Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Favorites of 2008

It's that time! Time to look back over everything I've read in 2008 and tell you bloggy lovelies about the best (the worst come later). It was a really hard decision picking my top 10 this year because I read about 25 more books than I usually do. I decided to be good and go by the ratings. Nine of these books received perfect 10/10 from me while one of them (Garden Spells) received a 9.5. Without further ado, in no particular order:

Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen - This book is not "serious" literature by any stretch of the imagination, but it was one of those books I found endlessly charming, and it came along at the exact right time--a plane ride! This is a book that was good enough to eat, and I feel sure I'll read it a bunch more times in the future.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman - Sweet, funny, heartbreaking, unique. I loved the premise, I loved the characters, and I was completely charmed and carried away by it. Gaiman's children's and adolescent fiction is by far my favorite of his works.

The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson - I almost didn't pick up this "it" book, but I'm so very glad I did. I found it quite the overwhelming read. It was epic in scope and made me cry a little. Those are the books that always win me over.

Evernight, by Claudia Gray - This is another one of those books that I never really expected to love, but it's one of the few vampire novels I've attempted post-Stephenie Meyer that has really stuck out. I found the main character a real trooper. I'm a sucker for a hard-headed female lead.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames, by David Sedaris - You had to know this one would make the list. While many others have been surprised at some of the morbid inclusions in this collection, I find that Sedaris's ability to continually evolve is one of his most winning qualities. While it was sobering in spots, it was still endlessly funny and thoughtful.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver - While the average person will probably never be able to devote herself to producing her own food in the ways Kingsolver did (some of us have to work all year) I still loved this book. I found it fascinating the ways the family provided for themselves. I loved the recipes, the humor, and it really made me stop and think about what types of food I put in my body.

On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan - One of the audio books I listened to this year. McEwan's reading made this book doubly powerful. It's a slim volume, but he has an uncanny ability to create a sense of claustrophobia and discomfort in his characters and in the listener as well. While I found this book very sad, it was also masterfully written and it's stayed with me.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee - Thank you to everyone who peer pressured me into reading this most classic of classic American novels (Heather, CdnReader, Kristy). I avoided it for years because I was burned out on the movie and various stage productions, but at the end of the day they can't hold a candle to Harper Lee's novel. Scout was precious, Atticus is the dad everyone wants, and it was just the perfect novel.

The End of America: Letters to a Young Patriot, by Naomi Wolf - A highly controversial but important book, this one got me fired up and ready for election time for certain! Wolf points out the ways in which various Bush administration policies have robbed Americans of basic freedoms and why we should care. This book is truly an antidote to apathy no matter what your politics.

The Stolen Child, by Keith Donohue - Another audiobook. Donohue masterfully weaves together the stories of a boy stolen by changelings and the changeling that takes the boy's place in the human world. Each have distinct struggles and learn to adapt and love their respective lives. The writing was fantastic, the narration was superb, and the story is one I look forward to revisiting.

And because it's SO FREAKIN' HARD for me to choose just ten books, here are the ones I loved and wanted to include, but if I went by ratings they scored just slightly lower (mostly 9's) for whatever reason. They're still awesome. Read 'em!

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Partly Cloudy Patriot, by Sarah Vowell
  • Capote in Kansas, by Kim Powers
  • Man in the Dark, by Paul Auster
  • Mail Order Bride, by Mark Kalesniko
  • Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer
  • The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly
  • Why Animals Matter, by Demello and Williams
  • 1001 Nights of Snowfall, by Bill Willingham
This year's list is really very reflective of my reading overall. I read a lot of fiction (general, literary, classic), non-fiction of various types, YA/children's, and graphic novels. They're all represented here, so I'm happy with the way it turned out. Links to reviews are on the sidebar!

38 comments:

  1. Wait!! 2008 isn't, like, technically over. What if you read something brilliant in the next 24 hours? I can't do mine till January, just in case. Am I anal?

    Agree totally on Garden Spells and To Kill a Mockingbird. Love 'em both.

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  2. LOL, Bookfool! I'm reading Daisy Miller and The Hour I First Believed right now. I don't think I'll finish The Hour I First Believed until next week sometime, and Daisy Miller isn't a favorite so far. I think I'm in the clear. I'm not above an addendum, though.

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  3. that is really cool you loved on chesil beach. it really touched me. it is also pretty much the only thing i don't talk about on GG.
    can't wait to read about what you hated! :)

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  4. Great picks! I haven't read any of Sedaris's books, but I've listened to 2 of them and they've been hilarious. I wonder if they'd be quite as funny without his narration.

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  5. I refuse to publish my list until tomorrow! Although it's already way too long, lol. Like all of my reading lists, come to think of it...

    I LOVE To Kill a Mockingbird, and I'm so glad you were peer pressured into reading it. :p (Although I'm curious about how you studied children's lit and managed to avoid it!) Most of the others I haven't read, so I'll have to keep them on the radar. :D

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  6. I love your list! To Kill A Mockingbird and The Stolen Child are two of my favorite books. Which reminds me I read The Stolen Child this year. See I left a book off my list!

    I have The Gargoyle on my bookshelf. I keep seeing it on everyone's lists. It's going to be one of my first reads of 2009.

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  7. Corinna, I have some whopper comments for the ones I hated! lol And Chesil Beach was really a tear-jerker heart-tugger for me.

    Bermudaonion, I have to agree that he's HILARIOUS on audio. I've listened to two of his books and read two. I cackle either way. At this point I can imagine him reading the essays, and that's almost as good.

    Eva, I have NO IDEA how I managed to go so long without reading it. Not in high school or throughout two college English degrees. Go figure! I'm so glad I finally got around to it, though.

    Thanks, Vasilly!!! I hope you get around to The Gargoyle soon. I would LOOOVE to know what you think of it.

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  8. I'm looking forward to The Book of Lost Things; definitely on my list for 09 due to all its great reviews. I like how you picked your top favorites, the honorable mentions, and I look forward to the ones you disliked. I have to say that for me, it's hard to get something I really, really, really loved. Maybe I'll post on my top three, if I can find that many. ;)

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  9. Great list -- it is interesting how everyone's lists are quite different. Gives us much more to add to the endless list... :)
    I was going to wait until tomorrow to post mine but did it today since I still have 250 pgs to go in The Golden Notebook. I don't think I'll finish any more books before the end of 2008. Never say never, though!

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  10. I'm drooling at your list of top books. So many of them are ones I've been craving to read.


    On a side note, the word verification this time around is "refund". I thought that was funny. :-) To Kill a Mockingbird is the only one from your main list that I've read before.

    Have a Happy New Year!

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  11. Ok, I totally have to read The Gargoyle now. Yours is the third list that I've seen it show up on! I have Garden Spells still sitting (totally just wrote "shitting" and had to change it :p) on my shelf after reading Bookfool's review of it last year. And I loved The Graveyard Book, When You are Engulfed in Flames, To Kill a Mockingbird and Fables this year. They were all fantastic and Graveyard Book is on my top list too :) Happy 2009 to you Andi!

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  12. Great list Andi - except, oh I loathed Garden Spells! Perhaps if I'd been trapped on a plane I would have like it better.

    Happy New Year! Here's hoping 2009 will bring us all peace and prosperity. Well, comfort anyway.

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  13. Lots of great stuff in your 'best of' post. Makes me smile enormously to see The Graveyard Book on their as you know I adored it. Garden Spells is a book that I picked up time after time in the bookstore but never pulled the trigger on purchasing it. I need to fix that error. I am on the waiting list for that Sedaris book at the library, I've really enjoyed finally reading and listening to him this year. I have Stolen Child on my pile and loved 1001 Nights, glad you did as well.

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  14. Oh, and To Kill a Mockingbird...amazing!!! I had a similar experience in holding off forever on reading it, but when I did...Oh My!!! What an incredible book. The stage performance I saw of it this year was fantastic and thankfully I haven't seen the film enough to be tired of it but I really like it a lot.

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  15. I enjoyed Chesil Beach too and David Sedaris is always fun. Great choices! :-)

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  16. Great top ten! I've read four of them and Gargoyle is on my list for this year. Have your read The Sugar Queen yet?

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  17. I have Garden Spells and The Stolen Child sitting on my bookshelf - now all I need is more time to read them!

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  18. Great list. I've got my written but not scheduled to post until later...in case I read another book between now and then that needs to be on the list. lol

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  19. Great list! I can't believe you never read To Kill a Mockingbird until this year.

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  20. I was wondering if Capote in Kansas would make your list :)
    So good to see your list and of course make some notes. I definitely plan on reading some of your faves!

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  21. Great list! I'm really looking forward to reading some of those in 2009, most notably The Gargoyle, and The Graveyard Book.

    Hope you have a fabulous New Year, Andi! :)

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  22. Oh you had such a great reading year!!! And I am SOOO glad you finally read To Kill a Mockingbird. Such a great book...

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  23. Love your list! I especially want to read Garden Spells and The Stolen Child.

    Happy New Year, Andi!

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  24. Great list, Andi! The Graveyard Book is in my top ten as well, and Garden Spells *just* missed it, as did Breaking Dawn. I'm so glad you picked up To Kill a Mockingbird this year--it's one of my all-time top five reads.

    Have a wonderful New Year!

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  25. What a great list - I've got the Neil Gaiman and the David Sedaris on my to be read list. I read To Kill A Mockingbird way back in my school days but I'm thinking I need to revisit it. I've so far stayed away from The Gargoyle - have read mixed things about it but I might have to pick it up.

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  26. so fun to read your faves, must seek out some of them. and i must do a similar post. it seems like a great thing to reflect on a year's worth of reading...

    i loved animal, vegetable miracle as well. :-)

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  27. Nice list! I also enjoyed several of these books. I know you're probably glad you've finally read To Kill a Mockingbird so everyone will quit trying to convince you to read it. hehe Seriously though, it is myh all-time favorite book. Happy 2009!

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  28. Of your top books, To Kill a Mockingbird is STILL my number one all-time favorite!! I also read and enjoyed both Garden Spells and Evernight. Great list!!

    Andi, I hope you have a wonderful 2009!

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  29. I just finished The Graveyard Book and loved it! I have Sedaris lined up for 2009 along with so many other books! Happy new year!

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  30. Great list! I really need to read On Chesil Beach - I keep forgetting about it when I go to the library lol.

    Loved seeing Mockingbird on your list - such a good book and I finally got around to watching the movie WOW probably one of the best book-film translations!

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  31. Happy New Year Andi! I really need to try Garden Spells a coworker suggested it to me, too. And I agree with you on To Kill a Mockingbird. Happy reading in 2009.

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  32. This is the year I'm going to "discover" Neil Gaiman.

    The Saturday Review at Semicolon this week is dedicated to lists, past and future, and you're invited to share a link to yours.

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  33. Happy New Year, and what a great list! I am especially happy to see The Gargoyle there as I'll be reading it with my book club this year.

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  34. I've been wanting to read Garden Spells for ages, and you may have inspired me to pick it up! Happy New Year, Andi.

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  35. Nice list. It looks like you had a really great year of reading in 2008. Hope you have a great and happy new year!

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  36. I love the lists and am always amazed at the variety of books that everyone comes up with. Again, your list has lots of books I haven't even heard of, let alone read. This is great and I may 'borrow' some. I did enjoy On Chesil Beach and Sedaris is on my wishlist... But how long is that one already? Happy reading in 2009.

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  37. Wow, 9 perfect scores?! That's awesome, Andi. Glad you had such a good year of reading. I haven't gotten around to my list yet, but I'm pretty sure Garden Spells will be included. And ya know, I didn't read To Kill a Mockingbird until I was almost 40!

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  38. I've been avoiding "The Gargoyle" because like you say, it's such an "it" book, but sometimes all the hype is worth something, isn't it? I think I may just pick it up. Another book that I really need to pick up is "The Stolen Child." I've had thousands of chances to buy this book and never have. Maybe I see it every time I'm in the bookstore for a reason.

    As for "To Kill a Mockingbird," we're in the same boat - or we used to be. High school and one degree in English later, it's still on my TBR list. It is now officially on my must read list for 2009.

    Great list!

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