This Sunday Salon signs off 2008 with a list of favourite books I read in 2008.
How to compile my list of favourite books for 2008? There are a number of ‘challenges’ I signed up for but I don’t think I completed all. Never mind: they helped me pick up some books I would otherwise never have thought of reading. And isn’t that the main purpose of the challenges? Not necessarily to be able to tick off the most books read, but rather, to arrive at a list of books that you have enjoyed reading. I have read and become completely sidetracked, over and over again, but then, who cares?
The year started with the Russian Reading challenge. I did not complete that: most of the books I was going to read as part of the challenge are still neatly piled up on one of the shelves of my bookcase. I read quite a number of them in the past, years ago anyway. Nevertheless, I greatly enjoyed Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita which was one of the recommendations and also enjoyed rereading Crime and Punishment on the beach in Crete. And then it petered out somehow, although I read a couple of short stories (I think they count?) from Chekhov’s collection ’Lady with Lapdog and other Stories’. I read the title story and Boring – the first one I reviewed, the second one I never got round to. I also read The Overcoat, by Gogol. A great story and a classic of course.
I did slightly better with the Orange Prize Project and as this is an undated challenge set by Ex Libris I shall simply continue. The aim is to read all of the winners and the shortlist and I think I’m not doing too badly on the whole. It is obviously a long-term challenge, if only because how far back do we go? I have read a great many of the shortlist and the winners and should update my site accordingly! From this year’s list I read the winner The Road Home by Rose Tremain, and also from the shortlist The Outcast by Sadie Jones and When we were Bad, by Charlotte Mendelson.
Then there was the Short stories Reading challenge and I have read here, there and everywhere. This challenge did in fact help me to rediscover the short story and realise how much I in fact enjoy them. I’ve discovered Tobias Wolff, Raymond Carver, David Malouf and Susan Hill. In addition I began to enjoy reading Haruki Murakami’s short stories and moved on to lengthier books, and of course Flannery O’Connor. So, thanks to Kate, this challenge very much a broadened the reading horizon!
Finally I signed up for the Neustadt Reading Challenge, hosted by Alisia at Bookhaven. The challenge was to read books by authors who have won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. I did come through this one, well within the time limit and enjoyed (re)reading Gabriel Garcia Marques Love in a Time of Cholera (and of course, saw the film later, which was done very well), Max Frisch ‘Homo Faber’ and David Malouf Every Move You Make (doubling up as meeting the challenge for the short stories….).
The above books are reviewed and you will find the reviews under their link to my blog.
In addition there were many more books this year and below I will give you my ten favourites, read this year (not necessarily published this year!). I think it has not been a bad reading year at all and I look forward to the next.
Top ten – Fiction:
Tim Winton: Breath
Joseph O’Neill: Netherland
Ali Smith: Girl meets Boy
Maggie O’Farrell: After You’d Gone
Nahid Rachlin: Persian Girls
Michael Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
WG Sebald: Austerlitz
Haruki Murakami: After Dark
William Boyd: Any Human Heart
Mary Phillips: Gods Behaving Badly
Non-Fiction – recommendations:
James Wood: How Fiction Works
John Sutherland: How to Read a Novel
Short Stories – recommendations:
Tobias Wolff: Back in the World
Raymond Carver: Where I’m Calling From
Haruki Murakami: Blind Willow Sleeping Woman
All of these books are reviewed and the links to the reviews can be found here.
Wishing you all a perfect reading year to come, and time to reflect, write and enjoy many more books. I look forward to read about your discoveries and am happy to share mine. Happy new year.
Bye bye 2008