On this, the last day of the year, I bring you a list of all the books I read during 2008. I will highlight my favorites and put the rest in a list for you to peruse according to your interest. Based on my records (not kept very meticulously, so there might be a few titles missing), I read 65 books this year, compared to 57 last year. Three of those books I didn't finish (they're marked with an asterisk). If you recommended a book to me, and I read it, I've tried to give you credit. Let me know if I missed any. The links are to reviews I posted on my blog throughout the year.
My Favorite 10 Books of 2008 (in no particular order):
The Six Wives of Henry VIII (Alison Weir).Forget all those Philippa Gregory historical fiction novels - the real thing is even more fascinating. This book has the added distinction of being the last one I finished reading before Magdalena was born.
Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier). Reviewed here. Orson Scott Card and I have yet to reconcile.
Breaking Dawn (Stephenie Meyer). Last year, I cited the collected works of Jane Austen as one book. Can I do the same here for all the Twilight novels and maybe even The Host? Breaking Dawn is also notable for being the book I read while in early labor with Magdalena.
Desperate Passage (Ethan Rarick). The best book I've ever read about the Donner Party - and believe me, I've read a few. The story of the ill-fated wagon train is already gripping, and this book manages to tell it without being sensational or lurid. There is so much more going on here than (alleged) cannibalism. Recommended by my mom and sister.
The Israel Lobby (John J. Mearsheimer & Stephen N. Walt). Words cannot describe how this book affected my outlook on all things Israel. If you think you know your Middle Eastern stuff, think again. And again. And again. This remains the most erudite/difficult/metaphorically thick book I've read to date.
Shadow Divers (Robert Kurson). I am interested in neither deep-sea diving nor shipwrecks, but I could not put this book down. Recommended by my brother-in-law Dave.
Pushed (Jennifer Block). Reviewed here. Gentlemen, if you're ever in the mood for a book about childbirth, give this one a try. Ladies, this one is a must if you're looking for an unemotional, fact-based look at modern childbirth options.
The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins). So novel. So brutal. So compelling. So good. Recommended by Stephenie Meyer.
Lone Survivor (Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson). You may recall my feelings on this one. Recommended by my brother-in-law Scott.
Our Mutual Friend (Charles Dickens). I love Dickens. I really do. Also uncommonly good is the 1998 miniseries based on this book.
The rest, divided into categories for your convenience:
Young Adult/Juvenile Literature
Tamar (Mal Peet). A World War II mystery is solved by characters in present-day England. It could have been better, but it was still a very good, moderately creepy story. I've always liked the name Tamar for a girl, but this book put an end to that (to say any more would constitute a spoiler).
Twilight (Stephenie Meyer)
New Moon (Stephenie Meyer)
Eclipse (Stephenie Meyer)
Enthusiasm (Polly Shulman). Yes, I read this one last year, too. Recommended by Shannon Hale.
Book of a Thousand Days. Shannon Hale is at it again, writing books that I love.
Keturah and Lord Death (Martine Leavitt). Recommended by Nancy.
Found (Margaret Pearson Haddix). I love multi-volume book series because if I like the first, I know there are a few more books out there just waiting for me to read. This one is particularly intriguing - 13 years ago, an airplane pulled up to its gate at the airport with no crew, just a baby in each seat. What the?!? Recommended by Orson Scott Card.
The Princess and the Hound (Mette Ivie Harrison). Shannon Hale does it better. I might have loved this book if I hadn't read anything by her before. As it was, I only liked it. Recommended by Laura.
Bloody Jack : being an account of the curious adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy (Louis A. Meyer). This generation's Charlotte Doyle, yet disturbingly PG-13 for a YA book. Recommended by Sharon.
Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli). Face it - we all knew, or were, a Stargirl in high school. Recommended by Laura.
I Am David (Anne Holm)
The Sweet Far Thing (Libba Bray)
The Other Boleyn Girl (Philippa Gregory). I had started this one a year or two ago and didn't finish it. It improved upon re-reading. Recommended by Mikael.
The Queen's Fool (Philippa Gregory)
A Flaw in the Blood (Stephanie Barron)
The Host (Stephenie Meyer)
The English Patient* (Michael Ondaatje). If you read this book and liked it, I don't know if we can be friends anymore. Though perhaps it would have helped if I finished it.
Rhett Butler’s People (Donald McCaig)
Duty and Desire (Pamela Aidan). Dumbest. Title. Ever. It's one of those Pride & Prejudice, continued books (but not a trashy one).
These Three Remain (Pamela Aidan)
An Assembly Such as This (Pamela Aidan)
Moscow Rules (Daniel Silva). The thinking man's Dan Brown. In fact, I don't know if he even deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence. This one was all the more interesting for having lived there.
Christy (Catherine Marshall). I love this book beyond all reason. There are only three characters in fiction that are impressive enough to me that I want to emulate them in real life, and Christy is one of them (Melanie Hamilton Wilkes from Gone With the Wind and Tena from Papa Married a Mormon are the other two).
NPR-type Books (Either I actually heard about them on NPR, or I could have)
The Last Princess: The Devoted Life of Queen Victoria's Youngest Daughter (Matthew Dennison). In case you haven't noticed already, I went through a British royalty phase in my reading.
Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History* (Laurel Thatcher Ulrich). I guess I'm not a real feminist because I started and failed to finish this book on three non-consecutive occasions. Sorry, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Loved A Midwife's Tale. This one, not so much.
Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s green zone (Rajiv Chandrasekaran). Recommended by Jeremy.
Chalked Up: Inside elite gymnastics’ merciless coaching, overzealous parents, eating disorders, and elusive Olympic dreams (Jennifer Sey). There was a good NPR segment about this one.
Legacy of Ashes: the history of the CIA* (Tim Weiner). I tried to finish this one but the library recalled it. Recommended by Jeremy.
Little girls in pretty boxes: the making and breaking of elite gymnasts and figure skaters (John Ryan)
The Great Mortality: an intimate history of the black death, the most devastating plague of all time (John Kelly). Recommended by my mom.
The Heartless Stone (Tom Zoellner). Mr. Zoellner wrote me a nice email thanking me for my review of his book. I told him I hoped I hadn't scared anyone away from reading it. Recommended by BIL Dave.
Parenting, Inc. (Pamela Paul). Ms. Paul herself commented on my review, which goes to show that you just never know who is reading your blog.
Fair Game (Valerie Plame Wilson)
The doctors' plague : germs, childbed fever, and the strange story of Ignac Semmelweis (Sherwin B. Nuland)
Pandora’s Baby (Robin Marantz Henig). Who knew test-tube babies were so controversial?
LDS Fiction (a new category this year! I read these over Thanksgiving break in Oregon. All of these were recommended by my sister.)
Our Sacred Honor (Ron Carter). I confess I skipped over all the Revolutionary War stuff and just read the fictional character story parts. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of historical fiction?
Children of the Promise 1: Rumors of War (Dean Hughes). Surprisingly good - that goes for all of the books in the series.
Children of the Promise 2: Since You Went Away (Dean Hughes)
Children of the Promise 3: Far From Home (Dean Hughes)
Children of the Promise 4: When We Meet Again (Dean Hughes)
Children of the Promise 5: As Long As I Have You (Dean Hughes)
The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins). Spooky! Better than The Moonstone.
A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens). I never realized A Muppet Christmas Carol was so true to the original (except for that stupid "The Love is Gone" scene).
The Portrait of a Lady (Henry James)
Small House at Allington (Anthony Trollop). Don't think I'll be reading more of his books anytime soon. All his characters are like dim-witted versions of Austen's in some kind of bizarre parallel universe where everything is boring and turns out badly.
Pregnancy and Childbirth
Giving Birth (Catherine Taylor)
Baby catcher (Peggy Vincent)
The Pilates Pregnancy
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver). Recommended by Miss Nemesis and Liz.
Escape (Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer). This is one of those true "escape from a polygamist commune" books. But you know what? I liked it, as much as one can "like" a book about the oppression of women and children. It could have been sensational and lewd. It wasn't.
Under the Banner of Heaven: A story of violent faith (Jon Krakauer)
Touching the Void (Joe Simpson). The book the movie was based on. I found the story hard to visualize from the book alone, so I'm glad I had seen the movie. Also, it's not really fair that one man can be so talented in two things: mountain climbing and writing.
How the States got their Shapes (Mark Stein). What can I say? Sometimes my life in Middlebury was kind of boring.
Queen Bees & Wannabees (Rosalind Wiseman). Maybe this book will be more interesting to me in about ten years.
If you made it to the end of this post, thanks for reading! I would love to see your favorites from 2008. Please feel free to post your own list - or highlights therefrom - in the comments.