It’s a week or two later than you’d expect, and it may be almost a trite question, but … what were your favorite books from 2008?
(It’s an oldie but a goodie question for a reason, after all … because, who can’t use good book suggestions from time to time?)
Most of the books I read in 2008 weren't new, but of the ones that were new to me, I liked The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova a great deal. I enjoyed it for its fresh take on a topic that's been absolutely done to death, for its prominent use of primary source research, and for its journey into a part of the world that I personally never gave much thought to visiting. Parts of the book could not have made the Eastern European countries sound more appealing if they'd been written by the National Tourism Board. Kostova took classic elements of the Dracula story and gave them new life and heart. There are three scenes which involve stakes to the heart, but rather than seeming cheesy and cliche, the first two bring tears to the reader's eyes, and the third is suspenseful and ultimatley triumphant. So this was one of my stand-out favorites among the books I read in 2008.
For nonfiction, The Medici Conspiracy was a standout for me last year. Many people who saw me with the book assumed it was like The Da Vinci Code. But Giacomo Medici is an actual, modern person and the kingpin in an antiquities smuggling and forgery ring that has spread all over the world and infected some of the most respected museums. The dust from this conspiracy has yet to settle. Many of the key players are still on trial in Italy and Greece. Many of the objects have yet to be authenticated or traced. Entire areas of scholarship on Greek and Roman art have been called into question. Journalists Peter Watson and Cecelia Todeschini trace the history of the conspiracy and its players.
Overall, though, 2008 was a disappointing year in books for me. I was looking back over my blog for the past year -- my God, I read a lot of crap. There was the awful book about the gay figure skaters, the formulaic book about the wacky Southern females on a cross-country road trip, that Wendy Wasserstein book that I couldn't even finish, that Tony Horowitz book that actually killed my desire to read or blog for almost a month, the boring and heartless Charity Girl, the whiny Summer People... very few literary bright spots in an overall bad year. 2008was a terrible year for a lot of people, and I was one of them. And apparently, even books didn't help.