Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Reading Recap

Woohoooo, I slid in under the wire and finished my 888 Challenge yesterday:
Read 8 books in each of 8 categories during 2008
My reading list follows below and includes ratings and links to reviews I’ve written. (Edited to add: I've removed 12 review links that were problematic; will repost them when the code is repaired.) Brief comments about every book can be found on my Challenge thread.

That volume of reading is unprecedented for me; my previous annual high was 48 books. (I do confess to nearly a year’s worth of unread magazines at this point, though, heaped in three towering piles.) But what raised the difficulty factor even more was my desire to read predominately from the shelves and stacks of to-be-read (TBR) books that are overtaking my house ... and I finished with the proportion at exactly 50% (32 books) from TBRs. They’re each indicated by “#” in the list, and it’s why so many seemingly older titles are included.

•Dewey: The Small-town Library Cat That Touched the World by Vicki Myron (****) (See review)
•Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman (*****)
•I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings# by Maya Angelou (****)
•Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison (****)
•Lucky Man# by Michael J. Fox (****)
•Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-word Memoirs (****)
•The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (****)
•The Longest Trip Home by John Grogan (****) (See review)

I’ve Started and Want to Finish...
•A Christmas Carol# by Charles Dickens (****)
•A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius# by Dave Eggers (****)
•A Thousand Splendid Suns# by Khaled Hosseini (***)
•Everything is Illuminated# by Jonathan Safran Foer (****)
•Like Water for Chocolate# by Laura Esquivel (****)
•The Song Reader# by Lisa Tucker (***)
•The Poisonwood Bible# by Barbara Kingsolver (*****)
•The Time Traveler's Wife# by Audrey Niffenegger (****)

By My Favorite Writers
•Airframe# by Michael Crichton (***)
•Testimony by Anita Shreve (*****) (See review)
•The Gate House by Nelson DeMille (***) (See review)
•The Gold Coast# by Nelson DeMille (****)
•The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley (***)
•Until the Real Thing Comes Along# by Elizabeth Berg (***)
•What Now? by Ann Patchett (****)
•When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (****)

•A Tree Grows in Brooklyn# by Betty Smith (*****)
•Alice's Adventures in Wonderland# by Lewis Carroll (***)
•Confessions of a Closet Catholic by Sarah Darer Littman (***)
•Dope Sick by Walter Dean Myers (***)
•Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz (*****)
•Holes# by Louis Sachar (***)
•The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (*****)
•When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale (****) (See review)

•A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink (****) (See review)
•Bottomfeeder by Taras Grescoe (****) (See review)
•In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (***) (See review)
•The Omnivore's Dilemma# by Michael Pollan (*****)
•The Power of Now# by Eckhart Tolle (***)
•The Tipping Point# by Malcolm Gladwell (*****)
•The Zen of Eating# by Ronna Kabatznick (***)
•This is Your Brain on Music# by Daniel J. Levitin (***)

•Flash Fiction# ed by James Thomas (****)
•Labor Days# ed by David Gates (***)
•Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou (***)
•Letters to a Young Doctor# by Richard Selzer (*****)
•One Minute Stories by Istvan Orkeny (***)
•The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review (*****)
•The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg (***)
•Where I'm Calling From# by Raymond Carver (*****)

On Writing
•78 Reasons why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might# by Pat Walsh (****)
•Fingerpainting on the Moon# by Peter Levitt (***)
•Journal of a Novel# by John Steinbeck (****)
•If You Want to Write# by Brenda Ueland (***)
•Page After Page# by Heather Sellers (***)
•The Anatomy of Story by John Truby (*****)
•The Situation and the Story# by Vivian Gornick (***) (See review)
•Writing Mysteries# edited by Sue Grafton (***)

Discovered on LibraryThing!
•Food 2.0: Secrets From the Chef Who Fed Google by Charlie Ayers (**)
•Gardens of Water by Alan Drew (****)
•My Husband's Sweethearts by Bridget Asher (****) (See review)
•Schooled by Anisha Lakhani (**) (See review)
•Simplexity by Jeffrey Kluger (***) (See review)
•The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall (****) (See review)
•The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block (***)
•The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (****) (See review)


My Overall 2008 Top 10:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz
Testimony by Anita Shreve
The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver

Images of the books (including some off-challenge reads) appear below.

Next Post: 2009 Reading Preview

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I listened this morning while -- for some reason -- a radio station's traffic reporter spelled her name on air:



I wish my name had that kind of rhythm!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Season's Greetings

I wish I'd noticed this nativity scene earlier … before last weekend's warm weather erased the foot of Chicago snow beneath the palm trees.

Ah, well.
Greetings on this fifth night of Christmas!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Vacation Reading

So I’m headed on vacation to gaze at the ocean. But while most girls would obsess over which clothes to pack, I’m far more interested in choosing which books to take!

Six remain to be read for my 888 Reading Challenge, and five of them made it into my suitcase (the carry-on, mind you; I can’t risk them in checked baggage):

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens -- I’ve seen most film versions but haven’t read the book (nor -- gasp! -- anything by Dickens)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith -- I read this in childhood but can’t remember a thing about it; am looking forward to seeing what comes back as I re-read

Labor Days ed by David Gates -- I love stories set in workplaces, and this is an anthology of work-related short stories and novel excerpts

Letters to a Young Doctor by Richard Selzer -- personal essays by the surgeon forerunner to today’s Atul Gawande

Fingerpainting on the Moon by Peter Levitt -- combine the ocean with this book about artistic creativity … and who knows what might happen??

Of course, I’m still debating about a couple more