I've read a lot of good books this year, but a book that lands on my Best Reads list has that extra something that I find hard to define. These books have touched me, and have stayed with me, some for nearly a year now. They have surprised and impressed me. They are not necessarily what the critics would call the best books, but they are the books that have affected me most deeply.
I don't allow myself to put books on my list that are re-reads. But if I did, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood would both be on there. Both are timeless classic books, one set in the past, the other in the future. Both show life that is harsh, one ends with hope, the other, I still haven't decided. (What do you think happened at the end of The Handmaid's Tale?)
Here are my favorite books of 2008. Links will take you to my original review.
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak - Brilliantly creative storytelling, a story that touched my heart all wrapped up in a book I wasn't sure I wanted to read.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry - Set in India, terrible things happen in this book, every time you think the character's luck will change, things become worse. These characters were so alive for me, I still think about them, I still pick up this book and re-read the ending.
Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor - At only 64 pages, this book packs a bigger punch that books 10 times its size. This 1938 book of letters that was originally published as a magazine article set during WW2 deserves the hour of your time it will take to read.
The Master Butcher's Singing Club by Louise Erdrich - I was surprised to love this book that I read for bookclub. Unique characters and a compelling story put this book on my list.
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser - I thought I knew a lot about our country's food supply, but it turns out I was wrong. If you need another reason to never touch fast food or commercially produced meat, read this. If you want to be horrified at how the fast food industry has impacted our entire food supply, read this. Terrific.
When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson - Atkinson outdid herself with this third installment of her Jackson Brodie series. I love how she manages her tightly controlled plots and at the same time writes memorable and brilliant characters.
Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd - I haven't forgotten Miss Ranskill these many months. Brilliantly republished by Persephone Books.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - I read this despite being one of 17 people who didn't adore The Kite Runner. Hosseini tells an important and moving story, it's easy to forget that he is a man writing these full and deep female characters.
Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran - A delightful surprise which charmed me to pieces.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson - A late addition here - it's not easy for December reads to make it onto this list, I like to let thoughts percolate a bit. This teen novel surprised and impressed me with its utterly unique story and compelling main character. Pearson's peeks into the future are thrilling and I couldn't stop thinking about this book and telling others about it.
The Best Book of the Year? I cannot choose one, but without any hesitation the two books that stand out the most for me, that were unforgettable and stunning were:
The Book Thief
A Fine Balance
Happily, my book club will be reading The Book Thief in November of 2009 so I'll have the chance to experience it all over again.
Happy New Year to all of you! I am so grateful for this community and for the opportunity to share my reading life with all of you. Cheers!