Archive for the ‘Best Books 2008’ Category

BookList’s Bests

Thursday, January 8th, 2009


Booklist has just announced their Editors’ Choice of the best books of 2008, which means all the “Bests” lists are now in.

Of the 23 fiction titles, several have appeared on other lists. The title that showed up on the most national lists, including BookList‘s, is Richard Price’s Lush Life, followed closely by Toni Morrison’s A Mercy (links to the full lists appear at the right, under “Best Books 2008”).

Price, Richard, Lush Life
NYT BR, EW, PW, WSJ, NYT Daily, Time, Wash. Post, Booklist

Morrison, Toni, A Mercy
NYT BR, Wash. Post (top 5), Amazon Editors, LJ, LAT, NYT Daily, Booklist

Titles that appeared on many other lists, but not on Booklist‘s include:

Bolaño, Roberto, 2666
NYT BR, Wash. Post (top 5), Amazon Editors, PW, LAT, NYT Daily, Salon, Time

O’Neill, Joseph, Netherland
NYT BR, Amazon Editors, PW, NYT Daily, NYer, People

Wroblewski, David, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
Amazon Editors, EW, PW, NYT Daily, People, Wash. Post

Le, Nam, The Boat
NYT BR, Amazon Editors, PW, LJ, LAT

Robinson, Marilynne, Home
NYT BR, Amazon Editors, LJ, LAT, Wash. Post

Strout, Elizabeth, Olive Kitteredge
Amazon Editors, EW, LJ, People, Wash. Post

Rash, Ron, Serena
Amazon Editors, PW, NYT Daily, Wash. Post

Akpan, Uwem, Say You’re One of Them
Amazon Editors, PW, NYT Daily, Wash. Post

And, taste being what it is, of Booklist‘s 23 fiction selections, nearly one third did not appear on the other lists:


Levitt, Paul M., Come with Me to Babylon, University of New Mexico


Rhodes, David, Driftless, Milkweed


Marai, Sandor, Esther’s Inheritance, Knopf


Askold, Melnyczuk, House of Widows, Graywolf


Kelman, James, Kieron Smith, boy (this titls is also on James Wood’s very short list — just five fiction — in The New Yorker)


de Bernieres, Louis, A Partisan’s Daughter, Knopf


Hogan, Linda, People of the Whale, Norton


Furnivall, Kate, The Red Scarf, Berkeley


Rebeck, Theresa Three Girls and Their Brother, Crown, Shaye Areheart

Starting the New Year with Nancy Pearl

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

What a happy beginning to the New Year, waking up to  Nancy Pearl’s voice as she talks and laughs with Steve Inskeep on NPR’s Morning Edition.

If you didn’t happen to catch it, you can listen to it on the NPR Web site.

The Worst Books — Now We’re Talking!

Monday, December 29th, 2008

I think I’ve OD’d on Best Books lists — we’ve  linked to 67 lists from 29 publications (see links at right). And, we’re being selective; we’ve  tried to keep it focused on the publications that have the most sway with consumers and librarians. I don’t dare to even try to count the number of lists put together by “Large Hearted Boy,” who, being large hearted and all, is going for quantity.

So, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of glee at Entertainment Weekly ‘s list of the five worst books of the year, most of them bestsellers.

They’ve also selected the top ten in fiction and nonfiction. The fiction list is the quirkier of the two.

Their #1 pick is a book that didn’t get the huge audience I thought it deserved,


Say You’re One of Them

Uwem Akpan

  • Hardcover: $23.99; 368 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; (June 9, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0316113786
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316113786

At #2, is a first novel that hasn’t appear on other lists. The pick gave it a lift on Amazon (from the low five digits to a high of #1,557). Some libraries are showing reserves.


The Book of Dahlia

Elissa Albert

  • Hardcover: $23; 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press;  (March 11, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0743291298
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743291293

It’s coming out in paperback in March:

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (March 10, 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 0743291301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743291309

Appropriately, since Entertainment Weekly is a big supporter of graphic novels, they also include, at #5,


Bottomless Belly Button

Dash Shaw

  • Paperback: $29.99; 720 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (June 4, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1560979151
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560979159

Wall Street Journal Picks Best Books

Friday, December 26th, 2008


Of the newspaper book review sections, the Wall Street Journal tends to cover books that others do not, including a fair number of university press books. You might expect them to focus on books on finance, but they’re just as likely to review books on the arts.

Their picks of the “most memorable” books of 2008 is also off the beaten path. Even though they selected only a dozen books, the majority of these titles haven’t appeared on the other lists we tracked (see our links to “Best Books 2008” to the right. We include only the sources that have broad consumer reach, but if you want to look at all the best lists, check out the blog Large-Hearted Boy‘s  2008 Year-End Online Book Lists). None of the  National Book Award finalists make the WSJ list.

The titles that overlap with other lists happen to be the three fiction titles:

  • Lush Life, Richard Price
  • Cost, Roxana Robinson
  • Dear American Airlines, Jonathan Miles

Not a single financial title makes the list, which ranges from a book on Pixar studios to  Daniel Mark Epstein’s The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage.

Nancy Pearl is ‘Under the Radar’

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

As part of NPR’s series on the “Best Books of 2008,” librarian Nancy Pearl presents eight titles “Beneath the Reading Radar.” The selections reflect the amazing range of Nancy’s taste, from Sam Savage’s Firmin, featuring a book-loving rat, to Jeff Talarigo’s The Ginseng Hunter, a novel about life in China at the turn of the century.

For other “Best Books” lists, check our links to the right.

Best AudioBooks

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

AudioFile magazine has just released their picks of the Best Audiobooks of the year, as well as the Best Voices.

“Bests” Mania

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

It’s always painful to realize that you’ve been wasting your time. I just discovered that someone else has been compiling the various Best Books lists and he’s identified MANY more than I have in his “2008 Year-End Online Book Lists“.  He’s also been compiling the 2008 Year-End Online Music Lists. Only a crazy person would tackle both.

He includes some specialty book lists you won’t find elsewhere, like the list of favorite book covers. I have to say, I don’t agree with this particular pick:

and am disappointed that one of my favorites is not included:

but here’s a brilliant one I’d completely missed:

You might think that the 10 best National Security Books, chosen by Family Security Matters, would be filled with titles you’ve never heard of, but not so. Now that national security is such a hot topic, several of the selected titles are owned widely in libraries.

On the other hand, the titles that made the National Outdoor Book Awards (selected by Idaho State University) are not so well-known or widely owned, even though the chairman of the awards states, “the writing in the outdoor field has always been good, but it just keeps getting better — and this year it was outstanding.” Included in the list of 15 titles are:

Winner in Natural History Literature

American Chestnut: the Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree

Susan Freinkel, University of California Press

  • Hardcover: $27.50; 294 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (November 19, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0520247302
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520247307
Winner, Design and Artistic Merit


Guy Motil

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Globe Pequot / Falcon (December 1, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0762746211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762746217
Winner, Instructional Category

Road Bike Maintenance

Guy Andrews

  • Paperback: $19.95; 208 pages
  • Publisher: Falcon; (May 1, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0762747463
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762747467

These other specialty lists that may also be of interest to libraries:

New West (best books set in the West)

New York Daily News (authors’ picks for best Latino books)

News Blaze (best black non-fiction books)

Planetizen (best planning books)

Seattle Mystery Bookshop (best paperbacks)

Three Percent (best translated books)

Salon’s Book Awards

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Salon has chosen their ten best books of the year. In addition to the print lists, they’ve also included videos of Laura Miller describing some of the choices. In nonfiction, she manages to find a common theme in three seemingly disparate books:

Salon also asked several authors to pick their favorite titles (Malcolm Gladwell is a thriller reader. His favorite author? Stephen Hunter).

Best Books; ‘The Village Voice’

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Next up in the best books game; the Village Voice’s list of fifteen books. Some of their selections have been on nearly every other list (to see them all, check the links to the lists from 19 publications at the right, under “Best Books 2008”); 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, A Mercy by Toni Morrison, The Forever War by Dexter Filkins, Lush Life by Richard Price, Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri and Netherland by Joseph O’Neill.

But even as a relative late-comer to the game, the Voice manages to come up with a few unique picks, listed below. All are owned in larger libraries.

Jackie Ormes: The First African American Female Cartoonist

By Nancy Goldstein

  • Hardcover: $35; 240 pages
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press (February 21, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 047211624X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472116249

“Ormes’s hitherto underexposed work is celebrated in this lavishly illustrated career biography.”

Nazi Literature in the Americas
By Roberto Bolaño

  • Hardcover: $23.95; 280 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (February 29, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0811217051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811217057

In addition to Bolaño 2666, the Voice includes this fake encyclopedia, saying,

This compendium of hatred, intolerance, and military valor is just as much fun as it sounds…Almost everyone in this book is a moral toad; almost everyone dies a violent and miserable death. It is all in very bad taste indeed.

The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation
By Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell

  • Hardcover: $35; 160 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; (October 14, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0809094878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809094875
  • Paperback: $16.95; 160 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; (October 14, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0809094703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809094707

According to the Voice, “this intelligently written, lushly illustrated tome offers an antidote to the grievous misreadings that have spawned the likes of Guantánamo.”

Just When I Think I’m Out, Best Books Pull Me Back in

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

I thought I might get away with not mentioning Best Books for the rest of the day and then…Library Journal posts their selections. In addition to 37 best books, there are separate list for how-to titles (this may be the only best list to include the impossibly upbeat title, Make Any Divorce Better!), Mystery, SF & Fantasy, Romance, Christian Fiction and Thrillers.

Library Journal — Best Books 2008

Time’s Bests

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Time magazine has posted its lists of “Top Ten Everything 2008.”  They may not cover everything, but the fifty lists include a wide range — Animal Stories (Bill O’Reilly will be miffed that PuppyCam is included, but happy that Dewey is not, even though it’s STILL outselling his book), Awkward Moments, Magazine Covers, T-Shirt Worthy Slogans and Worst Biz Deal. Thankfully, among all these important subjects, books are not overlooked;

Children’s Books

#1 title — The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingram

Fiction Books

#1 title — 2666 by Roberto Bolaño

Non-fiction Books

#1 title — The Forever War, Dexter Filkins

Stephen King’s Favorites

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

My favorite of the “Bests Lists” are the ones put together by individuals, rather than committee, and you can’t get much more individual than Stephen King. In the current issue of Entertainment Weekly, he lists his ten favorites of the year. Of course, he gives nods to several horror authors, but it’s intriguing to see what he reads outside the genre, including his single nonfiction pick, Nixonland.

His top pick? All the works by British thriller/suspense author Robert Goddard. He came across the author by accident and wrote about him in Paste magazine earlier this fall.

Bantam has been reissuing Goddard’s books in trade paperback. Beyond Recall is coming in February and Name to a Face in June. King doesn’t highlight specific titles, but the cover of In Pale Batallions is featured on the Web site.

Beyond Recall

by Robert Goddard

  • Paperback: $12; 368 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Reprint edition (February 24, 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 0385341148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385341141

Name to a Face

by Robert Goddard

  • Paperback: $12; 352 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Reprint edition (June 23, 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 0385342179
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385342179

In Pale Battalions

by Robert Goddard

  • Paperback: $12; 368 pages
  • Publisher: Delta (May 29, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0385339208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385339209

Drowning in ‘Bests’

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Our “Best Books 2008” links (see right) are becoming overwhelming. We’ve just added:

Boston Globe — Fiction

Boston Globe — Nonfiction

New York Magazine — Ten Best

School Library Journal — Best Books

Washington Post Book World — Best Fiction & Nonfiction

Washington Post Book World — Top Ten

What magazines are left? We can expect the LJ selections in the Dec. 15 issue and BookList‘s “Editors Choices” in the Jan 1 issue. Horn Book will announce theirs in the Jan/Feb issue.

Best Business Books

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Business Week gets into the best books act with their picks of the best business books of the year in the new issue.

Topping the list is the book that best “understood the sad shape of things to come” in the economy; Charles R. Morris’ The Trillion Dollar Meltdown (PublicAffairs), “which explains what happened and why in under 200 pages.”

A revised paperback edition is coming in February. Frighteningly, it’s retitled and the ante has gone up. It’s now The Two-Trillion Dollar Meltdown.


The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash

Charles R. Morris

  • Hardcover: $22.95
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (March 3, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1586485636
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586485634
  • Audio CD: Unabridged; $27.95
  • Publisher: Phoenix Audio; (July 1, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1597772143
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597772143

The Two-Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash

Charles R. Morris

  • Paperback: $13.95; 240 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Revised edition; (February 9, 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 1586486918
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586486914

‘Quantum of Solace’; Best Book

Friday, December 5th, 2008

The L.A. Times just posted their best books of ’08, using the friendlier moniker, “Favorite Books.” Included in the list of Favorite Paperbacks is Quantum of Solace. It has august company; the other three titles are the new translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Robert Bolaño’s 2666 and the collected poems of Zbigniew Herbert. (Links to the L.A. Times and other bests list appear at the right).

So, please, don’t think of this as a tie-in, but “a new original paperback [that]…collects all the James Bond short stories, rounding out Penguin’s complete set of Ian Fleming,” and illustrates “…what a fine writer Bond’s creator could be.” Note that it is also available in audio.

Quantum of Solace

Ian Fleming

  • Paperback: $15.00; 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (August 26, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0143114581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143114581
  • Unabridged Audio

  • Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks, (October 1, 2008)
  • Read by: Simon Vance
  • 7 CD 978-1-4332-7010-9; $70.00
  • 1 MP3CD 978-1-4332-4959-4; $29.95
  • 6 Tape 978-1-4332-7009-3; $54.95