Thursday, January 01, 2009

2008: Books I loved, and read

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.

(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).

(Stephenie Meyer)

New Moon
(Stephenie Meyer)

Eclipse (Stephenie Meyer)

(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.

(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)

Popular Fiction

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.

(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.


Jeremy Palmer said...

Here is my list.

Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone.
House to House: An Epic Memoir of War
New Moon
Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the air, at sea, and on the ground
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My betrayal by the White House.
Balkan Ghosts
Mission Al Jazeera
Pawn of Prophecy
Legacy of Ashes: The history of the CIA
The Host
Bad Lands: A Tourist on the Axis of Evil
Three Cups of Tea
Breaking Dawn
Al-Mutanabbi: Voice of the Abbasid Poetic Ideal
War Journal: My five years in Iraq
Shadow Divers
Lone Survivor

Jeremy Palmer said...

My favorites were: War Journal, Lone Survivor, and Three Cups of Tea.

War Journal is an excellent, yet sad, account of an Arabic-speaking American journalist who stayed longer than most in Iraq (and not in the Green Zone). I disagreed with some of his commentary but in general it was a great eye-witness account. The author is well versed in Iraqi geo-politics.

Lone Survivor nearly stopped my heart with fright, shock, and admiration.

Three Cups of Tea is a wonderfully humanistic book about one American making a difference in a part of the world that needs more exposure to the greatness of Americans.

Liz Johnson said...

I think "Pushed" is my favorite pregnancy/childbirth book PERIOD. I am loving it.

I am so impressed that you read so much. Where do get all that time!?

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Keeping better track of books read is one of my resolutions for 09. The books that come to mind for 08 are:

Three Cups of Tea--see Jeremy's comments

Undaunted Courage--a must read about the Lewis & Clark expedition

Walking Since Daybreak--true account of a Latvian family's experience during the World Wars, written by a family member

Manhunt--the search for JW Booth; some information I hadn't heard before

Escape--see Bridget's comments

Twilight series--because I have a teenager in the house who was an extra in the movie

The Host--liked it better than the Twilight books

Desperate Passage--see Bridget's comments

Touching the Void--see Bridget's comments

Moloka'i--historical fiction based on the Hawaiian leper colony

The Great Mortality--my favorite; not pleasant, but it gives the best description I've read of Medieval Society (be glad you live now) & explanation of how the Black Death devastated the world & created a stronger society

These is My Words--novel about a woman living on the Arizona frontier

Susanne said...

Oh, I am glad you posted your list. (You, too, Jeremy.) I remember your review of the Israel Lobby and have that on my to-read list. I may steal a few more from your list as well.

I typed my list, but it is so different from what I have read in previous years. I always liked historical fiction, Christian fiction, mysteries -- rather light reading. But in 2008 the books I read were quite different, and I think I read only 2 fiction books the whole year! (In 2007, I read about 95 books with probably all but 5 being fiction.)

So this is quite a departure for me, but I enjoyed most of these books and learned greatly from them.

List of Books Read in 2008

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

23 Minutes in Hell by Bill Wiese

The Destiny of Muslims in the End Times by Faisal Malick

To My Muslim Friends by Anise Behnam

The Crescent Through the Eyes of the Cross by Nabeel Jabbour

The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

Does My Head Look Too Big in This by Randa Abdel Fattah

Meeting Islam: A Guide for Christians by George Dardess

The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun & Paul Hattaway

The New Answers Book by Ken Ham, general editor

The Shack by William P. Young

Being Arab by Samir Kassir

The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. I by Warren Weirsbe

Scratch Beginnings: Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepherd

Victory for Us Is to See You Suffer by Philip Winslow

Too Christian Too Pagan by Dick Staub

The Faith by Charles Colson

The Attentive Life by Leighton Ford

Called to Die by Steve Estes

Mary Louise's Opus by Mary Louise Mason

Unshackled & Growing by Nabeel Jabbour

Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby

The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

Daring Chloe by Laura Jensen Walker

Muslims, Christians, Jesus by Carl Medearis

Standing with Israel by David Brog

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

Once an Arafat Man by Taysir Saada
& Dean Merrill

Epicenter by Joel Rosenberg

The Complete Guide to the Bible by Stephen Miller

Christianity Today study series on Islam

Children of Hope by Vernon Brewer & Noel Brewer Yeatts

Mission Al Jazeera by Josh Rushing

Rethinking Holy Land by Marlin Jeschke

Defining Moments by Vernon Brewer

I'll have to think on which were my favorites. I wrote a little (or a lot in some cases) about each on my blog, but I am NO WHERE as good with words and reviews as you are.

Have you read "The Lemon Tree"? It's about the Israel/Palestinian conflict and was recommended by some American friends currently living in the West Bank. I know of your interest in the Middle East so I thought I'd ask.

Bridget said...

Susanne, I've been wanting to read Does My Head Look Too Big in This for a while and now you've reminded me of it. I haven't read The Lemon Tree but I've heard of it. I'll check the library for those books right away :).

Liz, there are two main reasons I read so much. First and foremost, I am a fast reader. I always have been. I'm able to finish books quickly while still reading them thoroughly.

The other reason is that reading books is what I do with my discretionary time. Some people knit. Some people do family history stuff. Some people watch TV or movies. I read.

Also, a few chunks of these books (like the six LDS fiction ones) were read while visiting family so I had free, constant babysitting. :)

Amanda said...

This was really interesting. I noticed that my reading this last year was much more recreational that I thought. This is only list is from the last six months:

The Peter and the Starcatchers Trilogy by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (who wins the "Best First Name" prize, I think)

My Antonia by Willa Cather

The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs

Breaking Dawn and The Host by Stephanie Meyer

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

America (the book): a citizen's guide to democracy inaction by Jon Stewart, Ben Karlin, and David Javerbaum

Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken

The Wednesday Letters by Jason F Wright

The Tale of Despereaux: being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread by Kate DiCamillo

The Woman in White by Wilkie collins

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Blink: the power of thinking without thinking by Malcom Gladwell

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs

sarah palmer cook said...

do you guys keep lists or just remember everything you read? and for how many years running do you have a list if so?

Susanne said...

Bridget, you may not like "The Lemon Tree," but it's one recommended to me that I found at our local library.

Another I read and found interesting was "Victory for Us Is to See You Suffer." A UN worker wrote it about what he saw in Israel/Palestine. It really opened my eyes to something totally different from how I thought all my life.

I read "Standing With Israel" just to see how an American Jew explained the Christian Zionists who support Israel. I'm trying to read various points of view, and someone gave that book to my dad to read and he passed it along to me instead.

Sarah, I looked it up. I started keeping track of the books I read in January 1999 ... so ten years ago! Wow!

Bridget said...

Sarah, our library system has the option to keep a reading history, so I have records back to the fall of 2005 on there. The problem is that sometimes I check out books on Miriam's card, or borrow books from friends, or other ways that I forget to keep track of. Otherwise, I've only been keeping a list since 2007. Sad. I wish I had ten years like Susanne!

Kristen said...

I am so offended that you didn't read 55,000 Baby Names by my recommendation.

Here is my list of books read in 2008:

Sad. :(

Craig said...

Here is an incomplete list of 30 books I recall reading in 2008. Actually, many of them I listened to (CD or mp3 player, a new way to pass time driving or doing two things at once).

The two most inspirational (and which I highly recommend) were:

John Adams (David McCullough)
Undaunted Courage (Stephen Ambrose)

Two with significant impact on me (WW2 isn't as idealistic as we tend to think):

Band of Brothers
Citizen Soldiers (both Stephen Ambrose)

Most enjoyable:

Teacher Man (Frank McCourt--especially hearing him read it with his Irish accent)


4 Twilight novels (required reading, due to Steven's movie participation--I struggled through much of them but give great credit for the author's creativity)

Portrait of a Killer - Jack the Ripper (didn't care for it)

Wild Blue
Nothing Like it in the World (both Ambrose - not as impactful as the others of his)

The Path Between the Seas
Johnstown Flood (both McCullough)

A Terrible Glory
The Day the World Ended at Little Bighorn (two Little Bighorn Battle books to prepare for Montana trip)

3 Weeks with my Brother (chick book)

'Tis (McCourt--also good, but a little more raw)

Book of Mormon (does that count?)

Leap of Faith (Queen Noor-- nice to get an Arab slant on historical events, if too biased)

The Bin Ladens

Escape (Carolyn Jessop - I found it fascinating)

Ethan Frome
Age of Innocence (Wharton - is there a more talented writer?)

The Great Mortality (Wow!)

Children of Jihad

3 Cups of Tea

Muhammad, Prophet of God (Daniel Peterson - he was in my freshman dorm -- Peterson that is, not Muhammad :-)

Some forgettable Grisham novel

The Age of Gold (H W Brand)

Linda said...

I don't have my list but I just wanted to tell you how happy I am that Christy made your list, along with Papa Married a Mormon ( we love the Great Brain series based on that story!)

Amy said...

I happened upon your blog through the friend of a friend. We have very similar taste in books. I LOVE ALison Wier and her historical books about Elizabethian History. She also wrote a novel that is great, Innocent Traitor, which folows the Life and death of Lady Jane Grey.

Great Post!

Liz Johnson said...

Just FYI... almost all of these books just made my "to-read" list on Goodreads. You have great taste and read a lot of non-fiction (which is my preference) Thanks. :)


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