It’s been a good year for reading, hasn’t it? Of course, most every year is a good reading year for this ravenous reader. In perusing my Bookstack for 2008, I smile fondly in recollection of these, my favorite reads of the past 12 months…
Unexpected Delight: Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri: I would never have read these fine short story collections were it not for the Short Story Challenge, my first ever bookish challenge, and one which gave me a much appreciated introduction to the short story form.
Even Better the Second Time Round: While I Was Gone and The Good Mother, by Sue Miller; Family Happiness, by Laurie Colwin: I read each of these books years ago, and was prompted to revisit them at different times during the year. They all stood the test of time amazingly well…if only I aged as nicely *smiles*
Best Books You Aren’t Reading:The Bright Forever and River to Heaven, by Lee Martin: These books are wonderfully written, atmospheric and gentle, with instantly sympathetic and identifiable characters. I’ve not seen either of these novels mentioned much around the book blogging world, but Martin’s writing is the kind you savor and remember long after you’ve closed the cover.
Favorite Feel Good Reads: Hearts and Minds, by Rosy Thornton; Matrimony,by Joshua Henkin; and Kissing Games of the World, by Sandi Khan Shelton: These are all novels to take on vacation with you, or to curl up with on a snowy weekend. Wonderfully written, by turns funny and heartbreaking, and all with something to say about life and love.
Most Unusual Concept: March, by Geraldine Brooks: A marvelous story based on the (fictionalized) life of Frederic March, father of the Little Women made famous in Louisa May Alcott’s novel. I didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did (isn’t that a nice surprise?)
Best in Stack: Bridge of Sighs, by Richard Russo. To quote a fellow book blogger, this novel “left me speechless.” I found myself stopping to re-read paragraph after paragraph, sometimes wiping away tears. It’s a simple story, really, the life of an ordinary man in an ordinary town, but told with amazing grace, humor, and deep understanding of the complexity of human emotion. Bravo.
Speaking of Russo, just today I finished another novel of his, one published in 1997 – Straight Man. Once again, Russo takes a man who is questioning the meaning of his life, but this time the character is not quite as sanguine as Louis Lynch from Bridge of Sighs. In fact, William Henry Devereaux, Jr., the chairman of the English department at a rather run-down college in an even more run-down Pennsylvania town, could be classified as a rabble rouser. But his sardonic humor and dry wit keeps him from becoming didactic. The book is alternately heartbreaking and hilarious. As the New York Times reviewer put it – “Straight Man is the funniest serious novel I have read.”
And now, onto the future…what book will I be reading to ring in the new year?
I’ve been saving this one specially for my first book of 2009…it was a little gift I bought myself this Christmas. So many lovely things have been written about it among book bloggers, that I couldn’t hold out any longer. I’ve been on the library wait list for ages, but decided this one might be a book I should own. I don’t purchase nearly the number of books I once did~my storage space is becoming more and more sparse (along with my book buying budget, I’m afraid!) and I make use of the library far more often these days. But there are books which receive so many good comments, most especially from my fellow book bloggers, whose opinion I trust implicitly, books which are innovative without being gimmicky, books that have a chance to stand up as good re-reads over the years…these are the books I want to give a permanent home on my shelves.
It’s been such a joy reading all your bookish thoughts and recommendations during 2008. I can’t wait to see what literary delights are in store for 2009!
My very best wishes for a new year filled with good health, good friends, good luck, and of course – good books!