Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Year-End Book Wrapup '08

This is kind of the first time I've realized it's going to be 2009 in two days. Damn, ham. (And now I'm nostalgic, because I used to say "damn, ham" all the time. When did I stop? Why did I stop? WHERE HAS MY YOUTH GONE?!)

Well, I don't think I'm going to finish any of the books I'm reading (Georgiana, Infinite Jest, and The Lady Elizabeth) by midnight tomorrow, so I may as well do my book wrapup. (Also if I do finish any of them it will be Georgiana, which so far is pretty good, but not good enough to bump any of my top five off the list.) Last year’s is here.

This year I read 46 books, which is a downturn from last year, when I read 55, books, one of which was Finnegans Wake. Well, I taught two extra classes this year, plus I still have a full-time job and a blog. Still, I only read 6 book list books. Pathetic! This year 21 were by women (and 4 were by Stephenie Meyer; it was a sad year for women on my list) and 25 by men. And now, on to the top and bottom 5!

(First of all, I’m going to say that both I’m Not The New Me and Schuyler’s Monster are delightful, and both are written by people I know, and you should read them immediately. I’m going to disqualify them from this list, because I can’t possibly be expected to rank them, can I? No, I cannot. So with that said...)

Top five books of the year:

1. And Then We Came To The End, by Joshua Ferris
This is the book I fell in love with and went around all excited about this year, like Black Swan Green and I Capture The Castle last year. I strong-armed my book club into reading it, too. Nobody fell in love with it to the degree I did, but then again, not only did I love the humor and heart and narrative conceit, I also really related to the advertising agency setting.

2. Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates
My friend Stephanie, with whom I went to grad school, said this is one of her favorite books, which I should read before the movie came out and “ruined it.” I love, love, loved this book, but I could not possibly be looking forward to the movie more KATE AND LEO. KATE! LEO! It was also a partial inspiration for Mad Men, which was easily the best TV show of the year (speaking of advertising) and they do have a lot in common—beyond the time period, even. Fabulous book.

3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
I include this book here because I enjoyed the hell out of it, and have recommended it to several of my students who enjoyed The House on Mango Street. Funny, clever, lots of heart. I read several young adult books this year (and am 20,000 words into my own YA, let’s not forget) and this one was my favorite.

4. The Year of Living Biblically (by A.J. Jacobs)
A book that I think is deceptively accessible, but super thought-provoking and even better than The Know-It-All, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. I think his open-minded and open-hearted exploration of the Bible was refreshing, and made me think about religion in a way that I hadn’t for a long time. Definitely one I will teach in English 100 after it comes out in paperback.

5. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
I had to include Twilight, not because it’s “good” (even though this first book is kind of not terrible) but because it brought me so much glee this year. As a proud LOLfan, Stephenie Meyer, I salute you.

I actually enjoyed a lot of books this year, some of which are more intellectual and “literary” than these (Junot Diaz or Evelyn Waugh, for instance) but these are the five books that stuck with me the most. (Mysterious Skin almost made it, but the movie is so vivid to me that it’s hard for me to remember the book as an independent entity. The book is also wonderful, though.)

The bottom five...

Again, it was hard for me to find five books I hated this year; right now I’ve got two that sucked, one that was a slog, one that was uneven, and one that was INCREDIBLY ENTERTANING but empirically shitty.

1. Ten Days in the Hills, by Jane Smiley
Sucked. I called it an “entertaining airplane read” but in hindsight, it was because I was trapped on that airplane. People having a lot of sex and arguing about the Iraq war, which I have heard enough about because I live in Berkeley and that is what we do there. Don’t bother.

2. Wishful Drinking, by Carrie Fisher
The latest addition to the list; could have been good, but was really very not. Too breezy by half, not as funny as it thinks it is, too conversational, lacking real heart or heft or emotion or even fun gossip. Very disappointing.

3. The Heart of the Matter, by Graham Greene
Didn’t suck, but didn’t wow me, and was kind of a slog to get through. I wish I’d read more bad books this year. This would be way more fun!

4. Lives on the Boundary, by Mike Rose
You know, this wasn’t even bad, it was just boring, and boring to teach. We had boring class discussions and they bored me. I would explain why, but I’m too bored to write more sentences.

5. Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer
This either had to go on the list of the worst or the list of the best. I won’t spoil it for you, but here is where the Twilight saga, which is already completely ridiculous after books one through three, goes completely, hilariously, totally off the rails. And Renesmee is NOT A NAME.

So how about you? What were your top and bottom books of the year?


Blogger Kevin said...

My Top 5 of 2008:
1. The Satanic Verses (Salman Rushdie)
2. Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen)
3. The House of Sand and Fog (Andre Dubus III)
4. Island of the Sequined Love Nun (Christopher Moore)
5. We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Shirley Jackson)

My Bottom 3 of 2008 (simply not fair to lump any other book I read in 2008 with these pieces of dreck):
3. Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
2. Howard's End (E.M. Forster)
1. Under the Volcano (Malcolm Lowry)

My reading really slacked of in 2008. Maybe 2009 will be better.

3:57 PM  
Blogger toolprincess said...

I actually got through 100+ books this year but some of them were not as "meaty" as last year for sure.

My top 5 (hard to choose)
1- The Namesake
2- The Book Thief
3- The House of Mirth
4- Into Thin Air
5- The Year of Living Biblically
honarable mention : PD Wodehouse - Jeeves series

Bottom 3:
1-Tall, Dark and Dead
2- Girls in Trucks
3-Manic: a Memoir

9:45 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Oh man, Into Thin Air is great. I've been craving a re-read lately but can't find EITHER of my copies.

10:42 PM  
Blogger toolprincess said...

i have horrible spelling in my previous comment.

Honorable - not honarable and PG not PD. apparently I zoned out maybe I was thinking of PD James at the time but I might PG Wodehouse.

Also - I have enjoyed all of the Jon Krakauer books I read - have you read Under the Banner of Heaven?

10:04 PM  
Blogger MB said...

I just stumbled over here through google reader search so I'm going through some older posts. I wanted to say that I'm going to pick up "And Then We Came To The End." I started reading it months ago and couldn't get into it but you've made me want to push through it.

I'll need some time to come up with my 5 best/worst list but my favorite book from last year was The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak and my favorite book of all time is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

I'm looking forward to coming back here and checking the archives for good book recommendations.

8:17 AM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Hey MB! Awesome to have you reading. Like I said in my review, part of the reason I loved "And Then We Came To The End" was the setting, but there's also some heart in the middle of the book, and I appreciated that too.

I've never read "The Book Theif"; what are some of your other favorites?

Whatever you do, don't go find my review of "Atlas Shrugged," or you'll never come back again.

8:35 AM  
Blogger MB said...

You must know I'd have to search for your review on Atlas Shrugged but couldn't find it. I'd love to read it even if it isn't positive - I'd still come back. I know people either loved it or hated it. I think I read it at the right time but I admit it was extremely repetitive and slow.

The Book Thief was so different from anything else I've read. It is an easy YA read but heavy subject matter. You should check it out and let me know what you think.

Some of my favorites:
Crimson Petal and the White
East of Eden
Those Who Save Us
The Space Between Us
When Crickets Cry
Water Witches (not about witches)
The Time Travelers Wife (confusing but excellent)
Venus Envy by Rita Mae Brown

So many good books - I could go on and on. I'll read anything.

You can check out my other favorites on my bookshelf:

Read on ...

5:12 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Well here it is but don't say I didn't warn you! Heh.

The only one of those I've read is The Time Traveler's Wife which I really liked!

5:17 PM  
Blogger MB said...

HAHAHAHA ... that review was hilarious and Id have to agree with most of it, the sex scenes were creepy.

At least we have the Time Travelers Wife ;)

5:25 PM  

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