Friday, January 2, 2009

Favorite books of 2008

So we're on the second day of 2009, and I'm still ruminating on 2008. Procrastination has always been one of my finer talents.

Here are some of my favorite books that I read in 2008. Not all were published this year (though most of them were, because I've been pulling books to read from the list of BBYA nominated titles), but all of them were read at some point between January 1st and December 31st 2008.

In no particular order:

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
    This may be my favorite book of the year. It has everything that I love in a book: a kick ass female protagonist, action and adventure, a smart and exciting plot, dystopian governments, and did I mention that Katniss quite literally kicks ass? I started reading this book on the way to work one day (as so much of my reading is done on the subway - it's possibly the best part about living in New York), and I read the first third or so on the subway and during my breaks at work. I got home and did a little bit more reading until I got to the end of the chapter when it was announced that the Hunger Games were about to begin. I took a short break to go to the bathroom, get a drink and check my e-mail. I had posted on Good Reads earlier in the day that I was reading the book, and Cindy Dobrez commented that she couldn't wait to hear what I thought. I replied to tell her that so far I was enjoying it, but I had to leave because the Hunger Games had begun.

    Three hours later I returned to the computer to begin raving semi-incoherently to anyone who would listen about how much I loved this book. I drove my fiance crazy while I was reading it because I couldn't keep quiet. And then I discovered that the author was going to be in town that weekend, and I just so happened to have the day off of work, so I woke up way too early on a Saturday morning in order to haul myself into Union Square and meet Suzanne Collins (and several other awesome YA authors). The author event wasn't as awesome as I had hoped it would be, but that doesn't take away how much I loved this book.

  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart.
    I've read three of the five books nominated for the National Book Award young people's literature category this year: This one, Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson and What I Saw and How I Lied, the eventual winner. From those three, in my not so humble opinion, Disreputable History is by far the best! Frankie is incredibly smart and witty, though not immune from the charms of a handsome older boy and, perhaps most impressive to me, she isn't afraid of the word "feminist." For Frankie, it's an obvious thing that she's a feminist and she doesn't understand why some people think that's weird. And because Frankie self-identifies as a feminist, it gives the epic pranks she orchestrates throughout the novel a much deeper level of meaning.

  • The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex.
    This was the book I read for most of my road trip out to New York. Driving halfway across the country with three very unhappy cats in the backseat made me very sympathetic to Tip's trials and tribulations with her cat, Pig.

    This was just a pure fun science fiction adventure story. This is a book that is going to be enjoyed by readers for years.

  • The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent.
    I've read a lot of books on the Salem Witch Trials. A lot. I can't tell you how many research papers and book reports I've done on the trials. And yet I'd never read a book from this point of view: the daughter of someone accused of witch craft. Yet the book is engrossing long before the trials enter the picture: danger lurks around every corner in this book, starting with fears of disease and death before moving on to jealous neighbors and the news from nearby Salem that a group of young girls are accusing their neighbors of witchcraft, and the courts are sentencing people to death based on these accusations. While The Hunger Games had me gasping with excitement and anticipation throughout, The Heretic's Daughter is one of the few books that has actually brought me to tears (the Salem prison is a terrifying place).

  • Life as We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer.
    As my last couple of posts have made abundantly clear, I love books about the end of the world. While the last several end-of-the-world books I've read have dealt with the aftermath long after the initial tragedy, Life as We Knew It and this year's companion novel The Dead and the Gone deal with the disaster as it happens. The premise is an asteroid hits the moon, knocking it out of its usual orbit and closer to earth, which of course wreaks havoc with the environment. Life as We Knew It is a more rural story, as Miranda and her family struggle to survive in their home while The Dead and the Gone is about a boy alone with his two sisters in New York City. They are two very different looks at the same disaster, which I found fascinating. Overall I felt Life as We Knew It was the stronger story, as The Dead and the Gone felt like it struggled too much with balancing what the readers needed to know: it had to give enough information on the disaster to keep new readers up to date, but it didn't want to bore readers of the first book by rehashing the details, which made the first third of the book feel very uneven and ultimately like it wouldn't be very satisfying for a new reader.

  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.
    The link leads to my earlier review of this one. Nothing really new to add, except that I still really like it :-)
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