Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Best Books of 2008

Since I'm still working on book 9 of 52 (the holidays were busy, plus I slipped on ice and fell on my tailbone so it was much easier to lie on my stomach and watch movies than sit and read!), here's my second annual post of top books of the year. Keep in mind that I don't always read the "important" new titles, most likely because I'd never get to review those back when I was regularily reviewing books, but also because, well, I like to read what I want to read, not what people tell me I should read. So here goes.

Best Non-Fiction: Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer by Tim Stark.

You know a good book when you give it as a gift, and a few people are getting this one for Christmas this year. This book was also the cap of my last 52 books in 52 weeks series (you can read the review here). Why my top non-fiction pick? Because of the beauty in how Stark wrote about what had been (and I can imagine) still is a frustrating yet rewarding profession. His tale of how he went from growing tomatos in Brooklyn to re-taking the family farm is a charming yet fascinating read. And if you're one of the folks who are newly aware about where your food comes from, it's an easy way to learn more about the farming process. Just a delightful, informative, engaging read.

Runner Up: My Cousin the Saint: A Search for Faith, Family, and Miracles by Justin Catanoso. This is a powerful book about family and religion from someone who is, as the title suggests, related to a saint. I know the Catanoso family, which makes this book even more touching. But even if you don't know them, it's still a book worth reading. Check out Justin's website here.

Best Fiction: Time of My Life: A Novel
by Allison Winn Scotch
I read this book over the summer (a preview copy since it came out in the fall), which is why you haven't heard my opinion of it. But let me put it this way: after I finished the book, I sat in my chair and stared into nothing for about an hour. Then I couldn't stop thinking about it.

The concept is fascinating to start -- Jillian Westfield, an unhappy housewife who from the outside has a perfect life, gets the chance to go back and pick the other guy. Who has not thought about what would have happened if they dated, married, broke up with someone other than their chosen one (or picked the wrong person over and over again?) and wondered "what if?" I just had this conversation with someone at dinner a few weeks ago -- the possibilities of what could have been can be maddening. It makes you think about how different your life would have been, so in this novel, Allison gets to explore that through a character, and she followed up on the promise of the concept with an excellent. Apparently, I'm not the only one who liked the book either since it hit the New York Times best seller list. Couldn't have happened to a nicer person, either -- Allison is a wonderful lady and works hard at her craft. It couldn't have happened to a nicer person.

Runner Up: Dogface by Jeff Garigliano. I reviewed this book on the blog before -- a well written book that I think is teen-friendly but features some saucy stuff about a 'reform' camp that is more like hell.

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