Okay, I know. The average person would have published this list two months ago. However, the trouble with being a writer is that sometimes you have to, well, write. So even though I’m a little behind in looking back, here is my list, in order of preference, of the top five favorite books I loved in 2008.
1)The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
It’s been a long time since I read a book so exquisitely crafted. It did everything it promised to do and it did it flawlessly. There were times when I had to actually check the copyright date to make certain this wasn’t a reprint of a little-known classic, so well did this modern author master the Gothic genre. Now this is what I call a novel!
2) These is My Words: the Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine by Nancy Turner
I know the tale occasionally lapsed into melodrama, but that was part of its charm. I was absolutely captivated by the character of Sarah, and I wanted her story to be true. There were times, in fact, when I was almost convinced it was. Well done. Extremely well done.
3) Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
This is a perfect example of why it pays to occasionally check out a book or a genre you wouldn’t ordinarily read. This was my first book by Jodi Picoult and I couldn’t put it down. I looked forward to getting back to it. I was involved with the characters and I enjoyed their worlds. I thought the religious subtext was cleverly done. Of course I figured out a few of the plot points before I should have, but who cares? I was thoroughly entertained. Who can ask for more?
4) My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor
By now everyone has heard about the neuroscientist who documented her own stroke. But this book is so much more than a handbook for stroke victims. It’s simply the most fascinating account of how the brain works that I’ve ever read. It made me question how much of what we call the ‘soul’ is, in fact, neurochemical. It astonished me with its account of how closely a state of transcendental meditation resembles a simple shut-down of a functional portion of the brain. And I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the fact that the author’s description of her perception of the world as the left side of her brain lost function was almost exactly now, to the best of our knowledge, animals see and conceptualize the world, too. Absolutely fascinating.
5) The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Another book written by a dog? And the hero is a race car driver?? I almost didn’t fall for this one, until a friend– who never recommends books– e-mailed to say she had stayed up all night reading it and that it was the best book she had read all year. I did not stay up all night reading it, but I was sufficiently impressed to recommend this one to my book club. When Enzo (the dog) said, “what you manifest is before you”, I knew this was no ordinary dog book.
So there you have it! Having paid homage to the books I’ve loved in the past, I can now move on with a clear conscience to books I’m loving right now. One note about this list, though. In looking over it, I realize to my shock that three out of my top five favorite books from last year were actually selections from my book club. In my book club, I am known for whining and complaining about the selections (“Oh God, not another book about Afghanistan!” I have been heard to moan loudly at least once a year) so this is fairly remarkable. Surely this is a fluke. It couldn’t possibly happen again.
On the other hand, we haven’t gotten our reading list for 2009 yet...