Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Year 2008 Mapped Out in Books

It is perhaps fitting that the last book I finished reading in 2008 was Living by Fiction, by Annie Dillard and it’s even more fitting that I didn’t read Annie Dillard’s work until now.

The reading list for 2008 is long and varied. I didn’t have a plan for what I wanted to read this year and the titles are a mix of books that won awards or critical acclaim and books that were recommended to me by people I trust. Some were gifts, eleven of them were written by other bloggers, two were written by the man I voted for to be our next President and several are non-fiction titles I read to feed my interest in culture and politics.

The novels I read were a mixed bag and I enjoyed most of them. I firmly believe in the maxim that a writer needs to read as much, if not more than she writes. In 2007 and 2008 I spent a lot of time reading books that would give me a better idea what kind of novelist I want to be and I’ve finally developed a fair level of confidence that even though I can’t directly answer that question, I know where I’m headed.

The titles I’ve highlighted are the ones that I felt most strongly about and that left me with the rare thought that I'd love to have been able write them.

1. Forgetfulness, by Ward Just
2. Josie and Jack, by Kelly Braffett
3. Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, Illustrated by Joe Ciardiello
4. Twinkle, Twinkle, by Kaori Ekuni
5. On Love, by Alain de Botton
6. Veronica, by Mary Gaitskill
7. How Proust Can Change Your Life, by Alain de Botton
8. The Sky Isn’t Visible From Here, by Felicia C. Sullivan
9. I Killed Hemingway, by William McCranor Henderson
10. Gang Leader for a Day, by Sudhir Venkatesh
11. The Fourth Watcher, by Timothy Hallinan
12. Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee
13. The Double Bind, by Chris Bohjalian
14. Torch, by Cheryl Strayed
15. The Raw Shark Texts, by Steven Hall
16. How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, by Pierre Bayard
17. Meyer, by Stephen Dixon
18. The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith
19. Nine: Adolescence, by Amy Hassinger
20. Desperate Characters, by Paula Fox
21. John Lennon & The Mercy Street Café, by William Hammett
22. Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik
23. The Empanada Brotherhood, by John Nichols
24. How the Dead Dream, by Lydia Millet
25. Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.
26. One Sister's Song, by Karen Degroot Carter
27. The God File, by Frank Turner Hollon
28. Head Case: How I Almost Lost My Mind Trying to Understand My Brain, by Dennis Cass
29. America, America, by Ethan Canin
30. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield
31. The Eleventh Draft, edited by Frank Conroy
32. Time's Arrow, by Martin Amis
33. Rose's Garden, by Carrie Brown
34. The House on Fortune Street, by Margot Livesey
35. Simon Says, by Kathryn Eastburn
36. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
37. The Bright Forever, by Lee Martin
38. Catching Genius, by Kristy Kiernan
39. Inglorious, by Joanna Kavenna
40. A Three Dog Life, by Abigail Thomas
41. Migration Patterns, by Gary Schanbacher
42. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
43. Tethered, by Amy MacKinnon
44. How Fiction Works, by James Wood
45. Hoffman's Hunger, Leon de Winter
46. She Was, by Janis Hallowell
47. Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill
48. Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill
49. Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami
50. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
51. Leaving Atlanta, by Tayari Jones
52. Man in the Dark, by Paul Auster
53. The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama
54. One Good Turn, by Kate Atkinson
55. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski
56. The Confessions of Max Tivoli, by Andrew Sean Greer
57. Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama
58. Matrimony, by Joshua Henkin
59. The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton
60. The Nine, by Jeffrey Toobin
61. The Conscience of a Liberal, by Paul Krugman
62. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins
63. Crazy for God, by Frank Schaeffer
64. Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, by Richard Hofstadter
65. The Fall of Rome, by Martha Southgate
66. The Maytrees, by Annie Dillard
67. Like Trees, Walking, by Ravi Howard
68. On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
69. God Knows: It's Not About Us, by Blayney Colmore
70. Edinburgh, by Alexander Chee
71. Songs for the Missing, by Stewart O'Nan
72. Orange Mint and Honey, by Carleen Brice
73. Living by Fiction, by Annie Dillard

I own many short story collections, but I rarely read one of them from cover to cover (I only read two short story collections in 2008). I do like to dip in and out of them, so I've decided to list the short stories as I read them. There is a new sidebar with the most recent:

The Babysitter, by Robert Coover

Going into 2009 my reading goals are quite focused. Although I will continue to cheer my fellow bloggers on and I'll support them by buying their books, I plan to be much more stingy with my reading time and my choices will be far more self-serving in order to advance my writing goals.

I have an entire bookcase loaded with books I've not yet read and I intend to work through it with a vengeance.

I plan to start 2009 out with one of the big mothers I've been saving (or putting off -- take your pick) because of length and difficulty, so if you've got a yen to read Swann's Way, Gravity's Rainbow, The Recognitions or Infinite Jest anytime soon, drop me an email and we can give each other moral support.

How was your year in reading? Did you have a plan and if so, did you stick to it? If you're a writer, did you read any books you'd like to have written? What books did you most enjoy?

Note: My first post inadvertently left off Orange Mint and Honey, by Carleen Brice. I don't recall when I actually read the book, but I was honored to have the chance to read an advance reader copy and I was so thrilled that I kept it a secret -- and consequently neglected to list the book on my sidebar or the first run of this list.


smallspiralnotebook said...

Thank you so much for your constant, wonderful support. Happy New Year.

xo, Felicia

moonrat said...

hey! you read edinburgh. awesome. i wonder what your thoughts were? i'm dying to share mine! (and have to wait until march for the book club discussion.) if you are bored, you could email me...

Charles Gramlich said...

I have a lot of short story collections too and dip in and out. I sort of consider myself to be reading them all at once.

Patti said...

WOW! and happy new year, girl!

steve said...

Lisa, your reading list always astounds me. I tend towards nonfiction--I think David Halberstam's final book, "The Coldest Winter," on the Korean War, was at the top of my list. Garry Wills's "Head and Heart," and two books by Karen Armstrong--one on the Axial Age, and the other called, I think, "A History of God," were excellent. I've never read anything by Robert Coover. Check this out to see one reason why:

Have you heard anything about Patry Francis? I keep checking her blog to see any news. I just hope and pray she's on the road to recovery.

pattinase (abbott) said...

What a wonderful list. I still remember DISGRACE with such admiration.

Carleen Brice said...


Julie Layne said...

Once again, great minds think alike. ;-) I've been thinking about my "year in books" blog post all day, only I think I'll wait 'til tomorrow because I still have 15 pages to go on the last book. Ha. I think my list might be longer, but you are miles and miles ahead of me on subject matter. Congratulations on such an amazing year of reading!

Lisa said...

Felicia, I have delighted in following your incredible journey this year. Much love and success to you in 2009.

Moonrat, Well yes -- you gave it such a glowing review that I "one-clicked" it and read it the same week. Your recommendations haven't steered me wrong yet. I may very well have to email you my was very, very good.

Charles, I'm usually a very serial reader, but I finally gave up on the idea of reading entire collections -- I was missing out on too much good stuff. You should have tipped me about this sooner!

Patti, And a very happy 2009 to you and yours.

Steve, The list this year kind of shocked me too. I've got some tougher reads lined up for 2009 so I won't have a line up like this next year I don't think. I'll have to check some of your titles out -- they sound like they may be my kind of thing too.

I re-read the Coover post and remembered it right away -- blech! I can't blame you there, and now I'll have to wash the image out of my head before I go on to read more of him!

Patti, I just hope the movie adaptation does the book justice. It had such an impact on me that I spent a lot of time on line reading about South Africa in the post-Apartheid era. We (Americans) sort of lost interest in what happened once things began to change and I really had no idea things have been so difficult for so many and continue to be so.

Carleen, Yikes! I've added it now. When I first read Orange Mint and Honey, it was the ARC you were nice enough to let me read. It was the first ARC I'd ever seen and at the time, I was paranoid about it -- I wasn't sure I was allowed to even reveal that I'd read a book before it had been published and I was afraid to list it on the sidebar. Over time, I plain forgot to add it - it's there now!

Julie, I can't wait to see what you were reading all year. Happy New Year!

Sustenance Scout said...

My goal this year is to read your five 2008 favorites, Lisa! I forgot you read One Sister's Song so recently. It was a nice surprise to see its title on such an amazing list. K.

Daniel said...

Congratulations on so much reading, and best wishes for 2009.

Lisa said...

Karen, I've got them all here and you're welcome to borrow them anytime!

Daniel, Thank you so much. I hope things at Rutgers are working out for you and that you're enjoying teaching and your MFA studies. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

Shauna Roberts said...

As usual, and as expected, little overlap between our books!

My goal for the year was to read fewer, but larger, books, of which I have many on my shelves and usually enjoy once I get over the intimidation factor. I did read fewer books, but primarily from lack of time not from greater ambition. I read more short romance novels than I'd care to admit. I haven't set reading goals for this year other than to make a dent in my growing TBR pile.

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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.

Virginia Woolf