Jan 02 2009
As is my annual tradition, I present here a list of the books I read in the just-ended calendar year (2008). Not included are the five titles I put down, unfinished for one reason or another. The list is sorted alphabetically, by author. Particularly noteworthy ones are highlighted in yellow.
- The Prodigal Tongue, by Mark Abley
- Alentejo Blue, by Monica Ali
- Koba the Dread, by Martin Amis
- If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin
- Frederick Street, by Maude Barlow and Elizabeth May
- Hotel Bemelmans, by Ludwid Bemelmans
- Meat: A Love Story, by Susan Bourette
- Talk Talk, by T.C. Boyle
- The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo Gutiérrez, by Jimmy Breslin
- The City and the Stars, by Arthur C. Clarke
- Age of Iron, by J.M. Coetzee
- Boyhood, by J.M. Coetzee
- Running in Place; Scenes from the South of France, by Nicholas Delbanco
- Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, By Guy Delisle
- Hello to All That; by John Falk
- On Truth, by Harry G. Frankfurt
- The Ancient Tea Horse Road, by Jeff Fuchs
- 100 Myths About the Middle East, by Fred Halliday
- The Nick Adams Stories, by Ernest Hemingway
- Seven Openings of the Head, by Liane Keightley
- Peanutbutter & Jeremy’s Best Book Ever, by James Kochalka
- The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
- Heroes, by Joe McGinness
- Twenty Six, by Leo McKay Jr.
- On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan
- We Are Now Beginning Our Descent, by James Meek
- Starting Out in the Evening, by Brian Morton
- Paul Moves Out, by Michel Rabagliati
- Paul Goes Fishing, by Michel Rabagliati
- Clyde Fans, by Seth
- Toast, by Nigel Slater
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
- A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, by David Foster Wallace
- Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates
- Rat, by Andrzej Zaniewski
That’s 35 books, down from last year’s all-time high of 38. Some, of course, were just silly (the Peanutbutter & Jeremy book is basically a collection of cartoons for kids, but at 276 pages, it qualifies as a “book”). I enjoyed them all, although some stood out more than the others.
The statistical breakdown is as follows:
- 31 books written by men, four written by women. I’m not sure why so few women made my list this year.
- Five books of a “graphical” nature (graphic novels, or “cartoons”).
- 19 books categorized as fiction, and 16 as non-fiction. These are very slippery categories, as many works are a mixture of both. For example, Leo McKay’s Twenty Six is a fictionalized account of an actual mining disaster. Boyhood by J.M. Coetzee reads like fiction, but is categorized as memoir. The “Paul” graphic novels by Michel Rabagliati are taken very much from his own life experiences, but are considered fiction.
- Nine “memoirs” (one of my favorite categories). This too is a slippery category. For example, I consider Martin Amis’s Koba the Dread a memoir because it is as much about Amis and his conversations about Stalin as it is about Stalin itself. (And ultimately, isn’t everything that Martin Amis writes really about Martin Amis?) Another way to categorize it would be “impressionistic biography” but I’m not sure Amazon has listings for that. Then there’s the already mentioned categorization problem with the excellent Boyhood by J.M. Coetzee, plus The Ancient Tea Horse Road, by Jeff Fuchs is as much a memoir as it is a travel and adventure book and a reference for tea lore.
The find of the year, however, goes to Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. I already wrote about it here, but I think it deserves another shout-out. As you probably know, the film version is currently playing in the cinemas, although I wonder if the cinematic medium will succeed in capturing the tension and the feel of the slowly twisting knife in the gut that Yates brings out in his crisp and piercing writing style. This is one of those books that you read as much — or more — for the writing itself as for the story and characters.
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