Monday, 8 December 2008

MY BEST READS OF 2008



By way of a warning, this will be totally non-comprehensive and full of omissions because...well, just because. The books won't necessarily have been published this year either; just enjoyed by me.

SHORT FICTION

Overhead in a Balloon - Mavis Gallant: Stunning, intricate and dark Paris-set stories from a writer I only started reading this year. Why oh why? I have so much to catch up on.

Encounters - Michael Trussler: Surreal yet disturbingly real urban stories, set in Canada. Great stuff.

Words From a Glass Bubble - Vanessa Gebbie: Very varied, very poignant, funny and dark short stories.

Taking Pictures - Anne Enright: Stories of small incident and rage in women's lives. Masterful.

FLASH FICTION

Intercourse - Robert Olen Butler: These are so varied and cleverly executed, it's hard to give an easy overview. The clue is in the title and they are brilliantly conceived shorts like you've never read before.

The White Road - Tania Hershman - This is not a book of flashes, it's a mix of short and longer fiction, but its science-inspired premise is a good one and the writing is lyrical and beautiful at times.

POETRY

Perplexed Skin - Patrick Cotter: Witty, sexy and moving poems from an exceedingly clever Corkonian.

The Wellspring - Sharon Olds: Concise, sensuous poems of creation, procreation, family and love. A revelation.

Lost in the Gaeltacht - Caroline Walsh: Impressive début from a young Irish writer comfortable with her language and identity.

NON-FICTION

The Flâneur - Edmund White: A varied, readable and entertaining sprint around Paris with a gay flâneur.

Mrs Woolf and the Servants - Allison Light: Brilliantly researched and engagingly written bio of Virginia Woolf's dependence on, and disdain for, her servants. It might turn you off her...

The Yellow House - Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles - Martin Gayford: It was an experiment in artistic living, it failed; Vincent cut a bit off his ear in the end. A lively and captivating creatively non-fictional look at those nine weeks.

The Paris Review Interviews - Vol. 2 - If you are a writer, or want to be one, read these. Lots of honesty and insight between these pages.

NOVELS

Most of the novels I read this year (I read very few, as it happens) were disappointing. I read two old Michéle Roberts ones which I enjoyed, but apart from them, nothing else stands out.

9 comments:

Vanessa Gebbie said...

I am so glad you enjoyed the collection, N. Thank you for the mention.... and lovely to see Tania's lovely collection there too.

Frances said...

How about Julius Winsome by Gerard Donovan? I didn't find that disappointing.

Women Rule Writer said...

V - no problem. Well deserved.

F - thanks for the recommendation. More and more I find I turn to non-fic and short fic for reading pleasure. No doubt there are thousands of worthy novels out there, but because I have to read so much for work purposes (reviewing, translating etc) I find the novel too long of a commitment, often, for pleasure. If it doesn't grab me straight away, I move on. Life's too short!

PJ Nolan said...

re Paris Reviews - have you read vol 1?

Women Rule Writer said...

Hi PJ. Yes, I have read both volumes. Both are brilliant. I only cited Vol 2, I guess, because I read it during 2008.

thegirlwhosafraidoffoxes said...

Just ordered Encounters - thanks for the tip, it sounds like my kind of thing.

You forgot Let's be alone together, mind ;)

This year I also loved Miranda July's book (even though technically it probably first came out in 2007!) and some of Gerard Donovan's Country of the Grand was very good (a few of the stories were less remarkable however, but definitely some great ones in there too!). My favourite was definitely Murakami's What I talk about when I talk about running which was charming, entertaining and encapsulated literary modesty to a t :)

BarbaraS said...

Lots of variety in these lists. I just acquired Mavis Gallant recently, so I'm looking forward to reading that... I must look over what I've read this year - got way too many books...

Totalfeckineejit said...

I don't read nearly as much as I should but find a lot of novels hard going and lack the patience.Have all the really good novels already been written?Even the new ones I like have saggy bits. Best for me was 'The road home' by Rose tremain- some beautifully written poetic lines in there.Short stories are the way to go(I sometimes think a lot of novels would in fact make better short stories)'Alone together' is a great collection and the front cover is absolutely 'to die for' and worth the asking price on it's own.If there ever is a prize for best book cover in the world ever, this would win ;)

Women Rule Writer said...

GirlWhos Afraid - That's cool. I heard the author read from Encounters at the S/Story Conf in Cork in June and was blown away. the rest of the book is equally good. Let me know how you enjoy it!

Babs - Oh, I hope you LOVE Gallant, as I do.

Total - Do you know, I think you're right? That book would be NOTHING without that cover photo. NOTHING!!