Sunday, December 28, 2008

Best books of 2008

In chronological order, here are the books that I loved the most in 2008:

The Mistress's Daughter by A.M. Homes
Let Me Finish by Roger Angell
The Appeal by John Grisham
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
Supreme Conflict by Jan Crawford Greenburg
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Close Range: Wyoming Stories by E. Annie Proulx
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer

I was particularly enamored with short stories this year: Carver, Lahiri and Proulx blew me away with their particularity, economy, and narrative force. On the other hand, Mailer's sprawling, forceful narrative, boggling in its breadth and specificity, seemed to nearly encompass everything there is about this nation. Angell's memoir was unexpectedly moving and made me ache with a certain kind of nostalgia for old New York. Parts of Homes' memoir seemed as if she had written them specifically for me. The last ten pages of McEwan knocked me for a loop and gave me a new mantra for marriage and life: love & patience. Rushdie's novel journeyed from the quotidian details of late-century London to the epic themes of fairy tales and myths.

The upper echelon, then: Let Me Finish, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, On Chesil Beach, Close Range, The World Without Us. And the very best book of the year, for this reader: The Satanic Verses. It was worth the wait.

Now I've picked up The Stories of John Cheever and am looking forward to a new year of reading. I might try Bolano, although I haven't enjoyed him yet. I have War and Peace on my list, perfect for some late-winter Russian. And who knows what else may come down the pike. A new story for a new year.

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