Recommended Reads: The 100 Notable Books of 2008
Each year, the New York Times Book Review selects its list of the most notable fiction and nonfiction published and reviewed since December of the previous year. Below you will find a sampling of some of the 52 titles presently on the list that are either already available in an accessible format or are in process to become part of our collection. There is also a link to the full list of all 100 books on the list for your information and sharing with other bibliophiles. Enjoy exploring the list and finding out about the top 100 books of 2008.
Recorded cassette (RC), digital book (DB), braille (BR) and large type (LT) copies of these books are available from the Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library. Please contact the library to order any of these books.
Prepared by Library Director Kim Charlson
FICTION & POETRY
AMERICAN WIFE by Curtis Sittenfeld.
The life of this novel's heroine — a first lady who comes to realize, at the height of the Iraq war, that she has compromised her youthful ideals — is conspicuously modeled on that of Laura Bush.
BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN by Charles Bock.
This bravura first novel, set against a corruptly compelling Las Vegas landscape, revolves around the disappearance of a surly 12-year-old boy.
THE BLUE STAR by Tony Earley.
The caring, thoughtful hero of Earley's engrossing first novel, Jim the Boy, (BR 12831, RC 50526, LT 247), is now 17 and confronting not only the eternal turmoil of love, but also the venality and the frightening calls of duty and war.
DANGEROUS LAUGHTER: Thirteen Stories by Steven Millhauser.
In his latest collection, Millhauser advances his chosen themes — the slippery self, the power of hysterical young people — with even more confidence and power than before.
DIARY OF A BAD YEAR by J. M. Coetzee.
Coetzee follows the late career of one Señor C, who, like Coetzee himself, is a South African writer transplanted to Australia and the author of a novel titled Waiting for the Barbarians (RC17738).
DICTATION: A Quartet by Cynthia Ozick.
In the title story of this expertly turned collection, Henry James and Joseph Conrad embody Ozick's polarity of art and ardor.
THE ENGLISH MAJOR by Jim Harrison.
A 60-year-old cherry farmer and former English teacher — an inversion of the classic Harrison hero — sets out on a trip west after being dumped by his wife.
FINE JUST THE WAY IT IS: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx.
These rich, bleak stories offer an American West in which the natural elements are murderous and folks aren't much better.
THE GOOD THIEF by Hannah Tinti.
In Tinti's first novel, set in mid-19th-century New England, a con man teaches an orphan the art of the lie.
HIS ILLEGAL SELF by Peter Carey.
In this enthralling novel, a boy goes underground with a defiant hippie indulging her maternal urge.
HOME by Marilynne Robinson.
(LT 9008, In Process-BR & DB/RC)
Revisiting the events of her novel Gilead (BR 16160 & RC 59561) from another perspective, Robinson has written an anguished pastoral, at once bitter and joyful.
INDIGNATION by Philip Roth.
Marcus Messner is a sophomore at a small, conservative Ohio college at the time of the Korean War. The novel he narrates, like Roth's last two, is ruthlessly economical and relentlessly deathbound.
LIFE CLASS by Pat Barker.
(BR 17758, DB/RC 66238)
Barker's new novel, about a group of British artists overtaken by World War I, concentrates more on the turmoil of love than on the trauma of war.
LUSH LIFE by Richard Price.
(BR-In Process, DB/RC 66237)
Chandler — and Bellow, too — peeps out from Price's novel, in which an aspiring writer cum restaurant manager, mugged in the gentrifying Lower East Side of Manhattan, himself becomes a suspect.
A MERCY by Toni Morrison.
Summoning voices from the 17th century, Morrison performs her deepest excavation yet into America's history and exhumes the country's twin original sins: the importation of African slaves and the near extermination of Native Americans.
A MOST WANTED MAN by John le Carré.
This powerful novel, centered on a half-Russian, half-Chechen, half-crazy fugitive in Germany, swims with operatives whose desperation to avert another 9/11 provokes a slow-burning fire in every line.
MY REVOLUTIONS by Hari Kunzru.
Kunzru's third novel is an extraordinary autumnal depiction of a failed '60s radical.
NETHERLAND by Joseph O'Neill.
(DB/RC 67189, LT 9032)
In the wittiest, angriest, most exacting and most desolate work of fiction yet about post-9/11 New York and London, the game of cricket provides solace to a man whose family disintegrates after the attacks.
THE OTHER by David Guterson.
In this novel from the author of Snow Falling on Cedars (BR 11904, RC 40688, LT 2105), a schoolteacher nourishes a friendship with a privileged recluse.
OUR STORY BEGINS: New and Selected Stories by Tobias Wolff.
Some of Wolff's best work is concentrated here, revealing his gift for evoking the breadth of American experience.
THE SCHOOL ON HEART'S CONTENT ROAD by Carolyn Chute.
In Chute's first novel in nearly 10 years, disparate characters cluster around an off-the-grid communal settlement.
TELEX FROM CUBA by Rachel Kushner.
In this multilayered first novel, international drifters try to bury pasts that include murder, adultery and neurotic meltdown, even as the Castro brothers gather revolutionaries in the hills.
UNACCUSTOMED EARTH by Jhumpa Lahiri.
(BR-In Process, DB/RC 66192)
In eight sensitive stories, Lahiri evokes the anxiety, excitement and transformations felt by Bengali immigrants and their American children.
WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS? By Kate Atkinson.
(LT 8971, RC/DB-In Process)
Jackson Brodie, the hero of Atkinson's previous literary thrillers, takes the case of a mother and baby who suddenly disappear.
THE WIDOWS OF EASTWICK by John Updike.
In this ingenious sequel to The Witches of Eastwick, (BR 5835, RC 20906), the three title characters, old ladies now, renew their sisterhood, return to their old hometown and contrive to atone for past crimes.
YESTERDAY'S WEATHER by Anne Enright.
Working-class Irish characters grapple with love, marriage, confusion and yearning in Enright's varied, if somewhat disenchanted, stories.
ANGLER: The Cheney Vice Presidency by Barton Gellman.
An engrossing portrait of Dick Cheney as a master political manipulator.
BACARDI AND THE LONG FIGHT FOR CUBA: The Biography of a Cause by Tom Gjelten.
An NPR correspondent paints a vivid portrait of the anti-Castro clan behind the liquor empire.
CHAMPLAIN'S DREAM by David Hackett Fischer.
Fischer argues that France's North American colonial success was attributable largely to one remarkable man, Samuel de Champlain.
THE DARK SIDE: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer.
A New Yorker writer recounts the emergence of the widespread use of torture as a central tool in the fight against terrorism.
THE DRUNKARD'S WALK: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow.
This breezy crash course intersperses probabilistic mind-benders with profiles of theorists.
THE FOREVER WAR by Dexter Filkins.
Filkins, a New York Times reporter who was embedded with American troops during the attack on Falluja, has written an account of the Iraq war in the tradition of Michael Herr's Dispatches.
HALLELUJAH JUNCTION: Composing an American Life by John Adams.
Adams's wry, smart memoir stands with books by Hector Berlioz and Louis Armstrong among the most readably incisive autobiographies of major musical figures.
THE HEMINGSES OF MONTICELLO: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed.
Gordon-Reed continues her study of the relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson.
HOT, FLAT, AND CROWDED: Why We Need a Green Revolution — and How It Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman.
(LT 8871, DB/RC-In Process)
The Times columnist turns his attention to possible business-friendly solutions to global warming.
THE HOUSE AT SUGAR BEACH: In Search of a Lost African Childhood by Helene Cooper.
(LT 9007, DB/RC-In Process)
Cooper, a New York Times reporter who fled a warring Liberia as a child, returned to confront the ghosts of her past — and to look for a lost sister.
THE NIGHT OF THE GUN: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life. His Own by David Carr.
Carr, a New York Times culture reporter, sifts through his drug- and alcohol-addicted past.
NOTHING TO BE FRIGHTENED OF by Julian Barnes.
With no faith in an afterlife, why should an agnostic fear death? On this simple question, Barnes hangs an elegant memoir and meditation, full of a novelist's affection for the characters who wander in and out.
PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris.
The best-picture nominees of 1967 were a collage of America's psyche, and more.
THE POST-AMERICAN WORLD by Fareed Zakaria.
(BR-In Process, DB/RC 6684)
This relentlessly intelligent examination of power focuses less on American decline than on the rise of China, trailed by India.
PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely.
(BR 17727, DB/RC 66153)
Moving comfortably from the lab to broad social questions to his own life, an M.I.T. economist pokes holes in conventional market theory.
RETRIBUTION: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 by Max Hastings.
In this masterly account, Hastings describes Japanese madness eliciting American ruthlessness in the Pacific Theater.
THE TEN-CENT PLAGUE: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hajdu.
A worthy history of the midcentury crusade against the comics industry.
THIS REPUBLIC OF SUFFERING: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust.
(BR 17708, DB/RC 65912, LT 8831)
The lasting impact of the war's immense loss of life is the subject of this extraordinary account by Harvard's president.
TRAFFIC: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt.
A surprising, enlightening look at the psychology of the human beings behind the steering wheels.
THE TRILLION DOLLAR MELTDOWN: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash by Charles R. Morris.
How we got into the mess we're in, explained briefly and brilliantly.
A VOYAGE LONG AND STRANGE: Rediscovering the New World by Tony Horwitz.
(DB/RC 67047, LT 8576)
An accessible popular history of early America, with plenty of self-tutoring and colorful reporting.
WHILE THEY SLEPT: An Inquiry Into the Murder of a Family by Kathryn Harrison.
Harrison's account brings moral clarity to the dark fate of the family of Jody Gilley, who was 16 when she survived a rampage by her brother in 1984.
WHITE HEAT: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson by Brenda Wineapple.
The hitherto elusive Higginson was the poet's chosen reader, admirer and advocate.