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Year in Review: Reading Wrap-Up

Sticky Post (Posted until Jan 7)

Out of the 94 books read this year, let’s review some of the most memorable titles. I have enjoyed almost every book I have read in 2008, so the task to select the best reads can be equivalent to jury’s deliberation of a tough case. Other than literary erudition, unique voice, I rely on how extensively a book ingrains in my mind. I closed my Moleskine’s notebook and reflected upon the books that my memory first summoned:


Best New Fiction (Published in 2008)

The Future of Love Shirley Abbott

Letter from Point Clear Dennis McFarland

Finding Nouf Zoë Ferraris

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

The Art of Racing in the Rain Garth Stein

Best Backlist Fiction

The Birds Fall Down Rebecca West

The Uncommon Reader Alan Bennett

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian Marina Lewycka

The Dreyfus Affair Peter Lefcourt

Kansas in August Patrick Gale

Best Nonfiction

Gweilo: A Memoir of a Hong Kong Childhood Martin Booth

Best Cross-Genre Fiction

Traitor to the Race Scott Darieck

Best ARC/Books to Watch For

Little Bee: A Novel Chris Cleave

Cutting for Stone Abraham Verghese

Most Captivating Opening

Little Bee: A Novel Chris Cleave

Best Redeeming Second-Half

Landing Emma Donoghue

Most Read Author

Patrick Gale (3 Novels)

33 Responses

  1. I have the Potato Peel Sociey loaded on my iPod and ready for listening, as soon as I finish the latest John Sanford Prey novel. I’m very excited about it, even more so now that I’ve seen it on your best list!

    I must say that I have taken great pleasure in reading your blog. I am so happy that I found you, and I truly look forward to continue reading next year. Have a wonderful New Year!

  2. What a great list of books! I’m so excited you have picked The Art of Racing in the Rain. I adore Enzo! It’s a very heart-felt story, more than just a comfort read. I enjoyed The Future of Love and now I will put Letter From Point Clear to my TBR list, first in 2009!

  3. In thinking back about books I’d read in 2008, I’d forgotten about Martin Booth’s Gweilo, which, like you, I totally loved. I don’t read too much non-fiction, but least for 2008, I had an ultimate favourite book for both the fiction and non-fiction categories!

    Happy New Year, Matt and perhaps 2009 is the year that our paths cross IRL 🙂

  4. I have read none of those…perhaps they will make it onto my list for 2009.
    Happy New Year.

  5. I’ve got Cutting for Stone waiting for me so I’m very happy to hear it was one of your favorites!
    Happy New Year, Matt!

  6. Like you, I loved the Guernsey book and The Uncommon Reader. I’ve been meaning to read Rebecca West and Patirck Gale, so am glad to hear they’re good.

  7. You read and review very good books. I can’t the same for myself. Some seem like trash after looking back.

    Gonna check a few from your list..

    Wishing you a great reading 2009!

  8. It’s exciting reading everyone’s best of lists. You’ve listed quite a few titles that I am especially interested in reading one day. I hope you have a wonderful New Year, Matt!

  9. I’ll have to look out for some of them, Matt!
    Happy New Year to you! 🙂

  10. Great list Matt – there are a number on this list I have never heard of and will check them out. A very happy new year to you and lots more reading fun!

  11. Of the books on your list, I’ve only read Guernsey and RAcing in the Rain, but i LOVED both of them!

  12. Okay, I’ll keep The Birds Fall Down at the top of my TBR pile.

  13. I’m just starting the Guernsey Literary Society, so happy to see it made your top of the year list.

    I didn’t know Dennis McFarland had a new novel out -I’ve read and enjoyed his work in the past.

    And I’m definitley adding Patrick Gale to my TBR list for 2009.

    Thanks for the recommendations 🙂

  14. I really enjoyed The Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian as well and I really didn’t think that I would like it at first. I just felt so for the dad. It was a little torturous for me at times. Heading over to read your review.

    Happy New Year.

  15. Sandy:
    It feels like dejavu that you have been the first commenter in the last few posts! Thank you for your kind words, thank you for being a frequent visitor!

    Due to some negligence in the mailroom at work, I just mailed out the book you won from the giveaway. I’m so sorry for the delay.

    I listened to Guernsey during my morning commute after I read the novel. I enjoyed it even more! It’s made for audio book. 🙂

  16. John:
    One of my favorite characters from 2008 is Morris in Letter From Point Clear. I like his being so quirky, intellectual, and funny. Not to mention that he’s gay! He’s like a dream man! 🙂 Enzo will share the title of fave character as well.

  17. Regina:
    So what are your picks? I didn’t hear about the Gweilo book–just bumped into it at Dymock’s when I was going to Stanley. I remember reading The Gathering over coffee in a cafe at the Stanley Plaza. On the way back to the bus terminal I walked into Dymocks and saw the book was featured.

  18. mari:
    I’m glad the list will make your TBR list. Happy reading. 🙂

  19. iliana:
    I’m planning to attending his reading down in Palo Alto (where Stanford is) next month. 🙂

  20. adevotedreader:
    Rebecca West is very strenuous but worth the effort. It’s partly historical fiction that is turned into a psychological harangue. Patrick Gale has a keen eye on nuances of human condition and family drama.

  21. gautami:
    Thank you. I tend to search for books that are similar to my favorite books. I take recommendation from people who share similar reading taste. Every once in a while I’m also stuck with something that doesn’t live up to my expectation. I guess that’s life. 🙂

  22. Literary Feline:
    Like you, I enjoy reading everyone’s list as well, scrupulously writing down titles that catch my attention. 🙂

  23. Melody:
    Happy Reading! Hope you’ll enjoy the books I’ve picked. 🙂

  24. seachanges:
    If you don’t have much time, watch out for Cutting For Stone and Little Bee. Little Bee is released in the UK under the title The Other Hand. Great story about immigrants.

  25. Lisa:
    I listened to Guernsey during my morning commute after I read the novel. I enjoyed it even more! It’s made for audio book. The Art of Racing in the Rain has lingered in my mind for a long time. I can’t help thinking of Enzo whenever I look at my labrador! 🙂

  26. CB James:
    That’s a very nice choice! 🙂

  27. Becca:
    Dennis McFarland and Patrick Gale are very similar in their delineation of family tension and melodrama. I recommend both authors. 🙂

  28. Nicole:
    I laughed my head off reading A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. It’s got its emotional and touching moments. A surprised delight! 🙂

  29. The Art of Racing in the Rain (how cute is the cover!) and The Dreyfus Affair sound very intriguing.

  30. Ken:
    Read them. They’re both incredible books.

  31. thx for replying to my post about my song picks of 2008 (haven’t checked my blog too often lately, sry for late reply)!

    i’ve been a loyal supporter of at17 and hocc for X years haha, but both songs i picked really stood out and were able to move me, good stuff!

    i’m amazed… you read 90+ books in a year? im a slow reader and read only 10 in 08…, featured on my latest blog entry, any novels you can recommend?

  32. Great list. 94 books are very impressive. I would like to read Find Nouf, and I agree, Dennis McFarland deserves more publicity.

  33. I enjoyed just about everything I read last year, too. That does make it hard to narrow choices down to just one or two titles. And you read a lot more than I did, so I guess that made it even tougher. But I’m hoping to do better in 2009!

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