Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Year of Books, part 1

This was a pretty good year of reading for me, with 28 books read in 2008. That's definitely the most books I've read in twelve months time since before Betty and Boo arrived, but I'd like to do a little better next year. Still, having a 1.5 - 2-hour commute to work (each way!) helped boost my total, as I've discovered audiobooks. I never thought I would like them or have the required attention span, but a good story combined with a good narrator can be a nice diversion on the road. I'm limited in the selection of audios to what is available on cassette at our library, however, as my van only has a tape deck and no CD player.

Below are the books I read, by rating and alphabetically within the ratings. If I've written a review on this blog, I included a link. Before starting this blog in August, I wrote some reviews on, and I've cut and pasted them here.

5 stars (wonderful book, highly recommended)

  1. Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons (audio)
  2. Water for Elephants, by Sarah Gruen
  3. The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch
  4. The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

4 stars (very good book, would recommend)

  1. If You Could See Me Now, by Cecilia Ahern (audio)
  2. Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen
  3. Little Sugar Addicts, by Kathryn Desmaisons
  4. Finding Nouf, by Zoe Ferraris
  5. Made to Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  6. Catching Genius, by Kristy Kiernan
  7. When Children Ask About God, by Harold S. Kushner
  8. On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan (audio)
  9. All He Ever Wanted, by Anita Shreve (audio)

3 stars (good book, enjoyable)

  1. Basic Black, by Cathie Black
  2. The Buffalo Soldier, by Chris Bohjalian (audio)
  3. What's Next: The Experts' Guide: Predictions from 50 of America's Most Compelling People, by Jane Buckingham
  4. Giving, by Bill Clinton (audio)
  5. The Camel Bookmobile, by Masha Hamilton
  6. Anytime Playdate, by Dade Hayes
  7. Here's the Story, by Maureen McCormick
  8. Schultz & Peanuts, by David Michaelis
  9. Still Summer, by Jacquelyn Mitchard (audio)
  10. The Abstinence Teacher, by Tom Perrotta
  11. The Almost Moon, by Alice Sebold (audio)
  12. Mermaids in the Basement, by Michael Lee West

2 stars (average, somewhat unremarkable)

  1. The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, by Steve Leveen

1 star (disappointing read, would not recommend)

  1. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion
  2. The Pilot's Wife, by Anita Shreve (audio)

Started but Abandoned

  1. The Last Summer of You and Me, by Ann Brashares
  2. Plainsong, by Kent Haruf
  3. Waterbaby, by Cris Mazza
  4. The Senator's Wife, by Sue Miller
  5. Breathing Lessons, by Anne Tyler


I reviewed Ellen Foster in this post from 10/6/08. The following reviews are taken from my page (and were written before I started this blog).

Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen This is a beautifully written book that, for me, was impossible to put down. Gruen's imagery of Depression-era circus life allows the reader to connect with and care about Jacob. I absolutely loved this book and recommend this to everyone. One of my all-time favorites.

The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch A beautifully written, inspiring and heartbreaking book. I absolutely loved this. Much of what Pausch conveys in this book has been expressed by others in similar circumstances and in other forms, but it is the upbeat way he lived his all-too-brief life that becomes the inspiration for all of us to continue his legacy by striving to become better parents and people. This is definitely a "take stock" type of book - meaning that, it affords the reader the opportunity to reflect on how one is living one's life and how to become a better person in doing so.

The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls One of the best first lines in any book - novel, memoir, nonfiction, etc - is found on the first page of The Glass Castle:

"I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I
looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster."

With those few words, Walls immediately captures her reader's attention. Her description of her childhood and the extreme poverty that the Walls family endured conjures up a dizzying array of emotions from anger to humor to sadness. This is a fast-paced book, the type of book that keeps one up late at night and becomes impossible to put down. I found myself reading the last 100 pages incredibly quickly, just so I could find out what happens to everyone. The fact that this is a memoir, that these kids survived all that they endured, makes this even more of a powerful story. I've had this on my plan-to-read list for awhile now and my only disappointment is that I didn't read it sooner. This one will stick with me for some time to come.

More reviews and other book commentary to come in another post ....

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