Posted by: Corri van de Stege | December 28, 2008

Sunday Salon – the last one in 2008 – Challenges and Top Books

 tssbadge44This 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




  1. Great lists! I was especially fond of After Dark myself. I see some I need to add to my stacks as well.

  2. I’ve added Netherland and taken it off; later, I added it again and took it off again. Now I think I’ll add it again and actually give it a try.

  3. Andi – look forward to seeing your list of favourites!
    readerbuzz: definitely, keep it on your list…

  4. I like your 2008 fiction choices, especially The Master and Margarita! Austerlitz and Any Human Heart are in my pile, so I know for sure I’ll enjoy them!

  5. Just what I needed! Wonderful comments AND lists. I am copying it over in a small notebook I carry everywhere. Some are familiar only because you may have mentioned them before.

    Yay! I get to go to the bookstore with a giftcard I received. Thanks, SC!

    Happy reading and Happy New Year to you and yours!

  6. Thanks for posting your best of 2008! I love looking at other reader’s lists. I didn’t complete the Russian Reading Challenge either…I actually only read on book *laughs*

    Thanks for being part of the Orange Prize Project …just wanted to let you know that Ex Libris is not the host, I am *smiles*

  7. Happy New Year to you too! I’m glad to see After You’d Gone, Breath, How Fiction Works and Tobias Woolf in your best of list, as they were all favorites of mine.

    I’ve only recently read some Ali Smith, and look forward to reading more e.g Boy meets girl in ’09.

    Then there’s all the books in the TBR pile- Gogol, Raymond Carver, Sebald and Marie Phillips included. Your thumbs up might encourage me to actually read them soon!

  8. I read 31 short stories in Sept. All online. Great many genres!

    So much to explore.

    Last SS post of the year 2008

  9. matthew: well, the Master and Margarita was your recommendation! I am really grateful 🙂
    Oh: so glad I’m helping you with spending your book vouchers 🙂
    Wendy: humble apologies for this mistake, I don’t know how I got myself mixed up so badly! 🙂
    A devoted reader: I am only too happy to help you along with your reading 🙂
    gautami: enjoy! hard to keep up with all the reading and Ilook forward to seeing your favourites! 🙂
    To all: xx

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