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    the year in reading: 2008

    One of my New Year's traditions (at least since 2004) is to take a little time to crunch the numbers on the books I read the previous year, as well as to announce a few highlights. (Past years' results: 2007; 2006; 2005; 2004.)

    As for this year, I read a total of 51 books, which is about average for me, although down a bit from last year's 58. Here's the breakdown:

    Fiction: 16, the same as last year. The highlight here, far and away, was Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars, a book I'd put off reading for some time, but which emerged as easily the best book I read this year. Other highlights in the field of fiction are a few books I'd read before (Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground, Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist, Carole Maso's The Art Lover, and Patrik Ourednik's Europeana) and at least one that I should probably have read long ago (J. D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey). Miranda July's book of short stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You, deserves a mention here as well.

    Books on film / film criticism: 7, down four from last year. Highlight: Carol Clover's canonical text on gender in the contemporary horror film, Men, Women, and Chain Saws. (You can browse my notes here, if you're so inclined.) I also re-read Chris Radley's great Cronenberg on Cronenberg volume.

    Graphic novels / comics anthologies / books of cartoons: 22. Up fifteen from last year, which means that the "season of comics" I wrote about here and here actually turned into something more like a year of comics. I make no apologies about this: this avenue of my reading provided me with no shortage of highlights, including the four volumes of Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men, the first volume of Warren Ellis' Planetary, Neil Gaiman's Marvel 1602, and the Daredevil Omnibus Companion (a volume which, for my money, is preferable to the actual Daredevil Omnibus). Less escapist stuff included Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and Marjane Satrapi's Complete Persepolis: neither one is the masterpiece that some people have claimed, but both do very good work in expanding the field. Valuable re-reads included the Robert Crumb / Harvey Pekar collaboration Bob & Harv's Comics, Paul Pope's 100%, and Dan Clowes' Ghost World.

    Assorted nonfiction and polemics: 4. Among them, three constitute highlights of the year: Oranges, an early work by John McPhee in which he examines the citrus industry; The Ecology of Games, a MacArthur-funded anthology of writing about video games, adolescence, and literacy (see more notes on this book here); and Getting Things Done, the infamous productivity guide parodied here.

    Surprisingly, I read no books of poetry or literary criticism this year. I spent extended time with Gertrude Stein's How To Write and John Ashbery's Hotel Lautreamont but did not complete either.

    The following authors wrote books I read for the first time in 2008, and also wrote books that I read prior to 2008: Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon, Frank Miller, Alan Martin, Warren Ellis, Michael Ondaatje, Lynda Barry, J.D. Salinger, and John McPhee.

    What did you read this year that you enjoyed?

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    Sunday, January 04, 2009
    4:29 PM


    Best non-fiction book I read this year (and one of the best nf of the past several years) was Mlodinow's "Drunkard's Walk", which I thought was excellent, readable, and hugely informative and entertaining.

    Best poetry I read was GC Waldrep's Disclamor (2007).

    Best fiction, not sure, I'd have to think about that. I do want to mention Tim Winton's Breath (2008) to anyone who likes Kem Nunn's novels like "Tapping the Source" or "Dogs of Winter".

    Good year for books.
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