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It’s that time: the 2008 Reading Wrap-Up

December 31, 2008

(This is one of those long, uber-geeky posts. The first part is my ‘best of’ lists, the second part looks at my year of reading numbers-wise. Feel free to skip to whatever interests you most! -Eva P.S.: Had to edit it because apparently I can’t remember that one of my new favourite author’s names is Peter Beagle, not Peter Tamsin. lol)

Last year, I made lots of lists. Seven different top ten lists with various fun categories; you can read them here. This year, I haven’t been quite so extravagant; I think I’m book list-ed out at the moment (gasp!). That being said, I’m still me, so of course there are lists in various categories: best nonfiction, expected fiction favourites, unexpected fiction favourites, new favourites authors, and best rereads. ;) I didn’t worry about sticking with ‘top ten,’ so some lists are longer than others!They’re listed in chronological order, for the most part.

Best Nonfiction

  • Unhooked by Laura Sessions Step: this journalist’s investigation of the new, more casual attitude towards sex among young women was well-balanced, well-written, and thought provoking. You can read my full review at Curledup.com.
  • News of a Kidnapping by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: while known for his fiction, Marquez used to be a journalist, and judging from this account of what kidnapping victims suffered at the hands Colombian drug czars, he was a good one. Read more about what I thought.
  • Snowball Earth by Gabrielle Walker: one of my favourite science books of the year, which made the rise and fall of a geology theory deeply compelling. It was also refreshingly light for a nonfiction book. Read more about what I thought.
  • Will Storr vs. the Supernatural by Will Storr: I loved this story of Storr’s investigation into ghosts, which was by turns hilariously funny and deliciously creepy. Read more about what I thought.
  • Wild Swans by Jung Chang: this look at three generations of Chinese women was epic and engrossing. Read more about what I thought.
  • Chasing the Flame by Samantha Powers: an impeccably researched biography of Sergio Veira de Mello, as well as an interesting examination of the UN’s refugee policies since the 1970s. Read more about what I thought.
  • The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry: Fry is one of those people I desperately wish was a close friend of mine, and this work on ‘how to write poetry’ (with a heavy emphasis on meter) just sealed my friend crush. Read more about what I thought.
  • Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Halloway: hands down the best Peace Corps memoir I’ve ever read, and a great window into Mali’s culture. Read more about what I thought.
  • The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin: another one I didn’t get to review, but this account of the longest-sitting Supreme Court was informative and page-turning.
  • The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs: this turned up quite often around the blogosphere, and for good reason. Jacobs decides to spend a year taking the rules in the Bible (mainly the Old Testament) literally-but the book, rather than being flippant, is an honest and thoughtful exploration of how to be religious in the 21st century.
  • American Chica by Marie Arana: this memoir was easily the best-written memoir I’ve ever read. And it brought me into Peru, a country I’ve never been, so completely. See my full review.

Expected Fiction Favourites

  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: so much more magnificent, and engrossing, than even I expected.
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: I simply love Ishiguro to death. This book lived up to an immediate post-War and Peace reading. See my full review.
  • The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly: it lived up to everything I expected. See my full review.
  • The Watermelon King by Daniel Wallace: as I put it in a six-word review “stunning, distinctly Southern, modern fairy tale.” All qualities that made me think I’d love it, and I did.
  • The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett: yep, I know it received a lot of hype in the book blogosphere, but I dare you to read it and not love it. See my full review.
  • The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by A.S. Byatt: literary fairy tales, and the title novella is so deliciously good I can’t stand it. See my full review.
  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I loved Half of a Yellow Sun but this one was even better! See my full review.
  • The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie: I know that this one received mixed reactions, and unfortunately I didn’t do a review since I read it right before moving, but I loved Rushdie’s language pyrotechnics and the flowery, magical atmosphere he created. So there. :p
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: it lived up to my impossibly high expectations. The first book I’ve ever bought the day it came out in hardcover, because I simply couldn’t stand the idea of waiting.

Unexpected Fiction Favourites

  • That Night by Alice McDermott: a slim book focused on a 1950s suburban neighbourhood in trouble because a girl is pregnant? I had no idea what a powerful writer McDermott was, or just how stunning this one would be. See my full review.
  • Mistress of the Revolution by Catherine Delors: I’m not usually a big historical fiction reader, but not only was did this book impeccably recreate the France of the late 1700s, it also created memorable characters who I cared deeply about. Read my full review.
  • The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett: a historical novel about building a cathedral? But seriously, this book was teeming with so much life, I could barely stand it. See my full review.
  • Train to Pakistan by Kushwant Singh: I thought this was nonfiction until I actually started reading it. It took a good fifty pages to get into that, but the after that the book just rushes and rushes into one of the most climatic (and satisfying) endings ever. Sorry about the innuendo there. ;)
  • Song of the Crow by Layne Maheu: this book tells the familiar story of Noah and the Ark from the point of view of the crow. It sounds gimmicky, but it was wonderful and lyrical and oh so good. It made me want to read everything from the publishing imprint!
  • Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger: my only experience with Salinger was the first two pages of The Catcher in the Rye that I read before deciding to give the book up in high school. So nothing prepared for the breathtaking power of these stories. See my full review.
  • Pirates! by Celia Rees: I expected a silly, entertaining, fluffy read. It turned out be entertaining, but so much more than that. See my full review.
  • Little, Big by John Crowley: I wish I had reviewed this subtle, wonderful fantasy novel, because it was so good. Fortunately, Nymeth took the words right out of my mouth.
  • Night Soldiers by Alan Furst: possibly the best spy novel I’ve ever read. Seriously. See my full review.
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: I tried reading this in high school, when I was in love with the musical, and gave up three hundred pages in in utter disgust. So I was sooo nervous about trying again, but it turned out to be the kind of book I want to read over and over and over! I didn’t write a complete review, but I wrote extensively on part one and part two.

New Favourite Authors

  • Donna Leon: for her excellent mystery series in Venice, which begins with Death at La Fenice
  • Kate Ross: for her excellent mystery series set in Regency England, which begins with Cut to the Quick
  • Peter Beagle: for his all-around wonderfulness! Both Tamsin and A Fine and Private Place are books I need to buy to treasure forever.
  • C.S. Forester: for Captain Horatio Hornblower, and the magical way he brings Napoleonic British naval adventures to life.
  • Carl Safina: for his wonderful non-fiction books about the ocean, two of which I read this year (Voyage of the Turtle and Song for the Blue Ocean).

Best Rereads

  • Persuasion by Jane Austen: how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I ended up writing a really long review in reaction to the horrid PBS movie adaptation. Skip to the end of it to read one of the most wonderful letters in all of literature-then you’ll understand why this book has to be here.
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgsin Burnett: one of those childhood classics that has remained wonderful no matter how old I get.
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith: I couldn’t remember large parts of this book (since I’d only read it once before, years ago), so it was almost like rediscovering its charming perfection. See my full review.
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: when I was little, I desperately wished Anne was real and would become my best friend. Turns out, I still wish that.
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt: I listened to this one instead of reading it in print this time, and I really enjoyed the poetry more this time round. Still a wonderful romance!
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: I read a different translation this time, and it confirmed that Pevear & Volokhonsky are so much better than Garnett! Anyway, I loved getting caught back up in imperial Russia.
  • Emma by Jane Austen: every time I pick up one of my not-favourite Austens (like this one), I’m blown away by how wonderful it still is. There’s a reason she’s been my favourite author for ten years! You can read my review from last year if you want (yes, I reread it twice in two years!).
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry: when I was younger, I reread this at least once a year, but it had been a few years since I revisited it. I am once again awestruck by how much philosophy Lowry fits into a small book, while keeping the characters and plot wonderfully compelling.

2008 Reading Stats

TOTAL
Reading
Books Read: 240
Audiobooks: 22
Female Authors (I read more than one book by some of them): 118
New-to-Me Authors: 160
Non-Fiction: 76
Fiction: 164
Setting/Topic International (doesn’t count England): 92
F by International Authors (doesn’t count English authors): 41
Translated F: 11
Translated NF: 2
Classics: 24
YA/Children’s Lit: 32
Short Story Collections: 16
Rereads: 17
Chunksters (450+): 27
Month With Most Books Read: June (32)
Month With Least Books Read: October (5)

So, reviewing my reading resolutions, I didn’t do too badly! My main resolution as to not buy new books which, with the exception of the library sale, I did pretty well at keeping that. As for the others:

  • Read more classics. Check: read 23 vs. 17 last year. Still, that’s just ten percent of my total reading…and I call myself a classics fan! Well, I guess it’s fourteen percent of my fiction reading, which makes me feel better.
  • Read more international works. Check: read 41 international authors vs. 34 last year. I backslid on translated works, though.
  • Read more short stories. Check: read 16 collections vs. 8 last year.
  • Keep fiction:nonfiction at 3:1. Check: I actually increased my nonfiction reading enough to make the ratio about 2:1.
  • Reread more books. Check: I reread 17 books this year. I wish I had reread a few more, though.
  • Be more open to YA/children’s lit. Check: I read 32 books that fall into this category, which is twenty percent of my fiction reading!

Blogging
Reviews Published (books): 121
Reviews Published (short stories): 24
Entries Made: 276
Challenges Participated In: 23
Challenges Completed: 21 (two keep going into 2009)

My blogging was quite sporadic in the last quarter of the year, so I ended up reviewing the same amount of books as last year, but I did increase my blog posts by 46, and when I was blogging regularly, my frequency was much higher. Next year should be better! :)

So that’s that: I can’t believe my second year of book blogging is wrapped up. I’ll see you in 2009!!!

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2008 7:33 pm

    I’m always amazed at how many books some of you can read. It looks like you had a great reading year, Eva. I enjoyed reading your stats and favorite lists. I hope you have a wonderful New Year!

  2. December 31, 2008 8:14 pm

    Wow. That is an amazing amount of reading. i’m jealous. Great job, and wonderful reviews!

  3. blugilliand permalink
    December 31, 2008 9:02 pm

    Those are some impressive numbers! You can see a far less comprehensive list of my reading (totals and favorites) over at my site. I’ve seen some books on your blog that I’d like to give a try in 2009.

    Happy New Year!

  4. December 31, 2008 9:04 pm

    Those are some impressive numbers! You can see a far less comprehensive list of my reading (totals and favorites) over at my site. I’ve seen some books on your blog that I’d like to give a try in 2009.

    Happy New Year!

  5. December 31, 2008 9:04 pm

    Oops – sorry about the double (er, now triple) post! Blame it on the champagne….

  6. December 31, 2008 9:18 pm

    I’ve been scared to start reading The Pillars of the Earth. I’m used to thinking Oprah does not have very good taste in books, and I’m glad to see someone normal enjoyed it!

    But seriously, I am feeling like the only person to not have read The Graveyard Book. First it was Twilight and now this!

  7. December 31, 2008 9:23 pm

    What a wonderful list! I also enjoyed The Year of Living Biblically this year – I just heard it was optioned for a movie.

    Pirates by Celia Rees was one of the first audiobooks I listened to a couple years back – it’s wonderful.

    Thanks for posting your list – I enoyed reading it!

  8. adevotedreader permalink
    December 31, 2008 10:30 pm

    Happy New Year Eva!

    I read The Ode Less Travelled after reading your review, and now wish Stephen Fry was my friend as well. I’d like to read more non-fiction this year, News of a Kidnapping and Monique and the Mango Rains sound especially good so I will have to include them.

    All of your best re-reads are great favourites of mine too. Given I enjoy and admire Anna K so much, I’d like to finally read War and Peace in’09, in the new translation of course.

  9. Chelsea permalink
    December 31, 2008 11:15 pm

    Wow, thats an impressive reading load! I’m wicked jealous and more than a little inspired!

    I loved Anna Karenina when I first read it (my junior year of high school) and hearing you mention it made me want to go and give it another look. However, I’ve always been a little intimidated by Les Miserables, just because it’s such a HUGE book! But who knows, maybe after reading your reviews I’ll be able to make it my Huge Book to Read in ’09!

    Have a happy New Year and happy reading!

  10. January 1, 2009 12:08 am

    As usual, I’m in awe…of all that you’ve read, and of your wrap-up post. :-D I’ve found the perfect Savage Chickens cartoon that I’ll be using as a stand in for my end of the year post.

    Happy New Year!

  11. January 1, 2009 1:10 am

    Great list. You have loads of books on there that I haven’t read yet. Here’s to another great reading year in 2009.

  12. January 1, 2009 4:31 am

    Hi Eva. Looks like you had a brilliant reading year in 2008, here’s hoping 2009 is even better! Happy New Year!

  13. January 1, 2009 5:30 am

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post!!! Skip any of it?!! Blasphemy!

    (Of course, the downside is that I feel all the more pathetic when it comes to my reading totals.)

    May 2009 bring you even more book joy! And lots of other good stuff, too!!!

  14. January 1, 2009 9:20 am

    I loved this post in its full geeky glory too :D Those are some impressive totals! And I just love your lists. Considering that I adored all the books I read on your “Expected Fiction Favourites” list, I really should think of reading the others! The Uncommon Reader and Purple Hibiscus will probably be the first. But you even made me want to tackle War and Peace :P

    Also, “Peter Tamsin” made me laugh out loud :P (and I mean this in a totally un-mean way.) We should make that his official nickname :P He joined my mental list of favourite authors this year too.

    Happy New Year, Eva!

  15. January 1, 2009 10:09 am

    That is pretty impressive especially with your schedule! I read and enjoyed many of the same books you have listed here. Happy New Year!

  16. January 1, 2009 10:25 am

    Congratulations on reading all those books! You have a lot of books on your favorites list that I like too. Happy New Year!

  17. January 1, 2009 11:15 am

    Literary Feline, thank you!

    Daphne, awww-thanks!

    Sarah, it’s SO good. I mean, Oprah also picked East of Eden and Anna Karenina. So she obviously has *some* taste in books. ;) The Graveyard Book is aweome…much, much, much better than Twilight.

    Carrie, a movie, really? Interesting. Pirates! really is a great audiobook. :D

    ADevotedReader, I’m so glad you enjoyed The Ode Less Travelled! You should totally read W&P this year. ;)

    Chelsea, Les Mis is huge, but it’s not nearly as intimadating as I expected. :) What’s your blog address, so I can visit you?

    SoftDrink, aww-thanks. That cartoon is too cute! :D

    Marg, you too!

    Bart, thanks: same back at you! ;)

    Debi, awww-you always make me feel so good. :D Do NOT feel pathetic! All of the non-book stuff you handle in your life makes me feel pathetic. :p

    Nymeth, lol-I can’t believe I mistyped Peter Beagle’s name!!!!! Thanks for catching that! And Purple Hibiscus is SO, SO good.

    Lisa, thanks!

    Alyce, thank you!

  18. January 1, 2009 1:06 pm

    I’m so impressed with how much you read, especially with being in school this fall! I enjoyed your favorites lists; I seem to share some similar tastes with you and have added several books to my TBR list!

  19. January 1, 2009 1:41 pm

    Hi Eva, thanks for dropping by. :)

    What an impressive amount of reading! Thanks for the Anna Karenina tip on who is the better translator, as I’m reading it for a challenge this year. Also, I’m going to grab hold of an Adichie now.. thanks!! Happy new year!

  20. January 1, 2009 2:19 pm

    I am in awe. That is a lot of books!

    I really need to finish Persuasion, but I’m reading it online, which I don’t enjoy. My husband wants me to read War and Peace, but since I only read 41 books total this year, it seems like SUCH a big commitment!

  21. January 2, 2009 3:59 pm

    Happy New Year Eva! I see several good reads on your lists that I enjoyed too! And I am in awe of how many books you read last year–that’s lots of good books to choose from! Happy reading in 2009.

  22. January 3, 2009 10:01 am

    Wow – these are wonderful stats Eva! I hope ’09 is also filled with lots of good books for you.

    I’m not a big re-reader of books so I’m quite impressed that you re-read some favorites and that they are classics!

  23. January 3, 2009 2:32 pm

    Thanks for some really good reviews of PERSUASION and EMMA. I love Jane Austen and my book group is having a Jane Austen reading fest for January. We are concentrating on these two books, but members are free to read any they like.

    I’m new to your blog and am enjoying it very much!

  24. January 3, 2009 5:56 pm

    Sarah, thanks! You’ll notice it dropped steeply in the fall. ;)

    Claire, no problem-I hope you love the Adichie! :D

    Lisa, thanks! I can’t read books online at all-I have no attention span on the laptop! W&P would be a big commitment-maybe you can read it serial-style over the year?

    Danielle, thanks!

    Iliana, thank you. :) I used to be a huge re-reader before I started book blogging, lol.

    Kay, I’m glad you enjoyed them! I wish I had a book group doing a Jane Austen fest. :D

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