Rather to my own amazement, I managed to read 101 books in 2008 (not including “trash” books—damn you, kindle
!). This means that I made it more than half way through my Big List of Shame
, which stands at 163 books, eighty-three of which, according to the BLoS, I bought this year.*
I read sixty-seven works of fiction and thirty-four of nonfiction. This is bad only when you consider that despite the 2:1 ratio in reading, I have a nearly 1:1 ratio on my BLoS. I did the best in summer—no surprise there, since I tend to develop insomniac tendencies in hot weather. My worst month was April, followed by December. In April, it took me a long time to read Gate of the Sun
. In December, I think it was all the trash novels and general laziness.
Although I enjoyed most of the books I read, and I generally dislike picking favorites, here are ten rather randomly chosen highlights:
1. Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End
. I’m in love with this book. It’s the only narrative I’ve ever read that successfully managed a second person plural pov. And it’s funny and spot on about office life.
2. Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide.
One of my favorite authors, and I think this is my favorite book of his to date (I haven’t read his new one yet). If for no other reason, read it for the setting, the Sundarbans, the ever-changing Ganges tidal delta, inhabited by tigers, crocodiles and, perhaps, the rare river dolphin.
3. Peter Godwin, Mukiwa and When a Crocodile Eats the Sun
. There are a lot of areas of the world about which I feel my knowledge is sadly lacking, and the entire continent of Africa is one of them. These two books are memoirs of a white boy growing up in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, the end of white rule and what followed. Well written, troubling, and topical if you’re following today’s news.
4. Elias Khoury, Gate of the Sun
. I already discussed
a bit about this one.
5. David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
. I don’t know why it took me so long to read this. Six connected stories spread across time, set up like concentric rings. Brilliant.
6. Tahir Shah, The Caliph's House
. I bought this one up on a whim and have no regrets. A British writer of partial Afghani parentage makes a sudden decision to pick up and move his family to Morocco.
7. Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character
. If you like the Iliad and are interested in the psychology of war, run to read this book.
8. Raja Shehadeh, Palestinian Walks
. See here
9. M. G. Vassanji, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall
. I had never heard of this Canadian author, which is one of the reasons I’m selecting this book for mention. Story of how the main character, of Indian ancestry but born to immigrant parents in Kenya, comes to be one of the most notoriously corrupt men in a country notorious for corruption.
10. Evelyn Waugh, Black Mischief
. I read a lot of Waugh this year. It was hard to pick between this one and Put Out More Flags
, but I think this one wins for me by a narrow margin. Read both. ( Complete List of 2008 books )
* This is rather a cheat. I bought *ahem* quite a few books toward the end of this year that I haven’t added to my list (some of them haven’t arrived). Coming soon: 2009 Big List of Shame.