Book Round-Up for 2008

In 2007, I read 173 books. I was aiming, in a vague sort of way, for a total of 200 books in 2008 (just for the pleasure of the round number). However, I didn’t quite make it – instead I read 183 books in 2008, including audio books.

Best Nostalgic Journey

I start re-reading the Chalet School books by Elinor Brent-Dyer, a mammoth series of books that runs to about 60 volumes. I began with The School at the Chalet, and got to book 26, Carola Storms the Chalet School, only skipping a few rare volumes I couldn’t get hold off. My enthusiasm for the books has waned the further I go on in the series, particularly as new characters are introduced who are exact echoes of the first characters. I rather prefer the first characters to those who come after, but alas, they all grow up, get married, and usually vanish from the storyline.

Best Book with a Mission

Scarlett Thomas’ PopCo might be a book with a message, and a wee bit moralistic for my taste, but it’s also a fantastic story about cryptography, marketing and ethics for the modern age. I enjoyed it so much it led me on to No Logo, Naomi Klein’s book about globalisation and marketing and the rise of sweatshop labour.

Worst Book

I read several dreadful fantasy novels, but the hands-down worst novel I read in 2008 has to be Breaking Dawn, the final book in Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling series. One of the worst cases ever of an author inserting her religious and personal moral message into a fantasy book, of all things. I mean, who decides to use a book about vampires to create their perfect Morman marriage? The plot development and characters are also laughable. Any book that makes you visibly cringe while reading goes on the Worst Book of the Year list.

Best New Author

There were a few new discoveries, including Ellis Peters and his Brother Cadfael novels, Patricia Briggs’ novels about werewolves, and Patrick Rothfuss’ debut novel The Name of the Wind (which I loved despite its use of fantasy cliches). Oh, and Tana French’s debut, In the Woods, a brilliant mystery.

Most Long Awaited

The Stone Key, of course, the penultimate book in practically the longest running series of all time, Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles. I was terrified Isobelle might die or something before finally writing an ending to this very convoluted tale – and although it’s not the most brilliantly written book, I loved it all the same.

Best Guilty Pleasure

Hands down, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, which I picked up after getting hooked on True Blood, the recent TV series based on the books. They’re pretty trashy and Charlaine needs a better editor, but I love ’em. I’m reading through the series way too quickly.

Best Audio Book

I really enjoyed The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, a creepy mystery written in the 1860s that went for about 20 CDs. It’s the perfect sort of book to listen to though – you can let the language roll over you, and the narrator of the version I listened to did a great job, particularly with soft voiced Count Fosco.

And for next year? I’m going to continue plunging on through the volumes of Chalet School books, as I’ve had a few months off and I feel ready to venture back in. My mother introduced me to JD Robb at Christmas (Nora Roberts’ futuristic-thriller persona), so I think I might be reading a few of her books, and I’ve got several non-fiction books about brain function on hold at the library, just for fun.

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