Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008 in Reading Review


2008 Review...

Well, this is the second time I've done this on Ex Libris Fides. It is a fun year-end exercise to go back over what I've read and reflect on which books have really stayed with me and had an impact, for good or ill. The total for 2008 is 79 books, 42 fiction and 37 non-fiction. The non-fiction covers a wide range of topics - lots of churchy stuff as well as lots of random stuff thrown in. In looking over my list for 2008, I think that most of the books had something to offer - there is only one that I would say is a total dud (which will be revealed later).

Just for the record, this is a record only of books - it's too difficult to keep track of magazines, newspapers, and Internet reading. So, here's the list for 2008, in the order in which they were read:

The United Stated of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation (NF - foodie history) by David Kamp
I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman (NF - essays) by Nora Ephron
The Book of Marie (F) by Terry Kay
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (NF - memoir) by Ishmael Beah
When Jesus Came to Harvard by Harvey Cox (NF - theology/ethics) by Harvey Cox
The Song of the Lark (F) by Willa Cather (read 2 times in 08)
Einstein: His Life and Universe (NF - biography) by Walter Isaacson
The Jump-Off Creek (F) by Molly Gloss
Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens (NF - theology/church development) by Neil Cole
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Christ on Trial: How the Gospel Unsettles Our Judgement (NF - theology) by Rowan Williams
The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop? (NF - true crime/social commentary) by Francisco Goldman
The God of Animals (F) by Aryn Kyle
Away (F) by Amy Bloom
Half of a Yellow Sun (F) by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
Pillar of Fire (NF - history, biography) by Taylor Branch
Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World (NF - humor/history/essays) by Sarah Vowell
Good Grief (F) by Lolly Winston
People of the Book (F) by Geraldine Brooks
Four Short Stories of Leo Tolstoy: Master and Man, The Death of Ivan Ilych, The Kreutzer Sonata, and Family Happiness (F) by Leo Tolstoy
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (NF - memoir) by Bill Bryson
A Generous Orthodoxy (NF - theology)
Death Comes for the Archbishop (F) by Willa Cather
The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (NF - history/current affairs) by Jeffrey Toobin
Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity (NF - theology/biblical studies) by Elaine Pagels and Karen King
The Member of the Wedding (F) by Carson McCullers
Bridge of Sighs (F) by Richard Russo
Simple Church (NF - church development/administration) by Thom Raines and Eric Geiger
One for the Money (F) by Janet Evanovich
Morningside Heights (F) by Cheryl Mendelson
Complications: A Surgeon's Note on an Imperfect Science (NF - memoir/medicine) by Atul Gawande
The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories (F) by Susanna Clarke
Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith (NF - theology, emergent church) by Rob Bell
The Victoria's Secret Catalog Never Stops Coming: And Other Lessons I Learned from Breast Cancer (NF - memoir) by Jennie Nash
The Life of Elizabeth I (NF - biography) by Alison Weir
Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live (NF - theology/ethics) by Will and Lisa Samson
Mudbound (F) by Hillary Jordan
Run (F) by Ann Patchett
Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline (NF - theology/practice) by Lauren Winner
The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music (NF - memoir/social commentary) by Steve Lopez
I Don't Know How She Does It (F) by Allison Pearson
Invisible Man (F) by Ralph Ellison
The Sunday List of Dreams (F) by Kris Radish
What Is the What? (F) by Dave Eggers (2nd reading)
Dreamers of the Day (F) by Mary Doria Russell
The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments (NF - science) by George Johnson
A Thousand Splendid Suns (F) by Khaled Hosseini (2nd Reading)
Sarah (F) by Marek Halter
Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West (NF - memoir, politics) by Benazir Bhutto
The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (NF - theology/practice) by Shane Claiborne
A Spot of Bother (F) by Mark Haddon)
Handling Sin (F) by Michael Malone
The Wild Trees (NF - science/botany) by Richard Preston
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (F) by David Wroblewski
Transforming Congregational Culture (NF - church development) by Anthony Robinson
Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink (NF - foodie articles) edited by David Remnick
Saturday (F) by Ian McEwan
The Painted Veil (F) by W. Somerset Maugham
Under the Banner of Heaven (NF - history/current events/social commentary) by Jon Krakauer
The Plot Against America (F) by Philip Roth
A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports (NF - history/sportswriting/biography) by Brad Snyder
Double Whammy (F) by Carl Hiaasen
The Writing Class (F) by Jincy Willett
The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief (NF - theology) by Peter Rollins
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (NF - history/economics) by Naomi Klein
The Book Thief (F) by Markus Zusak
Nefertiti: Queen of Egypt, Daughter of Eternity (F) by Michelle Moran
Jesus for President (NF - theology) by Shane Claiborne
Anna Karenina (F) by Leo Tolstoy
We Need to Talk About Kevin (F) by Lionel Shriver
The Shack (F) by William Young
The Year of Living Biblically (NF - theology/biblical studies/humor) by A.J. Jacobs
Mystic River (F) by Dennis LeHane
Assassination Vacation (NF - history/humor/travelogue) by Sarah Vowell
Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography (NF - biography/history) by William Lee Miller
Three Daughters (F) by Letty Cottin Pogrebin
One of Ours (F) by Willa Cather
The Last Noel (F) by Michael Malone
Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa (NF - memoir/history) by Peter Godwin

As in the past, I list below my personal favorites in both fiction and non-fiction. Making this list is not so much a comment on a book's literary quality, although some "classics" certainly make the list. However, the sole criterion for making the top five is simply how much I liked and enjoyed and was moved in some way by the particular books listed. The listings are roughly in order of preference, but those gradations are very slight. I loved them all!

Top Five Fiction 2008:
The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (I was surprised by how much I liked this - couldn't put it down)
Handling Sin by Michael Malone
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimimanda Ngozi Adiche

Very close/Almost Made the List/Honorable Mention
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Top Five Non-Fiction 2008
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (absolutely hilarious)
Pillar of Fire by Taylor Branch (a must for people who like civil rights history)
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin
The Fidelity of Betrayal:Towards a Church Beyond Belief by Peter Rollins

Very Close/Almost Made the List/Honorable Mention:
Christ on Trial: How the Gospel Unsettles Our Judgement by Rowan Williams
The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne

For my own entertainment, and perhaps for that of those of you who have hung in this far, here are a few extra categories and books that were especially meaningful to me (or not) in this most recent reading journey:

Most Inspiring:
The Soloist: A Lost Dream, and Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music (a must read, also going to come out as a movie with Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. in March 2009)

Biggest Dud:
The Sunday List of Dreams by Kris Radish. Ridiculous, horribly written, dumb. Run from it.

Biggest Disappointment:
Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell (not terrible, just not up to the level of her prior works)

Most Theologically/Spiritually Broadening:
A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McClaren

Most Edifying About a Random Topic:
The Wild Trees by Richard Preston (I swear this will make you want to go see the redwoods)

Surprise Hit:
Saturday by Ian McEwan (at first I thought this would be a yawner, but got really into it)

Scariest:
The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein (no contest, one of the most frightening books I have ever read)

Funniest:
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell (or anything by Sarah Vowell)

Classic Authors Whose Acquaintance I am Happy to Have Made:
Willa Cather and Leo Tolstoy

"New" Authors (to me anyway) from Whom I Look Forward to Seeing More:
Aryn Kyle, Hillary Jordan, and Molly Gloss

Current Author Most Likely to be Labeled "Classic" in 150 Years:
Geraldine Brooks

Most Engaging Theologian of the Bunch
Rowan Williams

Most Fun Collection:
Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink edited by David Remnick

That's about it. I'm sure as soon as I close the post, I'll discover other things I should have mentioned. This was a tough year to choose my favorites, because I read so many things that were really good. I cannot close a post about the year 2008 without mentioning the ache of loss I still feel about the loss of my long time best friend, KB. I will always miss her.

Send me your thoughts - I am figuring out my "must reads" for 2009, and would love to hear things that you recommend. Also, send me your favorites from 2008. I'm passionate about books and writing. Can you tell?

Wishing everyone a peaceful, fulfilling, and bookish 2009!

Reverent Reader

7 Comments:

At 1/1/09, 10:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, here goes -- first time I've ever ranked favorites.

TOP 5 Fiction

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
The Work of Wolves by Kent Meyers
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Almost Made Top 5 and would make the top 8

The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
America, America by Ethan Canin

Top 3 Non Fiction

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
A Whole New MInd by Daniel Pink
Broken Open-How Difficult Times Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser

 
At 1/1/09, 10:30 PM , Anonymous Pam said...

Okay, here goes -- first time I've ever ranked favorites.

TOP 5 Fiction

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
The Work of Wolves by Kent Meyers
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Almost Made Top 5 and would make the top 8

The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
America, America by Ethan Canin

Top 3 Non Fiction

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
A Whole New MInd by Daniel Pink
Broken Open-How Difficult Times Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser

 
At 1/1/09, 11:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, here are Erin's 2008 list and some awards:


2008 Book List

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (N) (2nd reading)
After This by Alice McDermott (F)
Intuition by Allegra Goodman (F)
The Whole World Over by Julia Glass (F)
Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon (F)
Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner (F)
Miss American Pie by Margaret Sartor (N)
The Greatest Story Ever Sold by Frank Rick (N)
Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund (historical F)
Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg (N)
Emma by Jane Austen (F)
The Grail Bird by Tim Gallagher (N)
When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton (F)
The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather (F)
Freakonomics by Steven Leavitt and Stephen Dubner (N)
Run by Ann Patchett (F)
Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres (N)
On Agate Hill by Lee Smith (F)
The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu (F)
The Sisters—The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary Lovell (N)
The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama (F)
Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibigaza (N)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (F)
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (F)
God’s Troublemakers by Katherine Rhodes Henderson (N-read twice)
Dream When You’re Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg (F)
Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier (F)
An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison (N)
Slowness by Milan Kundera (F)
In My Blood by John Sedgwick (N)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (F)
The Sins of Scripture by John Shelby Spong (N)
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (F)
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (F)
Passing by Nella Larsen (F)
The Gathering by Anne Enright (F)
A Time to Embrace by Stacy Johnson (N)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (F)
Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston (F)
Pillar of Fire by Taylor Branch (N)
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perotta (F)
Deer Hunting With Jesus by Joe Bageant (N)
The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block (F)
The God We Never Knew by Marcus Borg (N)
The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein (F)
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris (F)
God’s Politics by Jim Wallis (N)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (F)
Finn by Jon Clinch (F)
The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne (N)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (F)
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo (F)
Restless by William Boyd (F)
The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson (F)
Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish (N)
Stoner by John Williams (F)
Finding Darwin’s God by Kenneth Miller (N)
The Shack by William P. Young (F)
Same Kind of Different as Me by Denver Moore and Ron Hall (N)
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (F—second reading)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (F)
China Road by Rob Gifford (N)
Father Melancholy’s Daughter by Gail Godwin (F—second reading)
Home by Marilynne Robinson (F)
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (N)
The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen Carter (F)
Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour (N)
Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott (N)
The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian (F)
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (N)

Top 5 Fiction

Run by Ann Patchett
The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Father Melancholy's Daughter by Gail Godwin
Home by Marilynne Robinson

Honorable Mention
The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
Stoner by John Williams

Top 5 Non-fiction

Pillar of Fire by Taylor Branch
Deer Hunting with Jesus by Joe Bageant
The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne
Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

Honorable Mention
Left to Tell by Imaculee Ilibigiza
Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott

Most Inspiring
God's Troublemakers by Katherine Rhodes Henderson

Biggest Dud
The Shack by William P. Young

Biggest Disappointment
Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner

Most Spiritually Broadening
The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne

Most Edifying About a Random Topic
The Grail Bird by Tim Gallagher

Surprise Hit
The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu

Scariest
Left to Tell by Imaculee Illibigiza

Funniest
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

New Authors to Watch
Stefan Merrill Block, Dinaw Mengestu

Current Authors Most Likely to be Labeled "Classic"
Geraldine Brooks, Ann Patchett, Richard Russo

 
At 1/1/09, 11:13 PM , Blogger TET said...

Wow, all of this makes me ashamed, b/c I don't think I've read 79 books in my entire life . . . let alone one year!
BUT I will say that Jeffrey Toobin is a cool character. He spoke at Riverdale just before the election, his kids go to Fieldston (just down the road) and two of his high school teachers now work at Riverdale.

 
At 1/2/09, 8:22 AM , Blogger Reverent Reader said...

Erin and Pam - thanks for participating, you have given me some great ideas for things I need to read. TET, I'm always amazed at your NYC connections. You really should read "The Nine," it's fascinating.

 
At 1/11/09, 12:44 AM , Blogger M. D. Vaden of Oregon said...

Don't think I've shared this with you, but here is a page pertaining to the largest known coast redwoods, including those written about in The Wild Trees which you listed:

Largest Coast Redwoods Photos and Info

You have read the book ... But consider checking out my book review. It links from an image of the book and another spot.

Was a good story.

Cheers

 
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