ABC’s Favorite Books of 2008 (Blogmistress edition)

And at last, the final post with our favorite books…

It’s the one you’ve been waiting for *cough* – the Blogmistress post, where Hayley and I tell you what we loved this past year.  And since we’re such a wordy twosome, we needed a whole post for just the pair of us.  Sigh.

Anyhoo, I hope you enjoy our favorites like you enjoyed those of our colleagues.  After the jump, naturally (we love a bit of suspense).

PS.  It’s not like there’s not been newsworthy Bookbits in the last two or three weeks, I’ve just not had time to sift through them all!  I’m hoping I’ll get some posted this week or early next…

Hayley (Blogmistress Suprema, Children’s buyer, Amsterdam)

1. The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway. Possibly the most fun I have ever had reading a book. This is self-indulgent monster of a novel, at once touching and bizarre. It’s horrific, then funny, and then horrifyingly funny. It’s sci-fi, but it’s also literary, thriller, lad-lit and fantasy; a book of contrasts, surprises and big and then even bigger ideas. Bonkers. Wonderful. Wow.

2. The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas. More self indulgence, but totally worth it. Dark, gothic, nasty, mind-blowing pan-dimensional and utterly compulsive fantasy with nods to Victorian romances and popular physics. Also – the UK edition has my favorite cover of the year.

3. The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir. A tough call – from all the books on the Tudors I’ve read this year, shall I pick my perennial favourite Philippa Gregory, or Weir’s second stab at fiction instead? Weir won. Delicious, dazzling historical fiction chronicling the life of Elizabeth I from early childhood to accession.

4. The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti. Macaber and Dickensian, slightly fantastical children’s fiction with adult appeal. I was carried off to an atmospheric and gothic world of orphans and villains each time I opened this book. Beautifully written.

5. Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh. Remember the bit in Freakonomics where you found out why drug dealers still live with their moms? This is the whole story. Couldn’t put it down.

Sophie (The Other One, Beauty, Crafts, Fashion, Interior Design, Military History, and Romance buyer, The Hague)

1.  Ramayan 3392 A.D. by Shamik Dasgupta.  I’m not a big graphic novel reader, and I just opened this one because of the incredibly vibrant cover.  Three hours later, I looked up.  It’s a retelling of the Ramayana, set in a future world.  The art is gorgeous – marvelous colors, beautiful detail.  And the story is superexciting.  I’ve been dying for part 2, but Virgin has been sending bad info to our suppliers, because each time I’ve ordered it I’ve been getting John Woo’s 7 Brothers..  🙁  So I’m still looking for it (tips on where to find it welcome!).

2.  Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey.  Part 5 of the whole Kushiel’s Legacy series, and the second part with Prince Imriel as main character.  I didn’t like him in the first book he featured in (Kushiel’s Scion), but here he comes into his own.  The alternative Medieval Europe Carey imagines is wonderfully detailed, and I’ve always had a soft spot for lengthy adventure novels.  Great to curl up on the couch with!  I’m trying to contain myself to wait for the paperback version of part 6, Kushiel’s Mercy, but it’s hard!

3.  Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby.  Like many women (and quite a few men), I rediscovered knitting a few years ago – especially lace knitting.  All those intricate little patterns and charts, I love ’em!  So when I had ordered this for the store, I had to reorder it the moment I laid my eyes on the patterns inside.  All I could think was “this book is coming home with me!  Sorry, customers, you’ll just have to wait!”.  I’m now working on my second scarf from this book (A Curved Shawl with Diamond Edging, in case you’re interested), and the first completed one (the Myrtle Leaf Shawl) has already been much worn by my mother.  A word of warning though: be sure to go to the website for errata and addendums (pdf file here), especially if you’re not terribly good with thinking on your feet as you work your way through a chart…

4.  Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer.  My first Heyer book!  I just flat-out loved it.  It’s like Jane Austen, with more banter.  The characters were so wonderful, and I haven’t read such fun dialogue (four characters all speaking across each other at the same time) for quite a while.  I’ve got my next Heyer on my to-be-read shelf already, for a rainy day.  🙂

5.  The Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn.  You really want the little pocket paperbacks, though, since they’re gorgeous.  I bought the books because they were so pretty, and because I always like a samurai story.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  I ate them up, all 6 of them (although in the “regular” paperback versions there are only 3)(and a prequel and a sequel)(which I haven’t read yet).  I loved how Hearn held the tension by switching between the main characters, and I liked very much how they were quite human and flawed.

Biggest waste of time:
Swimming in a Sea of Death by David Rieff.  Rieff is the son of Susan Sontag and in this book he describes her death.  Doesn’t that sound like an infinitely interesting book?  A memoriam of an incredibly interesting woman?  Well, it’s not.  It’s one long-winded, almost stream-of-consciousness monologue about Rieff’s own insecurities and his (and his mother’s) bitter, bitter fight against death.  As if we can live forever.  To me it seems he wrote it only to ease his own guilt at not helping his mother cope more, but you know what?  Do that in a private, unpublished diary next time, please.  The only reason I finished it is because it’s short.