Is if there weren’t enough “best” lists out there —
- USA Today Gift Guide
- New York Times’ Book Review 10 Best
- Sarah at The Inside Flap’s 2008 Books Forever
- The Written Nerd‘s entire 2008 reading list
— here’s my contribution!
Jenn’s Randomly Compiled Favorites of 2008:
Mary Modern, Camille De Angelis
I picked up Mary Modern on a whim, and discovered a novel that is gothic by feel if not by plot (who ever thought cloning would feel gothic?) — and when I label something gothic, it’s a compliment. Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft may not have recognized the technology in this book, but they would have been familiar with the setting and characters. Large house with hidden passageways, chronologically displaced characters wandering around, cloning, a rabid preacher — Camille De Angelis has written a bizarre and fascinating book. Her prose sways from creepifying to angelic, examines the rickety stairs and then takes off for a bird’s eye view. A great book for readers who are not content with a book until they get their twist, and what a twist it is.
The Art of Racing In the Rain, Garth Stein
Racing in the Rain is an incredible piece of work. Enzo, the canine narrator, is the perfect medium to tell this story: the story of Denny, a talented Formula One driver who faces not “insurmountable odds”, but rather every day odds taken up a notch — something that makes him that much more of a hero. His family saga is heartbreaking in its commonality, and his custody battle for his daughter, while more extreme than many, is by no means unusual in its cruelty, its hopelessness, and its redemption. The characters are perfectly drawn, seen in all their glory and misery by faithful Enzo, who may be part terrier and is definitely part sage. The backdrop of Formula One is absolutely fascinating, with the minutiae of racing greats, tactics, terms, and Zen-like philosophy interweaving with and complementing the main plot. Denny’s daughter Zoe, especially, is a bright light of a character — a perfectly normal, perfectly lovable child. and the zebra … well, for that, you’ll have to read the book yourself.
Gone-Away World, Nick Harkaway
Gone-Away World is my new favorite book. A post-apocalyptic dystopia with everything from kung fu to ruminations on identity and the soul, it kept me turning the pages night after night — especially after I got to the twist three-quarters through, which absolutely blind-sided me. If you can get past the cover (Pink felt? Neon green? Overlapping letters? Why, Knopf, why?) and give it a chance, I guarantee that you’ll be sucked in. I’ve reread the book twice now, trying to figure out if Harkaway is just that good, or if I’m particularly gullible. No verdict to report as of yet, though my inclination is to declare the former rather than the latter. A must-read, un-put-downable, crazy-making debut novel; can’t wait to see what Harkaway does next!
Suzy, Led Zeppelin, and Me, Martin Millar
Suzy, Led Zeppelin, and Me is a rambling romp through the nameless main character’s teen years in Glasgow, revolving around the night that Led Zeppelin came to play. Nostalgia, flights of fantasy, ruminations on the helplessness and hopelessness of love (except, of course, for love of Led Zeppelin), and a giant hovering zeppelin carrying Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Howlin’ Wolf make this memorable, hilarious, and heart-wrenching. So true to life it might as well be a memoir, this book will make you want to break out your (insert favorite band here) albums to relive the magic of knowing that, no matter what, whenever you listen to them everything is all right with the world. Music lovers, fantasy fans, and anyone who’s ever entered or judged a literary competition — take it from me, you’ve got to pick this one up!
Wondrous Strange, Lesley Livingston
Wondrous Strange is, indeed, wondrous and strange. When 17-year-old Kelley finally gets the coveted part of Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, she gets more than just the spotlight on stage. As the play gets close to opening night and the gates of Faerie threaten to open, unleashing mayhem on unsuspecting Central Park, Kelley will learn that the supernatural is unsettlingly real, and that she is bound to it in ways she never suspected. Livingston alternates high drama with great humor (horse in a bathtub, anyone?) and produces an engaging and thoroughly entertaining read.
Plus some more books I enjoyed:
The Host, Stephenie Meyer
A Mercy, Toni Morrison
Pillage, Obert Skye
How to Ditch Your Fairy, Justine Larbalestier
Dragons of Babel, Michael Swanwick
The Summoning: Darkest Powers Book One, Kelley Armstrong
Lonely Werewolf Girl, Martin Millar
What Happened to Anna K., Irina Reyn
Graceling, Kristin Cashore
Vibes, Amy Kathleen Ryan