Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Best and Worst of 2008

To commemorate the approach of 2009, many book bloggers are now posting about the best (and worst) titles they read this closing year. Larry at OF Blog of the Fallen, for example, has already done several entries covering different genres of speculative fiction he has read over the course of 2008, while Joe Sherry of Adventures in Reading has also done his share of yearly wrap-up listings. Nancy R. of When in Doubt, Read!, meanwhile, has decided to simply catalog "Books You Really Should Read at Some Point in Your Life So Why Not This Year." This, I thought is an excellent idea.

So here I go!

The Best

Shreve Stockton, The Daily Coyote (Memoir)
A professional photographer, living in a cabin with no plumbing in backwater Wyoming, recounts her first year living with Charlie the coyote. A beautiful homage to nature, cowboys, and wide open Western spaces. (2008)

Dan Simmons, Hyperion (Science Fantasy)
What can I say about this beyond what I've already said? This is a book to take your breath away. Pure imagination that takes you on a journey through a dying empire where people still dream of transcendence. (1989)

Ferenc Karinthy, Metropole (Hungarian Literature)
A surreal tale that almost out-Kafkas Kafka. A linguist boards the wrong plane and finds himself in a mysterious city with an utterly incomprehensible language. No way out. What does it all mean??? (1970)

Marguerite Duras, The Sailor from Gibraltar (French Literature/Romance)
A lovely travel tale light as a cloud. Take me away to the blue waters of the Mediterranean where wealthy widows sale endlessly, looking for the sailor from Gibraltar. (1952)

Esther Tusquets, The Same Sea as Every Summer (LGBT/Spanish Literature)
A sensual stream-of-conscious that reads like extended poetry. A middle-aged woman's affair with a female student that also reflects on the failure of the bourgeoisie artist in Spain's post-Franco years. (1978)

Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash (Science Fiction – Cyberpunk)
Slick, hip vision of a dystopic near-future where corporations rule, virtual reality is all the rage, hackers battle charismatic cult leaders, Sumerian myth is made real, and pizza delivering can sometimes get out of hand. (1992)

Victor Serge, Unforgiving Years (Russian Literature)
Brutal. Tragic. Hypnotic. Jaded. Beautiful. Human. Follows two world-weary Russian communists from the 1930s to early '50s. On the run from former comrades in Depression-era Paris, undercover in the ruins of Germany on the brink of defeat, trying to forget it all in Mexico. Finally safe? Or does the past never die? (mid-40's)

Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore, Watchmen (Graphic Novel)
A visually striking romp through an alternate 1985 that is powerful, poignant, bleak to the point of suffocation, and hopeful through humanity's darkest hour. (1986)

D.H. Lawrence, Women in Love (English Literature)
A darkly poetic look at the tumultuous dynamics of human relationships, with an emphasis on violence and destruction that mirrors the trauma of the Great War. (1920)

The Worst

Neil Gaiman, American Gods (Fantasy Adventure)
Not a bad book per se. More of a let-down. Still, I can see how others might like it. (2001)

Peter David, Before Dishonor (Science Fiction - Star Trek)
Hahaha, I get it! This wasn't really Peter David! It was doubtlessly the same ghost-writing imposter who butchered Blood Canticle. (2007)

Dean Koontz, The Darkest Evening of the Year (Suspense/Thriller)
Dean oh Dean, how far you have fallen. Remember Phantoms? You used to be great, Dean. What happened? Here: the New York Times says it better than I ever will. (2007)

Richard Matheson, I Am Legend (Post-Apocalyptic)
Again, not really a bad book. Just disappointing. (1954)

Anja Snellman, Sonja. O. Was Here (Finnish Literature)
If disrespecting yourself and engaging in reckless, irresponsible behavior is supposed to be feminism, then count me out. (1981)

Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake (American Literature)
Had a couple of humorous moments, but ultimately pointless. An old man rambling on about nothing. I didn't even finish it. (1997)

Henry Miller, The Tropic of Cancer (American Literature)
Tragic, really. He was a talented writer. Too bad he wrote this. Diary of a Sociopathic Jerk would've been a more accurate title. Although he's probably just the type of guy Sonja O. would've slept with. . . (1934)

Stephenie Meyer, Twilight (YA Paranormal Romance)


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