2008 book list

Over on my departmental page I maintain a list of books I’m reading. Here’s this year’s list; links are to relevant blog content.

A few notes:

  • Only three of these books came out in 2008; two are new books by friends, and one was for a review.
  • Best of the year: Engine Summer.
  • Book I should have blogged: Adverbs, by more-famous-as-Lemony-Snicket Daniel Handler. I grew up obsessed with Donald Barthelme and to this day I always root for smart-ass, off-kilter metafictional stuff. But to find something new and good to do with said stuff is a hard trick. Adverbs does it better than anything I’ve read since Bruno Maddox’s magnificent and ignored My Little Blue Dress. Here’s a typically perfect Handler chapter-opener:

    “Let me explain what is happening to the Jewish people,” the guy said.

  • Worst of the year: there actually wasn’t one of these I regretted reading, largely because I now stop reading books I’m likely to regret finishing. When Genius Failed made too much of the “trusting math will be your downfall” angle and should have been better written, but the subject matter is so tragically relevant that it was worth reading anyway — and it features a vivid portrait of the ruthless financial scavenger Jon Corzine that preceded the cuddly governor Jon Corzine. Jennifer Government started strong but ended too much like a movie. Yates’s short stories don’t — can’t — manage the sustained pile-on of misery that distinguishes his novels. And Bay of Souls was good but I realized halfway through that I’d read it once before.

9 Dec 2008:White Teeth, by Zadie Smith.
11 Nov 2008:The Heaven-Sent Leaf, by Katy Lederer.
9 Nov 2008:Demonology, by Rick Moody.
21 Oct 2008:The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz.
7 Sep 2008:Adverbs, by Daniel Handler.
4 Sep 2008:The Outlaw Sea, by William Langewiesche.
2 Sep 2008: Seeing Like a State, by James C. Scott.
1 Aug 2008: Jennifer Government, by Max Barry.
20 Jul 2008: Out of Mao’s Shadow, by Philip Pan.
10 Jul 2008: Engine Summer, by John Crowley.
3 Jul 2008: Little, Big, by John Crowley.
24 Jun 2008: The Ruins, by Scott Smith.
15 Jun 2008: The Collected Stories of Richard Yates.
26 May 2008: When Genius Failed, by Roger Lowenstein.
17 May 2008: On The Make, by David Grazian.
1 May 2008: Look to Windward, by Iain M. Banks.
20 Apr 2008: One to Nine, by Andrew Hodges.
24 Mar 2008: Fiasco, by Thomas Ricks.
16 Mar 2008: Bay of Souls, by Robert Stone.
12 Feb 2008: Runaway, by Alice Munro.
1 Feb 2008: n+1, issue 6.
15 Jan 2008: Postville, by Stephen G. Bloom.

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