Friday, January 02, 2009

2008 Year in Review

2008 was an interesting reading year for me. I started this blog in February 2008, I tried out my first online reading challenges and moved my reading diary from a written form to longer reviews posted here. I was guessing that I read less this year than in past years because I was devoting more time to the blog and reading other book blogs but this year I read twenty books and when I looked it up it turns out last year I only read 21 and 20 in 2006. I would certainly like to read more in 2009. A friend and I started a book club in 2001 and I know that this year reading challenges have distracted me from that. For the first time since its inception I have neglected to read two of the book club books which I feel very guilty about. I really have enjoyed this exploration of the blogosphere and intend to continue.

Top 4 Books Read in 2008:

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
A changeling kidnaps a young boy and takes his place in the human world and the novel follows the adventures of these two “boys”. While a novel about children and or changelings would not be the type of book that would normally catch my attention, it was so beautifully written that it turned out to be my favorite book of the year. My review is here.

Secret History by Donna Tartt
I first heard of Donna Tartt when I started reading reviews for her newer book The Little Friend. All the reviews said it was not as good as her masterpiece Secret History. When I was looking for an audio book to throw on my ipod for a lengthy plane trip I selected this and was very impressed. Although it is nominally a mystery in that there is murder and the police are searching for the killer, the reader knows from the beginning “who dunit” and the book is really a psychological study. The narrator is a lower class kid from California who goes to Hampden College in New England and falls in with a rich sophisticated clique of students studying Greek. The book is about the narrator’s one year that he spent with this very odd group of people. Tartt’s use of language is amazing and her characters were both fascinating and vividly portrayed. I loved it.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
I was looking for a book to recommend to my book club that stretched the boundaries of the form of the novel. I had heard of this book but hadn’t gotten around to reading it until this year. It is written in the second person and the protagonist is “The Reader” ie you. He buys a book but after one chapter the rest is missing and he spends the rest of the book attempting to find the rest of it. Instead he repeatedly finds the beginnings of other incomplete books, each one from a different genre or style. The book alternates between the protagonist’s search for the book and the actual books themselves. The book is a meditation on being a writer and as well as being a reader. I absolutely loved it but I must say my book group did not. They didn’t like the lack of plot or the emphasis of form over the story but that of course was the entire point of the book. I enjoyed its experimental nature (indeed selected it for that very reason) and loved its portrayal of an avid reader and the musings on reading and literature.

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
I bought this for the Once Upon Time II Challenge but didn’t get around to reading it until later. I really wanted to read it because the author was supposedly inspired by Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, one of my favorite books. As far as I am concerned the main character is the steam-punk city of New- Crobuzon itself and its many varied and interesting species. The plot involves an eccentric scientist who inadvertently assists the slake moths who terrorize the city by taking people’s dreams and leaving them comatose. The scientist and his strange band of friends and colleagues endeavor to save the city. At more than 700 pages there are many other subplots as well, but the plot is not the point. The point is the incredible descriptions of the city itself and its inhabitants. The city is a huge strange dark decaying amalgam of high tech and steam/clockwork technology. The inhabitants vary from bureaucrats that would fit in perfectly in Kafka’s world to Satan, a giant inter-dimensional spider called the Weaver, a sentient super computer, creatures similar to cactus, birds, frogs and insects and Remades that incorporate mechanized technology into their bodies. This is not a page turner. You have to have the patience to revel in the lush imagery and it took me a while to read but long after I finished it New-Crobuzon is still is vivid in my mind.

I have not managed to do reviews of three of the four. I think this is because I enjoyed them so much that I wanted the review to be great and therefore they linger in drafts because I am not satisfied with them. I am going to try and catch up on my reviews and do better in 2009.


Although some of the books could fall into more than one category for the purposes of this list I only assigned one category for each book.

Nonfiction - 0
Science Fiction - 1
Horror - 4
Fantasy - 5
Mystery - 2
Literary - 7
Thriller - 1

This certainly reflects my participation in challenges. I don’t think I have ever read so much fantasy at one time and while I do enjoy horror, literary books usually predominate my reading. I also usually get at least one or two nonfiction books read. I would like to read more sci fi in 2009. Other interesting stats:

Female authors - 7
Male authors - 13
New to me authors - 14
Audiobooks - 4

Happy reading in 2009!

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