Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Final Top 10 For 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz
Home, by Marilynne Robinson
The Courage Muscle, by Monique Doyle Spencer
The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion
The Death of Vishnu, by Manil Suri
I See You Everywhere, by Julia Glass
Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar
Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Age of Shiva, by Manil Suri
The Time of Our Singing, by Richard Powers

2008 was a year of old friends. Novels from Ursula Le Guin, Marilynne Robinson, and Julia Glass (whose reading at Porter Square Books I attended) are as close as you can get to a lock on the top ten for me. I had also previously read Joan Didion and was familiar with Monique Doyle Spencer through her very funny essays in the Boston Globe.

2008 was also a year of friends-of-friends: two of the books on the list were recommendations from other readers that I would have never picked up on my own. Memoirs of Hadrian was recommended by Michelle on a round-the-table-what-are-you-reading discussion on the first night of a class. It fit in very well with my current fascination with all-things-Roman in anticipation of a Rome vacation this year. (And, though it's not a book, if you, too, are fascinated by all-things-Roman, let me recommend Garret Fagan's History of Ancient Rome course from The Teaching Company—Ben and I both loved it). And, thanks to a recommendation from Don, I finally finished a Richard Powers book, after starting at least three of them previously. Powers is one of those massively brainy authors whose work I always feel I should love but which instead tends to leave me feeling battered by the author's big brain. The Time of Our Singing was different.

Finally, 2008 was a year of a of new friends. I bought The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao after seeing Junot Díaz's interview with Stephen Colbert, in which he came across as modest and smart and geeky and completely adorable. It's not the sort of book I'm usually inclined to read, but it blew me away and, although my list is unordered, I will confess here that it was my favorite book of the year. Read it. I found Manil Suri, math professor and novelist(!), through the serendipity of the "New Fiction" shelf at my local library. The first two books of his projected trilogy are on this list, and I suspect the third one would be as well if it were published. Maybe next year.

1 comment:

Don said...

The Wondrous Life book sounds a lot like Confederacy of Dunces which I just finished. It's about a very large intelligent young man who's trying to find comfort in an odd longing for medievalism and who can't fit into the 1960s New Orleans he lives in. The book is oddly autobiographical in that its author also couldn't fit in and committed suicide in the mid-60s. His mother published it in the 90s.