Saturday, December 6, 2008

Books of 2008

The New York Times has posted its annual list of the "100 Notable Books of 2008." This list comes out at the beginning of each December and thus encompasses things from the previous December. Divided into 1/2 fiction & poetry and 1/2 non-fiction, it is based on the reviews of books that appeared in the newspaper over the course of the year. Sadly, I haven't read a single thing on the list this year. Usually I can claim to have read at least a couple of titles, but no such luck this year. As has been noted on this blog before by me, I usually come late to things like books and films, just because that's the way my life usually goes. But to demonstrate that I have been a busy reader, over the past 12 months I have read 31 books, and in the spirit of "best of the year" traditions, I thought I would share some of the books that I read (with their year of original publication in parentheses).

In terms of fiction, my favorite novels were the literary classic Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925) and the psychological mystery A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine (1986). Other notable fiction reads for the year were Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster (1905), Lust, Caution by Eileen Chang (1979, translated into English 2007), The Book of Salt by Monique Truong (2003), and Grief by Andrew Holleran (2006). As for non-fiction, the subjects vary and although much from this group was research for conference presentations and coursework, others were for my own pleasure. Two of my favorites were biographies: Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman (1998) [see my review on this blog], and Michelangelo by Howard Hibbard (1974). Other notable non-fiction reads include the history books Longitude by Dava Sobel (1995) and The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922 by Donald Quataert (2000), the art historical text Classical Art: From Greece to Rome by Mary Beard and John Henderson (2001), and of course the memoirs of David Sedaris, When You Are Engulfed in Flames (2008) [see my review on this blog]. And if you're wondering about the image reproduced here, that is the cover of the latest novel I am reading, the vampire-themed novel The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (2005), but that will have to go on next year's list.

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