Well, it's been a busy year for me which means a shorter list of books I've read. However, there's a higher proportion of books I really enjoyed in 2008 so maybe that all evens out in the end. Here are my top ten books of 2008 in, oh, chronological order:

Bird, Kansas by Tony Parker: a fascinating portrait of a small town in Kansas, which is both a very specific population in a specific time and place, but also winds up being a timeless picture of the midwest in general. It was of special interest to me, having just moved to rural Kansas, and I found it informative, encouraging, and inspiring.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien: This is another one of those books that I can't believe I never read before now. Newbery winner, talking animals, those mysterious rats, and a vicious cat named Dragon--what more do you need? I loved it so much I'm reading out loud again, this time to the 4th and 5th graders at our library.

The Time It Takes to Fall by Margaret Lazarus Dean: This book is the first I've ever read that takes me back to my childhood, growing up in the 1980s on the Space Coast. It's also the only novel I've read that integrates the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster into the plot, fictionalizing the characters but sticking to the scientific facts about what really happened.

Beginner's Greek by James Collins: The book equivalent of a romantic comedy: love at first sight, awkward situations and fabulous coincidences contriving to keep the couple apart, and a happy ending you didn't think the author could pull off (but knew he had to). A book that enjoys itself, so you can too.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly: And then something completely different. For anyone who doesn't like sweets, a twist on fairy tales that's a little like "Pan's Labyrinth" and a little like Stephen King. Shockingly good. And, in some places, just plain shocking.

Skylar by Mary Cuffe-Perez: Not since The Trumpet of the Swan have I cared so much about large waterfowl. Seriously, it's a very tender kids' book about a small gaggle of fat, tame Canada geese who decide to leave the pond and give migration a try. Note to parents: give it a read through before you read it to younger kids; there are a couple of tear-jerker moments.

The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead by David Shields: you wouldn't think an assorted collection of facts about aging and way your body and mind stop functioning would be uplifting, but somehow Shields pulls it off, while also writing about (and to) his father.

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue: This was definitely a year for fairy tales and the like, but it was hard to pick just one. Henry Day is a seven-year-old boy; Henry Day is a century-old changeling who took the place of a seven-year-old-boy; Henry Day is a seven-year-old changeling who used to be a little boy. A superb story about romance, identity, humanity, and the gradual loss of the old tales.

Winter Wood by Steve Augarde: I've mentioned this trilogy many times before: The Various, Celandine, and Winter Wood. It's being rebranded for the U.S. now as The Touchstone Trilogy (nice to have a name for it) but without Augarde's woodcut illustrations and covers, which is a shame. The writing, though, is still worth checking out, and it's still the best fantasy series I've read since Harry Potter.

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry: This is the book that Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events should have been. Snarky but still somewhat sweet, "educational" without bogging down, featuring precocious siblings and obtuse adults, and—last but not least—quickly concluded.

I wish you a happy new year with plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in really good books!

Fed to jonathan's brain | December 31, 2008 | Comments (0)


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