Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lynn's 2008 Baker's Dozen

Why 13 titles? Everyone makes a top ten, and besides, Cindy and I can’t possibly narrow our favorites down that far, so we're giving you a Baker’s Dozen of 2008 favorites. Mine are here and Cindy's are in a separate post. Our first ten are selected on literary merit alone and are in alphabetic order by author. The extra three titles are some of our other favorites of the year, thrown in for free. Let us know what YOUR favorites are!

This was SO hard! Stay tuned for our Top Five Nonfiction and Top Five Picture Books coming soon.

Lynn's 2008 Baker's Dozen

Anderson, M.T. Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. II: Kingdom on the Waves (Candlewick)
Brilliant sequel to an equally brilliant first book. Challenging, thought provoking, emotional, memorable, searing – there just aren’t enough adjectives to describe how much I admire this book.

Dowd, Siobhan. Bog Child. (Random/David Fickling)
Dowd weaves multiple plot threads effortlessly in this beautifully crafted book.

Fleming, Candace. Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary. (Random)
The inviting scrapbook format is perfect for either browsing or immersion in the staggering amount of fascinating information about the time, the Civil War, the important issues as well as presenting admirably complete biographies of both the Lincolns.

Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. (HarperCollins)
Sweet despite real scariness, Gaiman’s story telling skills shine in this highly original tale.

Horvath, Polly. My One Hundred Adventures. (Random House/Schwartz & Wade)
Horvath’s luminous writing perfectly captures those first itchy feelings of adolescence.

Lanagan, Margo. Tender Morsels (Random House/Knopf)
Lanagan is one of the most original stylists writing today but this book also shines in other categories: extraordinary world-building, thematic depth and vibrant characters as well as fascinating play with fairy tale elements.

Lockhart, E. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion)
Smart, funny and an oh-so-subtle exploration of gender/power struggles. Frankie is a terrific character!

Pratchett, Terry. Nation (HarperCollins)
I think this is Pratchett’s best ever. The humor and word play is still joyously present but this amazing book also features a remarkable setting, richly developed characters and beautifully explored themes.

Tharp, Tim. The Spectacular Now. (Random House)
Probably one of the best character studies I have ever read! Sutter will stay with me forever.

White, Ruth. Little Audrey. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Smith, Hope Anita. Keeping the Night Watch. (Henry Holt)
I know this is cheating but I simply cannot chose between these two gorgeously written little gems. (It certainly IS cheating, but I'll let you get away with it since I loved them both too!--Cindy)

Lynn's three extras:
This was the year of fabulous page-turners and these three were pure pleasure for me to read!

Cashore, Kristin. Graceling. (Harcourt)
Collins, Suzanne. Hunger Games. (Scholastic)
Goodman, Alison. Eon: Dragoneye Reborn. (Penguin)


waltergiant said...

Lynn & Cin--

My baker's dozen, 10 fiction and 3 nonfiction, with a special amendment at the end. My favorites? The "best?" For what it's worth:


Anderson, M.T. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Vol. II: The Kingdom on the Waves.
The most anticipated book of the year and the book that lived up to my incredible expectations. Genius.

Dowd, Siobhan. Bog Child.
Thank you, ladies, for reminding me to read this. Your praise does it justice.

Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book.
Is it the best thing Gaiman has ever written? I think so, and seeing how much I worship him, that's saying a lot!

Kluger, Steve. My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park.
I love the balance, the humor, the voices, the musical theatre and baseball references. This was my feel good book of the year.

Lanagan, Margo. Tender Morsels.
Oh, wait. THIS is the book that exceeded my expectations the most this year. No one puts sentences together better than Lanagan. Astonishing in every way.

Lecesne, James. Absolute Brightness.
Crystalline characterizations crafted from stereotypes come to life, and didactic to boot! How could this book possibly work with so much against it? Because the writing transcends the cliche at every turn and the power of the storytelling cannot be denied.

Link, Kelly. Pretty Monsters.
Gorgeous writing. I had seen a few of these stories before, but in this one volume they make the most formidable collection of the year.

Meldrum, Christina. Madapple.
Plot stunningly wrought, point of view narrow and naive befitting the character, and a story that has an unreliable narrator so unclear on the details outside her sheltered experience that the reader buys into her confusion. Plus all the herbs and plants and the religion stuff, tightly woven into the story. Printz!

Pratchett, Terry. Nation.
Best world building of the year with characters I had the hardest time letting go of. Maybe it is the whimsy that has kept me from loving Pratchett as much as everyone else all these years?

Wilson, Martin. What They Always Tell Us.
Irresistible elements to me (brothers, coming of age, small towns, the tension between friendship and sexuality) and some fine, fine writing make this the book that touched my heart more than any other this year.


Fleming, Candace. The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary.
In a slew of Lincoln books, this stands head and shoulders above the pack. Fleming has perfected the device she started with Franklin and made a marriage of information, layout, and the writer's craft that shouts "Read me!"

Kuklin, Susan. No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row.
Unflinching honesty and painful truths are skillfully portrayed in this collection of voices of the silenced and forgotten.

Nelson, Scott Reynolds. Ain't Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry.
Storytellers are historians. Historians are storytellers. This adaptation of an adult book is considerably rewritten and is better than its adult counterpart.

BUT WAIT!! One graphic novel stands out to me this year, so I have to mention it.

Powell, Nate. Swallow Me Whole.
The most brilliant graphic novel depiction of a teenager since Blankets. The fact that this is a teen with mental illness and that we are taken inside this perspective makes the book all the more powerful.

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan said...

Thanks for posting! I agree! And, I met Kluger last summer and was so excited to get an autographed copy of MY MOST EXCELLENT YEAR for our high school theater director who had already read it and has been bugging me to do so all year (he traded me his unautographed copy). He rereads Kluger's books any time he needs a pick me up. Unfortunately this one is still sitting on my nightstand, but I promise to read it during spring training! I hadn't heard of the Powell GN, thanks for the heads up.--Cin

Anonymous said...

Yes! Some love for THe SPECTACULAR NOW. You are brilliant for recognizing this work.