December 31st, 2008

girl reading with moon

Best books read in 2008

Ordinarily I do a post at the end (or start) of each year, wrapping up the 10 best books I read during the previous 52 weeks. See 2007's list, 2006's, 2005's, 2004's, 2003's, and good God do you think I've had this journal long enough?

This year, though I did a goodly amount of reading, I cannot come up with ten books I'd enthusiastically and wholeheartedly recommend. Too many just did not grab me; or they were good for the first three-quarters, then slogged along for the final one-quarter; or some other mix resulting in dissatisfaction.

So, how about three? Here are three novels I can actually recommend. (Oh yeah--I should mention I seldom include nonfiction in this list unless it really quakes my world.)

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I once saw it advertised as "a novel in the tradition of Jane Eyre," and I rolled my eyes because jeez, what a cheap gimmick. Who wouldn't want their novel advertised that way? But as it turns out, it really does have a Jane Eyre feel to it. The British setting, big old mansion, dark family secrets, things that might be ghosts or might just be mysteries, death and maiming by house fires, and a tremendous love of reading woven throughout, are all factors designed and destined to hook someone like me. That is, yeah, someone who loved Jane Eyre, and who lingers in used bookstores with contentment and joy; but also someone who admires the disturbing, quirky works of Joyce Carol Oates, too. Check it out.

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. If you tend to find my juvenile-yet-well-intentioned brand of humor appealing, you may be a good candidate for becoming a Moore fan. He's an oddball, no question, but such a creative and funny one. This book in particular impressed me with (I kid you not) the scholarly research he had to do to fill out the world in which Joshua (a.k.a. Jesus) and his pal Biff ("Levi who is called Biff") set out on a trek to help Joshua figure out this Messiah stuff. The Bible doesn't cover what happens to Jesus between childhood and age 30 or thereabouts, so Moore decided he'd do the job--making sure to include that time when Jesus learned martial arts, of course. It's hilarious quite often, bawdy most of the time, and yet somehow not offensive unless you're completely without humor. It's even poignant and heartbreaking in a few spots. I daresay plenty of the Christian folk on my friends list would love this, and I have no doubt the agnostics and other-religioned would too. It's the atheists I'm less sure of.

Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite. Men, you might want to skip this one, unless you're gay. And even then, it might be too girly for you. For despite the cast being almost entirely male, and the story consisting of vampires spilling truckloads of blood, the book is basically slash, eyeliner, slash, hair products, slash, music like The Cure, and more slash. As a seasoned Cure fan with occasional slash-reading tendencies, I of course thought it charming. Truthfully, it does have an alluring dark-magical edge that pulled me in, and even an almost-literary touch of Southern Gothic style. If you find Stephenie Meyer (Twilight) too slow and bland, and Anne Rice too maudlin and flowery, invite this one out for drinks.

Next I'll check my movie-viewing history for '08 and see if I can scrape together ten worthies on that front.

Enjoy your champagne and confetti tonight, me lovelies!