but it did give me a few laughs and a good time.

Favorite Graphic Novel: The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey, by Steve Sheinkin. Sweet, fun and great for all ages, it's a graphic novel that serves up wholesome lessons with a chuckle and an unusual visual style.

Favorite Random Thing I Picked Up at a Bookstore: The Secret History of Moscow, by Ekaterina Sedia. Sedia mixes a variety of elements- history, mythology, love, and growing up- into a bittersweet fantasy about post-Soviet Moscow.

Bonus Book: Favorite Book That Fit A Bunch of Categories: The Genizah at the House of Shepher, by Tamar Yellin. A slow, thoughtful literary family story about a lost book of the Bible and the family that has harbored it for generations, this book is destined to be a classic. (Jewish Interest, ARC/New Release, Literary Fiction)


Ali said...

Nice list of books! My Father's Paradise was one of my favorites this year, too.

Sandra said...

Great list. And good for you, getting a review published. I too would put The White Tiger and My Father's Paradise at the top of my list. I forgot while reading it that Paradise was actually non-fiction because it read so smoothly, like a well written story. I was supposed to get the Tamar Yellin book from LT but it never arrived. Have you read her Tales of the Ten Lost Tribes? I might try it.

Amy said...

Just bought The White Tiger the other day and look forward to reading it. Glad you feel your reading year was a success!

Anonymous said...

Great post! The only one of those books I've read My Father's Paradise. I'll be looking into the others.

Beth F said...

Great list of books and wonderful wrap-up post. I'm hoping 2009 is even better.

Happy New Year!

LorMil said...

I can't wait to begin my recent purchase of My Father's Paradise. The front of the jacket drew me in, and when I read the inside and the back of the jacket, I couldn't resist buying it!

The Genizah...a definite book to become a Jewish classic...

Oscar and Lucinda...a beautiful story, indeed.

Good reading to you in 2009, Marie!

Candy Schultz said...

I finally picked up a copy of The White Tiger. It is not a huge tome so I will probably get to it before long. I am reading Revolutionary Road at the moment and not liking it.

As for The Enchantress - I have never not liked a Salman Rushdie book. I haven't read them all but the ones I have have been wonderful adventures.

Shana said...

Marie, great list. Almost everything you really like sounds so good to me. I could make up my entire TBR list just from your reviews!!!


Dave Rosenthal said...

Great list, Marie. Funny to note that I picked up The White Tiger for the same reasons you did (Booker winner and Shteyngart blurb). A couple of months ago I attended a reading by the author of The Toss of a Lemon, and it also sounds like a great book about Indian culture; haven't read it yet, though. I've put Oscar and Lucinda, The Last Chicken and Truffle Wood on my TBR list. Happy New Year.

Yvonne said...

You had a great 2008! I hope you have an even better 2009!

Happy New Year!

Tasha said...

I just added Oscar and Lucinda to my list. It sounds lovely. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Literary Feline said...

I am glad you had such a great reading year, Marie! You've got several books listed as your favorites that I hope to read, in particular The White Tiger, The White Mary, and My Father's Paradise.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year!

Julie said...

Thanks for your favorites list, what a great idea & I enjoyed reading about them. Happy 2009!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I didn't read any of the books on your list, but some of them sound very interesting! - Stephanie

Serena said...

I love the breakdown of your favorites! Fantastic...more books for me to check out that I haven't seen.

Anna said...

What a great list! You're so organized. You've given me some new books to consider.

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