the 2008 book list

Or, “At least it’s not as big and scary as last year’s.”

This year was kind of funny, because I’d have months when I’d read two books, and then months when I’d read nine…school and general burnout, I think, contributed to that. There are times when you need to slow down a bit and savor a text, and do stuff besides sit around your house and read.

That being said, I still read more than about 98% of Americans. What can I say? Besides, I was forced to read some of these. *shrug*

Usual rule applies: These are all the books that I finished in 2008. I forgot to get the page count this year, alas, but I did get the date I finished each book on. I tend to have several going at a time, so don’t get too freaked out by the close proximity of some of those dates. An asterisk means I’ve read it before. Anyway, here we go:

January 2: Craig Dunham and Doug Serven, Twentysomeone
January 8: Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
January 15: Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
January 19: John Piper et al., The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World
January 25: Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mystery
*January 28: Lauren Winner, Girl Meets God
*February 8: Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz
February 15: Frederick Buechner, On the Road With the Archangel
February 18: J.P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind
*February 25: Phillip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?
March 1: Michael Chabon, Summerland
March 7: Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird
*March 12: Michka Assayas, Bono: In Conversation
March 13: Ann Patchett, Run
March 25: Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
March 26: Michael Chabon, Gentlemen of the Road
April 10: Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
April 21: N.T. Wright, Surprised By Hope
*May 2: Donald Miller, Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance
May 4: Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God
May 11: Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
May 15: Tim Keller, The Reason for God
*May 25: C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia
June 3: Walter Wangerin, Jr., Jesus
June 17: Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
June 19: Jeffrey Yamaguchi, 52 Projects
*June 21: Lauren Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath
July 2: Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
July 13: Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
July 14: Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
August 12: Henry David Thoreau, Walden
*August 14: Donald Miller, Searching For God Knows What
August 19: Stephenie Meyer, Twilight
September 1: Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
September 4: David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous
September 7: Michael Ward, Planet Narnia
September 11: Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth
September 20: Elaine Lally, At Home With Computers
September 25: Maria Bakardijeva, Internet Society: The Internet in Everyday Life
September 27: Donald Norman, The Design of Everyday Things
September 27: Robert Farrar Capon, Bed and Board
*October 12: Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
*October 17: C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
November 9: Eric J. Hunter, Classification Made Easy
November 10: Maria Metzer Rose, Muscle Beach
November 12: David Brooks, On Paradise Drive
November 17: Lucy Suchman, Plans and Situated Actions
*November 17: Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey
November 20: John Battelle, The Search
November 21: Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb
November 28: Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
*December 18: C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet
December 19: John Irving, The Cider House Rules
*December 24: Walter Wangerin, Jr., The Book of God
December 31: Carolyn Custis James, When Life and Beliefs Collide

Total: 55
Read for class: 8
Fiction: 18
Non-fiction: 37 (which is rather surprising–I don’t usually read that much non-fiction)
Most read author: C.S. Lewis, with 3 (if you count the Chronicles as one book).
Re-reads: 13

Top 5:
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I first got familiarized with O’Brien’s work last year, reading Going After Cacciato for a class, so I had to check out his most famous work, and I don’t regret it at all. It’s a fascinating collection of short stories about the lives of Vietnam soldiers before, during, and after the war, and while it can seriously get rough at times, it’s still an interesting, multi-layered read.

The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon. How do you write a book on the theological implications of food? Start like Robert Capon does–start by meditating on the goodness of creation and matter, on the beauty of the mundane, and how food nourishes the body and the soul in one fell swoop. Throw in what look like really good recipes (the first 2/3 or so of the book is one recipe for lamb, thus the title), and you have yourself a great book.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. It’s a day in the life of…well, who, really? Everyone, really–the title character, Septimus Smith, and, well, the whole city of London. What could’ve been really boring becomes really rich; sure, there are descriptions of the characters’ everyday actions, but what makes this a good book is the fact that we get to see what they’re thinking in the meantime, memories and musings and all. Woolf handled this one well.

Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. If you think the point of Christianity is simply to take us out of the world and into heaven…well. I think you need to read this book. N.T. Wright has some controversial views on the atonement (which I haven’t really ever gotten a clear explanation of…I need to read his book), but I think his thoughts on Christ’s resurrection and His second coming are pretty spot-on. He didn’t come only to save our souls, but our bodies and the physical world as well–but Tom Wright explains it a lot better than I can.

Planet Narnia by Michael Ward. On the surface, this doesn’t sound that fun: It’s an expansion of Ward’s doctoral dissertation on the role of medieval astrology in C.S. Lewis’s works, especially in the Narniad. But, weirdly enough, this was easily my favorite book this year–it fired my theological and literary imagination, it made me want to reread everything I’ve ever read by Lewis, and it gave me a deeper understanding of both who I am as a believer and what I am to do with that calling. Crazy, eh? But I recommend it, especially if you’re already a Lewis fan.

Honorable mentions: Summerland by Michael Chabon, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (if you don’t mind slogging through theological debates and semiotics), Jesus by Walter Wangerin, Jr., Twentysomeone by Craig Dunham and Doug Serven, When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James (seriously, this is required reading for every Christian)

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7 thoughts on “the 2008 book list

  1. The Saturday Review at Semicolon this Saturday is dedicated to book lists. You’re invited to share a link to yours on Saturday.

    I want to read all of your top five, except maybe the VIrginia Woolf. R is trying to get me to read To the Lighthouse, which she says is “amazing.”

  2. What a great list. I loved The Things They Carried.

    I’m afraid when I find my list (i lost the first half in the move!), I’ll barely reach 30. There were some long spells where i barely read, followed by brief bursts. Periods where I got stuck in a book and couldn’t get unstuck. And lately, most of my best “reading time” has been spent scrambling to hit REM cycles on my commute. I’m also sorry to say I stopped more books halfway this year than i can remember doing in any other.

    Here’s to the new reading year, and the lovely books it has in store for us. (My currents: Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke; and Crazy Love, by Francis Chan. Enjoying both very much.)

  3. You and another friend of mine both have lists that top the 30 book mark, which makes me feel quite lazy. I used to have a semi-regular habit of reading before I went to bed, which is actually how I read about half the Harry Potter series, as well as several other books. That’s a habit I need to get back into. My book list for 2007 was I think 12 or 13; this year I can only remember 6 or 7 that I finished, and one was Yiddish Policemen’s Union, which I spent the last few months of 2007 on but didn’t finish until early 2008. Sad I know.

  4. Mrs. E: Seriously, read Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway is good in an Austen-meets-Joyce kind of way. As for the Saturday Review–done. 🙂

    Teacher Dave: No shame in that. You had kind of a funky year.

    Jonathan: ‘Sall good. At least you read something. 🙂

  5. I read seven of the books on your list this year. Several in previous years and many, Lord willing, in years to come. Supper of the Lamb is one I’ve been salivating over for too long.

    Planet Narnia sounds very interesting. A few years ago I read all things medieval; I was captivated by C.S. Lewis’ The Discarded Image. Another obscure book (a physician friend asked me to read it and explain it to him), Temperament, by Stuart Isacoff explained the medieval mindset relative to musical pitches, mathematical proportions, and the planets. It was fascinating to think of the world being put together in such an orderly system.

    My husband loves N.T. Wright. Whenever I need a gift for him, I order a new book. We were in England this year and searched for an opportunity to hear him while we there. Alas, it didn’t avail itself.

    Great list!

    Carol in Oregon (Magistra Mater)

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