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Best Books of 2008

As I mentioned in my Bookish Year in Review, this year has marked a return to reading for me.  I have read some thirty-seven books this year, not to mention the countless books I’ve read aloud to my children.  By many readers’ standards, this is a rather paltry total, I know.  However, when I consider the fact that in the two or three years prior to 2008, I probably did not read this many books all together, I think this is a pretty good start.  There have been a few standouts among those I’ve enjoyed.  These are my favorites of the year (click on the title link to read my full review):

1.  Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson is one of those that was not on my TBR list, so it was a pleasant surprise to me.  I adore what the librarian at my first real job called “pioneery stories,” and this one has a very strong female heroine, to boot.  This book is very deserving of its Newbery honor.  I never got around to reading the Newbery Medal winner from 2007, Penny from Heaven, but if it beat out Hattie Big Sky and Rules, it must be one more book.

2. The Birth Order Book by Kevin Leman caused me to analyze the birth order of everyone I conversed with for a good month.  Fascinating and entertaining!

3.  A Garden to Keep by Jamie Langston Turner renewed, if briefly, my confidence in the genre of Christian fiction.  I appreciated so much about this book:  its literariness (if that isn’t a word, it should be); its many, many allusions to works of literature; its introspective protagonist; and its hopeful theme.  This reminds me that I want to read more of Jamie Langston Turner’s works.

4.  I read The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean for the now-defunct but soon-to-be-resurrected Biblically Literate Book Club (‘though I’m not sure that’s still its title) over at Semicolon.  I found this book to be suspenseful and unusual, which is a great combination for someone who sometimes gets tired of the same-old, same-old.

5.  Reaching for Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer is one of those books I didn’t expect to like as much as I did.  I usually do not “get” novels written in the form of poetry, even free verse.  This one works, though, and works well.

6.  This book, The Veritas Conflict by Shaunti Feldhahn, is the second from the genre of Christian fiction that I have in my Best Books of 2008 list, so I’m sort of contradicting what I’ve said before about Christian fiction.  However, I enjoyed this book because it reminded me a lot of Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkess, both of which I read and re-read as a teenager.  This is an entertaining, engaging novel, not fine literature.

7.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak reminded me of the best parts of my graduate education in library science:  reading new literature (children’s and young adult) that sparked new ideas for teaching and discussion.  This book is unusual in a lot of ways (it is narrated by death, after all), but it did take me back to the familiar territory of World War II.  Highly recommended.

8.  It is not an understatement to say that Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry opened up a new world of literature to me.  Berry’s writings really resound in my heart and remind me of what is important.  I am a convert, for sure.  This was my favorite for the entire year.

9.  Devotions for Sacred Parenting by Gary L. Thomas is a gem of a parenting book:  it focuses on the real, true, nitty-gritty, spiritual aspect of parenting.  That seems like an oxymoron, but it’s not.  I’ve learned in my four-and-a-half years of parenthood that it is God’s greatest schoolroom for me.  Thomas writes about it with beauty and grace, and not a few allusions to other works of literature.  I have more of Thomas’s works waiting on my TBR bookshelf.

10.  Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton is a story of hope and redemption in a nation without hope.  Beautifully written and thoughtful, it reminded me a little of  Wendell Berry’s works (‘though certainly the setting is much more tragic).  I’m eager to watch the movie of this one and see how it compares.

Well, there they are.  All of these authors are new to me, so I am glad to add them to my list of favorites and look forward to reading more of their works in the future.  Have you read any of these authors, and if so, can you recommend other specific titles?

Edited to add:  11.  How could I forget Peace like a River by Leif Enger?  Oh my.  This is an unusual, delightful book with a surprise ending that I’m really glad I read.


12 Responses

  1. We really must be kindred spirits. Wendell Berry was my favorite discovery this year. And I love Cry, the Beloved Country.

  2. I also love book and videos by Kevin Leman! Making the Most of Marriage is my favorite.
    See a short video excerpt on my Kevin Leman blog:

  3. In your case, “less is more” (which means that you may have read less books than other bloggers, but you read books with substance.) Keep up the good work!

  4. Hear, hear from another devoted Wendell Berry fan. I just bought his newest book: a children’s book called Whitefoot. I loved reading it to my grandson.

    The movie of Cry the Beloved Country is very well done. It is not a disappointment after having read the book, which is about the best praise you can give the movie version of a great book.

    The Book Thief is on my list. It was available at my library on Monday, but I didn’t get in to get it until Wednesday and someone else had snagged it.

    And, finally….what Hope said! Ditto.

  5. I just put Veritas Conflict on my wishlist. I loved Frank Peretti’s darkness books. Thanks for the excellent review. Book thief is on my tbr pile waiting to be read. Great wrapup


  6. I loved The Book Thief and Peace Like a River. Haven’t read any of the others but I’ll have to check them out.

  7. […] I have already answered that question, I will simply refer you to my Best Books of 2008 […]

  8. Interesting list – I’ve got The Book Thief on my TBR list. I’ve had pretty much the same experience this year. Hadn’t read much at all in the last few years, so the 40-some-odd books I read in 2008 was a vast improvement, although I’m hoping to do better this year.

  9. […] (a.k.a. Magistra Mater), after reading that Wendell Berry is my new favorite author (am I only allowed one?), wrote that she had enjoyed reading Wendell Berry’s new book to her […]

  10. […] in December of last year.  I loved A Garden to Keep (read my review here); in fact, it made my Best Books of 2008 list.  Ironically, The Suncatchers is not on my official TBR list, but I happened upon it at a local […]

  11. […] library runs, I snatched it right up.  I read McCaughrean’s The White Darkness last year and loved it, so I knew that a book by McCaughrean would likely not disappoint.  I have to say that this one […]

  12. […] really not very good at picking favorites, but I’m going to try. Looking back at my Best of 2008 list, I’d say I was pretty much on target in terms of picking the books that were most memorable […]

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