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I'm a Minnesota Girl, living in the south. I tell my friends I try not to talk and think like a Yankee, but sometimes I slip up!

Friday, January 2, 2009

My Best Books of 2008

Usually my list of books (and the one on movies) makes some obscure listing in Epinions or a list on Amazon. Having enjoyed Bob's piece on what he read this year that were at the top of his list, I decided to publish here. The books on this list were either released in 2008, or late in 2007:

1. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.
New English translation of a Swedish best seller; a journalistic thriller about power and corruption that was “unputdownable”. Larsson died in 2004, leaving this and two other manuscripts. He’s got a genius for drawing people in, and the plot was taught, thrilling, and surprising in it’s treatment of sexuality. Although the rest of my list is not necessarily in my order of preference, this was clearly my number one novel of 2008.

2. The Condition by Jennifer Haigh.
This was a complex book about family relationships and redemption, set in New England. Memorable characters are compelling, and a return to form by an author who created a memorable debut a few years ago with “Mrs. Kimble”.

3. Angler: The Story of the Dick Cheney Vice Presidency, by Barton Gellman.
Gellman and his writing partner from the Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for their series on Dick Cheney. That led to more research, and eventually this tome of the Cheney Vice Presidency, on the eve of its demise. The account is mesmerizing, bringing the intuition that Cheney was behind most of this President’s white house decision making into reality, and showing how he was able to do so, while still maintaining his own secretiveness and low profile. There are some relatively shocking things that come to light, all made more real by the recent interview of Cheney on ABC, where he admitted that he played a key role in torture, including waterboarding; and that he thought it was “appropriate”. He also espouses the recommendation that Obama should keep Guantanamo Bay open and that “it has been very well run”. My Word. He doesn’t even hide in plain sight.

4. The People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks.
In the manner of “The Da Vinci Code”, Brooks, one of our finest fiction writers today keeps the reader moving between modern day Europe and a variety of historical situations where an ancient, valuable Hebrew Haggadah (sometimes known as the Sarajevo Haggadah) made an appearance, and was somehow touched or modified by a tragedy of that century. These alternating chapters illustrate how the prejudice and hatred of centuries passed are sometimes repeated in today’s world of conflict.

5. The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane.
A gifted author of “Mystic River” and the Kenzie Gennaro novels turns to historical fiction and paints a rich portrait of historic Boston and its police union. While I hate that Lehane has given up thrillers, this book was consuming and rich in writing style and plot.

6. JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James W. Douglass.
Conspiracy resurrected by the release of new material from Washington, this book brings new insight to the forces arrayed against JFK. Brilliant and insightful writing.

7. On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwen.
Although it was written in 2007, I didn’t pull it from the stack on my nightstand until early this year. It still haunts me. Heartbreaking tale of lost love and dashed expectations, this is a beautiful, short read that will stay with you a long time. One caution; too overtly sexual for some.

8. Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith.
Terrifying first novel about the hunt for a serial killer in Cold War Russia. There are some brutal features in this book, but the ending was telegraphed a little too soon. Well written, with a twist.

9. Brass Verdict, by Michael Connelly.
Without a doubt, in the world of murder mysteries, despite Coben, despite Crais, my favorite author is Michael Connelly. Connelly brings back Mickey Haller, the rogue criminal attorney from his “The Lincoln Lawyer” (and then I had to reread that, too!) and pairs him with long-time protagonist cop Harry Bosch; for Bosch’s 15th outing. Can’t break this habit…Connelly is just too good.

10. The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch.
Professor Pausch’s book of hope and inspiration as he fights terminal cancer doesn’t focus on the disease, but on living life with humor and generosity, and how they work to help you realize you may have reached some of the richest of your childhood dreams.


Bob said...

Great list, Quid! And glad to see a lot of nonfiction here! I have had The Last Lecture sitting and waiting for some time so will definitely pick it up in 2009.

Hal Johnson said...

Fascinating list, Quid. Thanks for posting it. And Happy New Year!

Kelly said...

Interesting list, Quid. The People of the Book was the only one I've read. I loved it, too! Have you read either of her other novels? I think I liked Year of Wonders even better than this one.

I'll have to check out some of your other selections.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for sharing this interesting list. When I was still with Fiery Spirit I hesitated about buying The People of the Book but decided in favour of a Brunetti title by Donna Leon. But I will definitely buy The People of the Book eventually. And among the titles of your list Professor Pausch's book piqued my curiosity.