Sunday, December 21, 2008

Top 15 Reads of 2008

I've taken a long look back at all the books I read this year and have come up with my 2008 Top 15, a list composed of five nonfiction titles and ten novels. 2008 has been an excellent reading year for me, one in which I've discovered lots of new authors and revisited some old favorites.

So starting with the five nonfiction titles, these are the books I most enjoyed reading in 2008:
Nonfiction Favorites

1. This Republic of Suffering - Drew Gilpin Faust - a detailed look at the psychological impact that the bloodbath known as the American Civil War had on Americans of the time and those of today

2. River of No Return - Jeffrey Buckner Ford - the surprisingly frank biography written by the oldest son of the man forever known as Tennessee Ernie Ford

3. In the Land of Invisible Women - Qanta Ahmed - a rare inside look at Saudi Arabian society and attitudes about the West written by a British female doctor with a foot in both worlds

4. Jimmie Rodgers - Nolan Porterfield - written in 1979 but probably still the definitive biography of Jimmie Rodgers, one of the most influential singers of all time

5. Sing Me Back Home - Dana Jennings - the history of country music from the very personal viewpoint of a man whose family lived the stuff of country music songs

Fiction Favorites

1. Resistance - Owen Sheers - an alternate history of World War II that sees a German invasion of Britain and what happens in an isolated section of Wales

2. Atonement - Ian McEwan - a terribly sad World War I misunderstanding recounted by a young English girl - with an ending that some love and some detest

3. Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen - a drama-filled account of circus life in a second rate circus during the Great Depression

4. Sweetsmoke - David Fuller - a remarkable slave, during the American Civil War, tries to identify the murderer of the freed black woman who secretly taught him to read and write

5. Wild Nights! - Joyce Carol Oates - wild stories about the last days of Poe, James, Hemingway, Twain and Dickenson - unforgettable images

6. The Wolfman - Nicholas Pekearo - a monster story in which this vigilante wolfman is actually the hero of the piece - by an author who was killed in the line of duty prior to the book's publication

7. Finding Nouf - Zoe Ferraris - an intriguing murder mystery set in Saudi Arabia and investigated by a male/female investigative team that functions well despite all the Saudi restrictions on women

8. Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay - a World War II story about the French roundup of Jews in Paris, a book whose first half is so good that its ending can be forgiven and forgotten

9. In Memory of Central Park: 1853-2022 - Queenelle Minet - a dark vision of what the world just might be like in 2050, a fantastic but believable look at New York City's future

10. A Grave in Gaza - Matt Beynon Rees - a terrific atmospheric mystery set in Gaza and featuring middle-aged good guy and detective Omar Yussef - one of a series


  1. The Wolfman was so good, it's such a shame the author won't be writing a series and just a tragedy about his early death.

  2. I love book lists! Thanks for doing this and adding to my TBR list :)

  3. Atonement, yes!
    What a grand novel.
    Of all your selections, the only other one I have read in 2008 is Water For Elephants, and as I myself think of posting my own List of Favorites for 2008, I am not sure I would include this one, even though it was indeed, quite good.
    But I was given the Oates book Wild Nights! as a gift in 2008 and have yet to read it. Your list encourages me to pick it up, and READ!

  4. It was very unusual, wasn't it, Carrie? I wish there were more in the series...

  5. Samantha, I hope you find something that you like from the list...maybe something for your top reads of 2009. :-)

  6. "Resistance" really surprised me, C.B. I'm always on the lookout for alternative histories but this one proved to be much more than that...very thought provoking.

  7. Cip, I have to warn you that "Wild Nights!" is very unusual. I felt so many different emotions reading those stories...even to disgust...that the book will be long remembered. It is not typical of Oates as I see her, but it is so unusual in overall theme that I find it to be one of those I will never forget.