Wednesday, January 07, 2009

2008: The One Hundred

(In reverse order:)

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage - Alfred Lansing. A must-read for everyone, and next summer when you're looking for the perfect Father's Day gift, remember what Bybee told you.

The Oregon Trail - Francis Parkman. I found this to be dull reading, but I'm sure it was on-the-edge-of-your-chair reading back in the 1840s, when it was first published.

High Tide In Tucson - Barbara Kingsolver. I'm really becoming a big fan of Kingsolver's nonfiction. I hope her writing starts to sway more in that direction; she does it so well.

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread - Don Robertson (re-read). Morris Bird III, I'll love you forever.

Eye Of The Needle - Ken Follett. Lovely escapist reading! I turned pages so fast it looked like I was fanning.

The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin (Book Group). Mitzi chose this book because the token guy in The Jane Austen Book Club asks one of the women to read it. She resists for a while, then reads it and something else, then they fall in love. Well, book group selections have been chosen for stranger reasons. Mitzi, you done good. Ursula K. Le Guin's anthropological background stands her in good stead as she creates a world complete with mythology, language, a politcal climate, intricate geography, sexuality and other unforgettable features of culture on the planet Winter.

My Name Was Judas - C.K. Stead. Judas Iscariot didn't hang himself! He moved to Greece and lived a long and happy life. In his 70th year, he begins to reflect on his childhood friend Jesus, and one of the disciples shows up on his doorstep. Each chapter ends with a thoughtful and often bittersweet poem containing 13 syllables.

The Innocent Man - John Grisham. I'm sure the Ada, Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce won't be using this book to promote their city. An appalling look at police work at its shoddiest and most inept.

Old School - Tobias Wolff (Book Group). Read This Boy's Life (Tobias Wolff's memoir of his life before he went away to private school) first, then this novel as a companion piece. I understood what he was trying to accomplish, but I found the final chapter problematic, although I couldn't figure out another approach. The wicked send-up of Ayn Rand is worth the price of admission.

The Chronicle of Manchiwidang - Moon-Soo Kim. A short Korean novel about a son whose father has compelling but unrealistic dreams about their ancestral home and their place in life. A brief but enlightening look at how Koreans seem to be reeling from how much their country has changed in 50 short years.

Angle of Repose - Wallace Stegner (The Pulitzer Project). I want more Stegner!

Mr. Pip - Lloyd Jones. This book, especially Matilda's mother's uneasy relationship with Great Expectations and Mr. Watts strained my credulity at times. It seemed a little awkward, and hardly more than a means to the violence near the end. I did like how Jones peeled back some of the layers of Mr. Watts' background. I was also glad to have read Great Expectations fairly recently.

Dreams From My Father - Barack Obama. I read this right after the election with my emotions running high. A thoughtful memoir that reads like a novel at times. I hope that one day, Obama will write more about his mother. I actually find her more fascinating than his father.

Fearless Interviewing - Marky Stein (Re-read). This book feels like it has a curse on it. I read it before 3 interviews and didn't get the job each time. For the 4th interview, I left it on the shelf and got the job. I'm probably going to unload it soon. Any takers?

Matrimony - Joshua Henkin. I was going crazy trying to figure out who the creative writing professor was at the beginning of the novel. Maybe Richard Yates? I liked how Henkin kept the tone of the novel quiet and understated, but when Julian and Mia separate, everything was a little too quiet. I'm looking forward to Joshua Henkin's next novel.

When You Are Engulfed In Flames - David Sedaris. The part that seems to stay with me is "Old Faithful" when Hugh and David are in London and David has a painful boil the size of a peach pit at the top of his butt crack. He begins musing about fidelity, then brings it all together brilliantly when Hugh lances his boil for him, and the nasty thing spews like...well, you know.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz (The Pulitzer Project). I was dazzled by the combination of 20th century Dominican Republic history woven so expertly with references to geek culture. And the language! Spanish and English co-mingled with a street cadence. Junot Diaz is a genius.

Princess Diana - Joanne Mattern. A YA biography of the late princess. Worth reading for the fair and balanced look at her life, and the author isn't "writing down" at all.

Books: A Memoir - Larry McMurtry. I gushed at great length about this book back in October. I'm sure I'll be reading it again soon.

How Koreans Talk: A Collection of Expressions - Sang-Hun Choe & Christopher Torchia. I've got plans to do a full-blown review.

Stumbling On Happiness - Daniel Gilbert (Book Group). Basically, this book tells us how our brains don't really do past and future very well, and are constantly tricking us. Funny and informative, but the title is somewhat misleading.

Going Solo - Roald Dahl (In Their Shoes Challenge)

The Whale Rider - Witi Ihimaera

JPod - Douglas Coupland (2nd Canadian Book Challenge AND Orbis Terrarum Challenge -- CANADA)

The Road - Cormac McCarthy (The Pulitzer Project AND Book Group). I've got plans to read more McCarthy.

A Spectacle Of Corruption - David Liss (Book Group)

Plainsong - Kent Haruf

The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan. I can't stop thinking about this book. Definitely a top read for 2008. My coworker, Martin lent it to me, but I want my own copy.

The Pillars Of The Earth - Ken Follett

Persuasion - Jane Austen (Book Group)

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (Orbis Terrarum Challenge -- ENGLAND)

The Hungry Ocean - Linda Greenlaw (In Their Shoes Challenge)

Atonement - Ian McEwan. That's a hell of a way to act in a library!

Ex Libris - Anne Fadiman (re-read, Book Group) So much love! I want my copy back.

Anne Of The Island - L.M. Montgomery (2nd Canadian Book Challenge)

Freakonomics - Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Native Speaker - Chang-Rae Lee

My Detachment - Tracy Kidder (In Their Shoes Challenge)

Good Omens - Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

A Confederacy Of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole (The Pulitzer Project)

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth - Chris Ware (Graphic Novel Challenge)

Self-Consciousness - John Updike

The Bone People - Keri Hulme (Orbis Terrarum Challenge -- NEW ZEALAND)

Unless - Carol Shields (2nd Canadian Book Challenge)

The Tale Of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo (Book Group)

Tete-A-Tete - Hazel Rowley (In Their Shoes Challenge). Joint biography of Simone de Beauvior and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Fifth Business - Robertson Davies (2nd Canadian Book Challenge). Robertson Davies rocks.

Monday Mourning - Kathy Reichs (Book Group). I like the TV show "Bones" better.

The Witch Of Blackbird Pond - Elizabeth George Speare

Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

Grizzly! Real-Life Animal Attacks - Allan B. Ury

Fat Girl - Judith Moore

Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill (Book Group)

The Executioner's Song - Norman Mailer (The Pulitzer Project)

Caught By The Sea - Gary Paulsen

The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint Exupery (Book Group)

High Sierra - W.R. Burnett. This guy gives James M. Cain a run for his money.

My Life And Hard Times - James Thurber

Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides (The Pulitzer Project AND Book Group)

I Have The Right To Destroy Myself - Young-Ha Kim. Aaargh! Give me back my time!

Diane Arbus -Patricia Bosworth (In Their Shoes Challenge)

The Coldest Place On Earth - Tony Vicary. Even though things went badly for Scott and his team, they seem like they would have been interesting to hang with.

Sunshine - Norma Klein (re-read)

Ex Libris - Anne Fadiman. Yes! I love this book!

Anne of Avonlea -L.M. Montgomery (Canadian Book Challenge)

Oil! - Upton Sinclair (Book Group)

The Oxford Murders - Guillermo Martinez (Orbis Terrarum Challenge -- ARGENTINA)

A Summons To Memphis - Peter Taylor (The Pulitzer Project AND Orbis Terrarum Challenge --USA). I'm glad I read a Pulitzer prizewinner, but can't really recommend this one. Too slow, too muted. I wonder if Joshua Henkin likes Peter Taylor's writing. I'm not being insulting; I'm really curious.

Cash - Editors of Rolling Stone

An Appointment With My Brother - Yi Mun-Yol (Orbis Terrarum Challenge --SOUTH KOREA)

The Known World - Edward P. Jones (The Pulitzer Project AND Book Group)

Is There A Doctor In The Zoo? - David Taylor. I'm really pleased to have discovered this author. I'll be on the lookout for more of his adventures as a zoo vet.

What Is The What - Dave Eggers

Truth & Beauty - Ann Patchett (In Their Shoes Challenge)

...If You Lived In Colonial Times - Ann McGovern

Korea Bug: The Best Of The Zine That Infected A Nation - J. Scott Burgeson. Standing ovation.

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography - David Michaelis (In Their Shoes Challenge)

Suite Francaise -Irene Nemirovsky (Book Group). I'm looking for a copy of Fire In The Blood.

The Almost Moon - Alice Sebold

The Borden Tragedy - Rick Geary (Graphic Novel Challenge). Owning Geary's whole "Victorian Murders" series would be great fun.

Fall On Your Knees - Ann-Marie MacDonald (Canadian Book Challenge). I didn't like this one at all. Not even its Canadian-ness can make me like it.

The Case Of Madeleine Smith - Rick Geary (Graphic Novel Challenge)

A Bad Case Of Stripes - David Shannon

Brainiac - Ken Jennings (In Their Shoes Challenge)

How To Be Good - Nick Hornby

You Suck - Christopher Moore (Book Group)

The Uninvited - Geling Yan

Housekeeping vs. The Dirt - Nick Hornby

Me Talk Pretty One Day -David Sedaris (re-read, Book Group)

Pyongyang: A Journey In North Korea - Guy Delisle (Canadian Book Challenge and Graphic Novel Challenge)

Polite Lies: On Being A Woman Caught Between Cultures - Kyoko Mori

All Families Are Pyschotic - Douglas Coupland (Canadian Book Challenge)

The Polysyllabic Spree - Nick Hornby

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (Book Group). I liked his follow-up novel better.

A Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography Of Emma Goldman - Sharon Rudahl (Graphic Novel Challenge)

A Complicated Kindness - Miriam Toews (Canadian Book Challenge)

Travels With Charley - John Steinbeck (In Their Shoes Challenge). I wish I'd read more Steinbeck in 2008.

Scoundrels and Scallywags: Characters From Alberta's Past - Brian Brennan (Canadian Book Challenge)

The Book Of Proper Names - Amelie Nothomb. I can't even tell you how much I loathed this book. Words fail me. I'm down to sound effects.

We Are All Fine Here - Mary Guterson


Maree said...

Wow, that's some list! I read My Name is Judas a couple of years ago, and really enjoyed it.
I'm hoping to get to 100 books this year too. We'll see ...

Anonymous said...

a delight to read your comments on these books! sound effects? hell of a way to act in a library? snort.

Again, congrats on your 100!

Hannah Furst said...

I recently saw your post about reading Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française. I wanted to pass along some information on an exciting new exhibition about Némirovsky's life, work, and legacy at the Museum of Jewish Heritage —A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, which will run through the middle of March, will include powerful rare artifacts — the actual handwritten manuscript for Suite Française, the valise in which it was found, and many personal papers and family photos. The majority of these documents and artifacts have never been outside of France. For fans of her work, this exhibition is an opportunity to really “get to know” Irene. And for those who can’t visit, there will be a special website that will live on the Museum’s site

The Museum will host several public programs over the course of the exhibition’s run that will put Némirovsky’s work and life into historical and literary context. Book clubs and groups are invited to the Museum for tours and discussions in the exhibition’s adjacent Salon (by appointment). It is the Museum’s hope that the exhibit will engage visitors and promote dialogue about this extraordinary writer and the complex time in which she lived and died. To book a group tour, please contact Tracy Bradshaw at 646.437.4304 or Please visit our website at for up-to-date information about upcoming public programs or to join our e-bulletin list.

Thanks for sharing this info with your readers. If you need any more, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how impressive the list is when you type it out. I took a picture of me with most of my reads this year and it kinda blew me away to see them all piled up.

In case I didn't mention it before, well done. An accomplished goal is very satisfying and signals great things about ones character.

Susan said...

Yaaay! You did it! No matter what your T&CIB says, you did it!! I have to get that Junoz DIaz (whatever, you know who I mean!), and I'm reading *Nick*'s Polysyllabic Spree now *double sigh* he makes me laugh out loud so it's dangerous reading him in public!!!
I love your comments too, it was like getting your review encapsulated again - a year end final thoughts. My goal is to get to 100 books this year!!
And congratulations on getting the job!!!
PS pictures of trip to England will be on my Facebook shortly, as soon as the universe and my kids give me time to pick out the best photos that don't show us all as shadowed because there was no sun at all except for 1 1/2 days!!!