Thursday, January 1, 2009

Best Books 2008 or "What Did I Have the Time to Read?"

It's always hard for me to name my favorite books - rather like identifying the favored child -. while you may think of them that way, it just feels disloyal or wrong to say it out loud. Still, I did have some standouts in this last year and at this time of year I always find myself reflecting on what I did (and didn't) read over the course of the year. At a time when I didn't think I'd be able to read much at all (what with having a newborn and all) I still managed to read close to 50 books this year, fewer than my usual (especially when you consider quite a few of them were children's picture books leaving even fewer adult novels). Here are the standouts:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Non-fiction that inspired me to think more about our food and food sources. It even inspired me to try making my own cheese which wasn't nearly as hard as I thought!

Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells us About the Mind
by Alison Gopnik, Andrew Meltzoff and Patricia Kuhl
I just found the research from these scientists to be fascinating. I'd never given much thought to language acquisition, but now that we're raising Peanut in a bilingual household, some of the relevant information was especially interesting to me. But beyond that, there's a lot of interesting stuff about how babies learn EVERYTHING.

Young Adult (As a YA librarian, I spent a lot of my time reading YA fiction. Hence the disproportionate number of YA titles!)
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
A coming of age story that reads a lot like "adult" fiction. How would your life be different if you had a special "grace" - the ability to kill?

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson
This novel addresses what it means to be human and tackles medical ethics as well - powerful ideas!

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Filled with references to music I never listened to much, the story manages to be heart-pounding and driven by the beat of the music and thrum of hormones and attraction.

Good as Lily by Derek Kirk Kim
Original graphic novel in which the protagonist learns from herself - her younger and older "selves" that is.

Children's Picture Books
Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange
A great book for kids in elementary school (not just the wee ones), based on the author's experiences of the African-American community when she was child, filled with amazing illustrations by Kadir Nelson and poetry the likes of this:
"politics as necessary as collards
music even in our dreams"

Currently on the pile to kick off 2009:
The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz
The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

And your favorite books from 2008?


  1. 50 books is still such an awesome effort considering you have a little one! I didn`t know you were a YA librarian- that is so cool.

    I like the sound of Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells us About the Mind- will have to remember it. I am reading a good book about raising billingual kids at the moment but there are not many options for books here in Brisbane on that topic.

    Happy Reading in 2009!

  2. Wow, I'm impressed! My reading life has been sadly neglected since Bean has been born. I am currently engaged in a love/hate relationship with the "Twilight" series. My favorite book this year is "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby" because I'm pretty sure it saved my life. :)

  3. I read I think five things by Diana Gabaldon (in the Outlander series) and that took a while (since they're 1000 pages each). I read a ton but I don't remember a lot else in particular. I get it all from the library so it's harder to keep track.

    My step-father is a librarian!

  4. Lulu - have you seen ?
    There are some resources and articles on their site as well.

    CJ - I hear you! We relied heavily on Ferber's ideas to get us through some challenging times. Also had a love/hate relationship with Twilight. Loved the first one (although Bella annoyed me sometimes) and the second wasn't too bad, but by the 3rd I just didn't have the interest anymore. I do love me some vampires, werewolves and fairies.

    Eva - I had to start writing things down because I've always been a huge library borrower. I'd borrow and then forget what I read and borrow the same thing again - LOL! It helped to have a list of what I'd actually read. Yay for librarians!

  5. Hey there!!! How about adding to the new years Resolution "Must find Decafe" hahah "wink"!

    I hope you are well and I sure missed your posts! My reading.. has been sadly limited to graduate books (boring) except for my Photo shop course, and the books mum brought over... I tend to read online. The latest book I've read was "Certain Girls", I am a huge Jennifer Weiner fan! I really want to read "the robber bride"!

  6. Lovely list! I'm definitely going to check out the Ellington book. One of my favorite books ever was written by Shange - "for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf." Have you read it? I did the last Lady in Red monologue in a literary competition in high school and ended up getting a scholarship from that performance. I also directed the whole choreopoem for a high school one-act play competition and the team won the regional meet and placed fifth at state. I seriously know that whole book by heart. I love it. I didn't know that she wrote kiddie lit, so I'm certainly going to buy it for my kids.

    I'd also love to hear what else you recommend for YA. I'm always on the lookout for more books to add to my 8th grade classroom bookshelves. :)

  7. Kymberli -
    I have never read "for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf" but when I was in college I saw it performed. It was amazing! When I read the Ellington book, I didn't realize the author was the same until I got to the back flap in the book and read the "about the author" segment. I'll keep you (and the 8th graders!) in mind for future reference. Here in Japan I'm having a terrible time coming by a wide selection of books for middle and teen readers but I do what I can. Also, anytime you're looking for a particular niche/style of book (i.e. kids who like to read "x" title or about "y" subject matter) let me know and I'll see what I can do. That's always easier than blanket recommendations.