Sunday, November 30, 2008

100 Notable Books of 2008

The New York Times Book Review has selected its list of this year’s most notable books. It will be published in next weekend’s paper, but here’s a preview:

Fiction & Poetry

1. American Wife. By Curtis Sittenfeld
2. Atmospheric Disturbances. By Rivka Galchen
3. Bass Cathedral. By Nathaniel Mackey
4. Beautiful Children. By Charles Bock
5. Beijing Coma. By Ma Jian. Translated by Flora Drew
6. A Better Angel: Stories. By Chris Adrian
7. Black Flies. By Shannon Burke
8. The Blue Star. By Tony Earley
9. The Boat. By Nam Le
10. Breath. By Tim Winton
11. Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories
12. Dear American Airlines. By Jonathan Miles
13. Diary of A Bad Year. By J. M. Coetzee
14. Dictation: A Quartet. By Cynthia Ozick
15. Elegy: Poems. By Mary Jo Bang
16. The English Major. By Jim Harrison
17. Fanon. By Johan Edgar Wideman
18. The Finder. By Colin Harrison
19. Fine Just The Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3. By Annie Proulx
20. The Good Thif. By Hannah Tinti
21. Half of the World In Light: New and Selected Poems. By Juan Felipe Herrera
22. His Illegal Self. By Peter Carey
23. Home. By Marilynne Robinson
24. Indignation. By Philip Roth
25. The Lazarus Project. By Aleksandar Hemon
26. Legend of A Suicide. By David Vann
27. Life Class. By Pat Barker
28. Lush Life. By Richard Price
29. A Mercy. By Toni Morrison
30. Modern Life: Poems. By Matthea Harvey
31. A Most Wanted Man. By John le Carre
32. My Revolutions. By Hari Kunzru
33. Netherland. By Joseph O’Neill
34. Opal Sunset: Selected Poems, 1958-2008. By Clive James
35. The Other. By David Guterson
36. Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories. By: Tobias Wolff
37. The Road Home. By Rose Tremain
38. The Scared Book of the Werewolf. By: Victor Pelevin. Translated by: Andrew Bromfield
39. The School on Heart’s Content Road. By Carolyn Chute
40. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A New Verse Translation. By Simon Armitage
41. Sleeping It Off In Rapid City: Poems, New and Selected. By August Kleinzahler
42. Telex from Cuba. By: Rachel Kushner
43. 2666. By: Roberto Bolano. Translated by: Nata
44. Unaccustomed Earth. By Jhumpa Lahiri
45. The Unfortunates. By. B. S. Johnson
46. When Will There Be Good News? By: Kate Atkinson
47. The Widows of Eastwick. By John Updike
48. Yesterday’s Weather. By: Anne Enright

Non Fiction

49. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. By: Jon Meacham
50. Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency. By: Barton Gellman
51. Bacardi and The Long Fight For Cuba: The Biography of a Cause. By: Tom Gjlten
52. The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like –Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart. By: Bill Bishop with Robert G. Cushing
53. Blood Matters: From Inherited Illness to Designer Babies, How the World and I Found Ourselves in the Future of the Gene. By: Masha Gessen
54. Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen. By Philip Dray
55. The Challenge: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and the Fight Over Presidential Power. By: Jonathan Mahler
56. Champlain’s Dream. By: David Hackett Fischer
57. Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World. By: Samantha Power
58. Condoleezza Rice. An American Life: A Biography. By: Elisabeth Bumiller
59. The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals. By: Jane Mayer
60. Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music. By: Ted Gioia
61. Descartes’ Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict between Faith and Reason. By: Russell Shorto
62. Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East. By: Robin Wright
63. The Drunkards’ Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives By: Leonard Mlodinow
64. An Exact Replica of A Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir. By: Elizabeth McCracken
65. Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China. By: Leslie T. Chang
66. The Forever War. By: Dexter Filkins
67. Freedom’s Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention. By: Gary J. Bass
68. A Great Idea At The Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books. By: Alex Beam
69. Hallelujah Junction: Composing and American Life. By: John Adams
70. The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. By: Annette Gordon-Reed
71. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How It Can Renew American. By: Thomas L. Friedman
72. The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood. By: Helene Cooper
73. How Fiction Works. By: James Wood
74. Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists. By: Susan Neiman
75. The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life. His Own. By: David Carr
76. Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. By: Rick Perlstein
77. Nothing to be Frightened Of. By Julian Barnes
78. Nureyv: The Life. By Julie Kavanagh
79. Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. By: Mark Harris
80. The Post-American World. By: Fareed Zakaria
81. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. By Dan Ariely
82. The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse. By: Richard Thompson Ford
83. Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45. By: Max Hastings
84. A Secular Age. By: Charles Taylor
85. Shakespeare’s Wife. By: Germaine Greer
86. The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies. By: Bert Holldobler and Edward O. Wilson
87. Tell Me How This Ends: Gernal David Petreus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq. By: Linda Robinson
88. The Ten-cent Plaque: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America. By: David Hajdu
89. They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons. By: Jacob Heilbrunn
90. This Republic of Suffering: Death and the War. By: Drew Gilpin Faust
91. The Three of Us: A Family Story. By: Julia Blackburn
92. Thrumpton Hall: A Memoir of Life in My Father’s House. BY: Miranda Seymour
93. Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us). By: Tom Vanderbilt
94. The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash. By: Charles R. Morris
95. A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World. By: Tony Horwitz
96. Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson. By David S. Reynolds
97. While they Slept: An Inquiry into the Murder of a Family. By: Kathryn Harrison
98. White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. By: Brenda Wineapple
99. The Wild Places. By: Robert Macfarlane
100. The World is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul. By: Patrick French

You can read a synopsis of each book on the New York Times website at

1 comment:

Max Weismann said...

RE: A Great Idea At The Time: The Rise, Fall, And Curious Afterlife of The Great Books
by Alex Beam

Argumentum ad Hominem

The subtitle should have read, Every Negative Fact and Innuendo I Could Dredge Up

Although he was not particularly unkind to me in the book, I found virtually every page to be a smart-alecky and snide diatribe of the worst order against the Great Books, Adler, Hutchins, et al. Plus the book is replete with errors of commission and omission.

As an effective antidote, I prescribe Robert Hutchins' pithy essay, The Great Conversation.

If the Great Books crusade is as bleak as Beam purports, then happily, not many will read his invective book.

Max Weismann,
President and co-founder with Mortimer Adler, Center for the Study of The Great Ideas
Chairman, The Great Books Academy