Thursday, October 1, 2009

Favorite Books Read in 2008 (Fiction)

Of the fiction books I read in 2008, I would say the following were my 10 favorites, in no particular order.

  • The Great Man by Kate Christensen (2007). Won the PEN/Faulkner award in 2008 for good reason.
  • Atticus by Ron Hansen (1996).
  • Serena by Ron Rash (2008). LOVED this book. Made me go out, buy, and read his other 3 novels, all of which were excellent. One of my favorite writers.
  • Housekeeping (1980) and Gilead (2004), two novels by Marilynne Robinson. Both excellent. I need to read her new novel, a sequel to Gilead called Home. Gilead actually made me think about the meaning of faith, which is saying something considering that I would consider myself an agnostic. Really good stuff.
  • Amy and Isabelle (1998) and Olive Kitteridge (2008), two novels by Elizabeth Strout. Another quality pair.
  • Bone by Fae Myenne Ng (1993). Very evocative work set in San Francisco's Chinatown.
  • Cheating at Canasta (Stories) by William Trevor (2007). A fabulous collection by one of the truly great (and prolific) short story writers. Trevor is in his 80's by now and is still brilliant.
  • The End of California by Steve Yarbrough (2006). This is another guy who became one of my favorite writers after reading this book. I have since read most of his works.
  • Old School by Tobias Wolff (2003). Fantastic. Went back and read a bunch of his earlier stuff also.
  • Philip Roth. A bunch. The Ghost Writer (1979), Zuckerman Unbound (1981), Everyman (2006) and Indignation (2008). Considered one of the greatest American writers of the modern era for good reason. Read 5 of his books and barely scratched the surface.

OK, so my top 10 list was actually 15 books, but hey, it's my blog, right? 2008 was really the first year that I got back into reading fiction after many years of reading primarily history. As can be seen from the pattern of my remarks, very often reading one book by a new author (or new for me) would result in finding someone I really liked and then reading more of their books. My 54 books were by only 31 different authors. Since it had been a good solid decade or so without reading more than the occasional fiction book, I ended up reading a lot of books that had won or been nominated for some of the major literary awards. It turns out that was a pretty good strategy...

I guess this list begs the question "so which was your favorite", and I've thought about that for a little while as I sit here uploading CDs into iTunes... I can't really pick one favorite, although I guess I can narrow it down to 3: Olive Kitteridge, Serena, and The Great Man. Read any or all, you can't go wrong. OK, read Serena first. Olive Kitteridge second. The Great Man third. Hey, I guess that makes it Serena!

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