As an easy post at the end of a very busy week (we always pay dearly for taking four days off at Thanksgiving), here are my favorite reads from 2008. Many of them earned blog entries throughout the year, so I will not write at length about each of them, but instead add a line or two about why I liked them.
The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber. A warm, loving culinary memoir from a Jordanian-American author.
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. A touch of magical realism here, in a novel about two sisters reunited in small town North Carolina.
The Prince of Frogtown by Rick Bragg. Various friends of mine heard him speak at this year's Texas Book Festival; they said he was terrific -- wish I could have been there. I like his colloquial storytelling style and down home ways. All of his memoirs are among my favorites.
Run by Ann Patchett. Themes of nature vs. nurture, love, family, adoption, Catholicism: a novel of uncommon decency that warms the old cockles of the heart.
Home by Marilynne Robinson. An understated literary masterpiece; very fine character development. The alcoholic brother who returns home and the dutiful sister who welcomes him are characters I will not soon forget.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. I look forward to doing this one at the library's book group because it has that old fashioned "jolly good read" quality. The island setting, the time period following World War II and the folksiness of the island characters all contribute mightily to this charming novel of letters.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Best novel narrated by a dog I've ever read! It had a certain unique philosophical and Zenlike quality.
Olive Kittredge by Elizabeth Strout. Another character I will never forget, even though she was an annoying curmudgeon.
The Road Home by Rose Tremain. A classic modern day immigrant's tale, set in England.
Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson. A prequel worthy of recommending to all the followers of L.M. Montgomery's original series, Anne of Green Gables.