[bksvol-discuss] New York Times 10 Best Books of 2008

  • From: Cindy Reece <cindyreece524@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: <bksvol-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 6 Dec 2008 11:42:49 -0500

I love this time of year when all of the magazines, newspapers and tv tell us 
the Top 10, 20 100 things of the year. I then figure out how many I've missed!
This will be published in the Sunday Books section of the NY Times. I've noted 
which of the books are on Bookshare. I will also go through the 100 Notable 
Books of 2008 (I'm not sure the links will work.)
Cindy Reece
December 14, 2008

The 10 Best Books of 2008 

The editors of the Book Review have selected these titles from the list of 100 
Notable Books of 2008.
DANGEROUS LAUGHTERThirteen StoriesBy Steven Millhauser.Alfred A. Knopf, $24. 
In his first collection in five years, a master fabulist in the tradition of 
Poe and Nabo­kov invents spookily plausible parallel universes in which the 
deepest human emotions and yearnings are transformed into their monstrous 
opposites. Millhauser is especially attuned to the purgatory of adolescence. In 
the title story, teenagers attend sinister “laugh parties”; in another, a 
mysteriously afflicted girl hides in the darkness of her attic bedroom. Time 
and again these parables revive the possibility that “under this world there is 
another, waiting to be born.” (Excerpt)
(Bookshare) A MERCYBy Toni Morrison.Alfred A. Knopf, $23.95. 
The fate of a slave child abandoned by her mother animates this allusive novel 
— part Faulknerian puzzle, part dream-song — about orphaned women who form an 
eccentric household in late-17th-century America. Morrison’s farmers and rum 
traders, masters and slaves, indentured whites and captive Native Americans 
live side by side, often in violent conflict, in a lawless, ripe American Eden 
that is both a haven and a prison — an emerging nation whose identity is rooted 
equally in Old World superstitions and New World appetites and fears. (First 
NETHERLANDBy Joseph O’Neill.Pantheon Books, $23.95. 
O’Neill’s seductive ode to New York — a city that even in bad times stubbornly 
clings to its belief “in its salvific worth” — is narrated by a Dutch financier 
whose privileged Manhattan existence is upended by the events of Sept. 11, 
2001. When his wife departs for London with their small son, he stays behind, 
finding camaraderie in the unexpectedly buoyant world of immigrant cricket 
players, most of them West Indians and South Asians, including an entrepreneur 
with Gatsby-size aspirations. (First Chapter)
2666By Roberto Bolaño. Translated by Natasha Wimmer.Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 
cloth and paper, $30. 
Bolaño, the prodigious Chilean writer who died at age 50 in 2003, has 
posthumously risen, like a figure in one of his own splendid creations, to the 
summit of modern fiction. This latest work, first published in Spanish in 2004, 
is a mega- and meta-detective novel with strong hints of apocalyptic 
foreboding. It contains five separate narratives, each pursuing a different 
story with a cast of beguiling characters — European literary scholars, an 
African-American journalist and more — whose lives converge in a Mexican border 
town where hundreds of young women have been brutally murdered. (Excerpt)
UNACCUSTOMED EARTH By Jhumpa Lahiri.Alfred A. Knopf, $25. 
There is much cultural news in these precisely observed studies of modern-day 
Bengali-Americans — many of them Ivy-league strivers ensconced in prosperous 
suburbs who can’t quite overcome the tug of traditions nurtured in Calcutta. 
With quiet artistry and tender sympathy, Lahiri creates an impressive range of 
vivid characters — young and old, male and female, self-knowing and 
self-deluding — in engrossing stories that replenish the classic themes of 
domestic realism: loneliness, estrangement and family discord. (Excerpt)
(Bookshare) THE DARK SIDEThe Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into 
a War on American IdealsBy Jane Mayer.Doubleday, $27.50. 
Mayer’s meticulously reported descent into the depths of President Bush’s 
anti­terrorist policies peels away the layers of legal and bureaucratic 
maneuvering that gave us Guantánamo Bay, “extraordinary rendition,” “enhanced” 
interrogation methods, “black sites,” warrantless domestic surveillance and all 
the rest. But Mayer also describes the efforts ofunsung heroes, tucked deep 
inside the administration, who risked their careers in the struggle to balance 
the rule of law against the need to meet a threat unlike any other in the 
nation’s history. 
(Bookshare) THE FOREVER WARBy Dexter Filkins.Alfred A. Knopf, $25. 
The New York Times correspondent, whose tours of duty have taken him from 
Afghanistan in 1998 to Iraq during the American intervention, captures a decade 
of armed struggle in harrowingly detailed vignettes. Whether interviewing 
jihadists in Kabul, accompanying marines on risky patrols in Falluja or 
visiting grieving families in Baghdad, Filkins makes us see, with almost 
hallucinogenic immediacy, the true human meaning and consequences of the “war 
on terror.” (First Chapter)
NOTHING TO BE FRIGHTENED OFBy Julian Barnes.Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95. 
This absorbing memoir traces Barnes’s progress from atheism (at age 20) to 
agnosticism (at 60) and examines the problem of religion not by rehashing the 
familiar quarrel between science and mystery, but rather by weighing the 
timeless questions of mortality and aging. Barnes distills his own experiences 
— and those of his parents and brother — in polished and wise sentences that 
recall the writing of Montaigne, Flaubert and the other French masters he 
includes in his discussion. (First Chapter)
(Bookshare) THIS REPUBLIC OF SUFFERINGDeath and the American Civil WarBy Drew 
Gilpin Faust.Alfred A. Knopf, $27.95. 
In this powerful book, Faust, the president of Harvard, explores the legacy, or 
legacies, of the “harvest of death” sown and reaped by the Civil War. In the 
space of four years, 620,000 Americans died in uniform, roughly the same number 
as those lost in all the nation’s combined wars from the Revolution through 
Korea. This doesn’t include the thousands of civilians killed in epidemics, 
guerrilla raids and draft riots. The collective trauma created “a newly 
centralized nation-state,” Faust writes, but it also established “sacrifice and 
its memorialization as the ground on which North and South would ultimately 
reunite.” (First Chapter)
THE WORLD IS WHAT IT ISThe Authorized Biography of V. S. NaipaulBy Patrick 
French.Alfred A. Knopf, $30. 
The most surprising word in this biography is “authorized.” Naipaul, the 
greatest of all postcolonial authors, cooperated fully with French, opening up 
a huge cache of private letters and diaries and supplementing the revelations 
they disclosed with remarkably candid interviews. It was a brave, and wise, 
decision. French, a first-rate biographer, has a novelist’s command of story 
and character, and he patiently connects his subject’s brilliant oeuvre with 
the disturbing facts of an unruly life.
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