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Michael’s Top Books of 2008

3rd January 2009
by Michael

Michael’s Top Books of 2008

posted in Authors, Books, Year-end lists |

Here are my top 20 books that I read in 2008.


The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia A. McKillip – Not much happens in the sleepy, seaside town of Sealey Head, but inside the baffling Ainslinn House there are mysteries aplenty.  The master of literary fantasy does it again with a complex tale of a spellbound household and the handful of people able to set them free.  Every McKillip novel is a special event for me, and this was no exception.


Home by Marilynne Robinson – For me, this companion to her Pulitzer- Prize-winning Gilead was in fact a more satisfying read.  Home looks at the complicated relationship between a brother and sister, two supporting characters in Gilead.  Robinson’s deft storytelling and lyrical language harkens back to her first novel Housekeeping in this powerful tale.


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – Gaiman puts his spin on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book when a toddler is raised to adulthood by the residents of a local graveyard after his family is murdered.  Deft imagination weaves with wry humor in a book that appeals to all ages.


The Condition by Jennifer Haigh – Turner’s Syndrome is the central condition referred to in the story’s title, but 33-year-old Gwen, who hasn’t developed physically since she was thirteen, is not the only member of the McKotches family dealing with some sort of condition.  Haigh’s exploration of this dysfunctional New England family is compelling, original and real.


The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks – It was about time that I read Banks’ novel, which is the basis for my favorite film.  Banks delves more deeply into the damaged Upstate New York town whose residents are reeling from the effects of a bus accident that robbed them of most of their children.  He masterfully explores the themes of guilt, responsibility and truth in this marvelous novel.


The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey – A young woman’s life is explored through four different points-of-view:  her own, her best friend’s, her best friend’s husband, and her father’s.  Livesey weaves a sad but illuminating story about life and luck.


Run by Ann Patchett – Former Boston mayor Bernard Doyle hasn’t stopped mourning the loss of his wife, but he has raised his two adopted sons to be intelligent, well-loved young men.  Patchett pushes the boundaries of family and social class when a tragic accident in the snow leaves their lives forever changed.


Andorra by Peter Cameron – Cameron explores the tiny European country of Andorra with a languid style that imitates the novel’s hot summer afternoons, all the while weaving an intriguing mystery that seems like background human interest until pushing its way to the forefront of the story.


The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer – A secret organization is searching for the long-missing murder weapon that Cain used to murder his brother… and somehow that murder weapon is tied to the gun that killed the father of the boy who eventually grew up to invent Superman.  Deftly weaving the dual tales of Cain and Able and Superman into the fabric of this modern-day thriller, Meltzer creates a surprisingly touching story about fathers and sons.


A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire – Maguire used Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West to explore the misunderstood concept of evil in the magnificent Wicked.  Now, in A Lion Among Men, he uses Brrr, the Cowardly Lion, to examine the often misinterpreted concept of cowardice.


We Disappear by Scott Heim – Heim delves deeply into the troubled past of a woman battling cancer and an obssession with kdnapped children.  Scott returns home to rural Iowa to help his mother, but he’s got problems of his own.  Struggling with a drug addiction, he is unprepared to face the secrets he finds his mother has kept from him since childhood.


Goldengrove by Francine Prose – Prose explores the ramifications of grief on a young woman whose older sister dies suddenly on a lazy summer afternoon.  Part coming-of-age story, part family drama, Goldengrove tells a powerful tale with rich, complex emotion.


Of Men and Their Mothers by Mameve Medwed – With her trademark humor, Medwed explores the challenging relationships between mothers and the men in their lives.  Maisie Grey must deal not only with her ex-husband’s monster of a mother, she must avoid following in that woman’s footsteps when her son shows up with a new girlfriend she’s not sure she approves of.  Sweet and biting at the same time, Medwed delivers a real crowd-pleaser.


Lie Down with the Devil by Linda Barnes – In the 12th installment of the Carlotta Carlyle series, Barnes does something amazing.  She brought this first-time reader up to speed while telling a compelling story involving mystery, romance, family drama and danger at a rapid pace.  This is one talented writer who makes me want to go back and read Carlotta’s 11 previous adventures.


Passage by Lois McMaster Bujold – In this third installment of The Sharing Knife series, newly married couple Fawn and Dag must face the prejudices of both their people as they travel downriver on a single-minded mission to reeducate an entire civilization.  Bujold has created a complex romance in a fantasy setting that isn’t afriad to tackle difficult subjects.

Rounding out the Top 20 are:

The End of the Alphabet
by CS Richardson
The Thief Queen’s Daughter by Elizabeth Haydon
The Theory of Clouds by Stéphane Audeguy
The Murder Notebook by Jonathan Santlofer
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

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This entry was posted on Saturday, January 3rd, 2009 at 1:35 pm and is filed under Authors, Books, Year-end lists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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