I read 37 books this year - 23 novels, 4 other works of fiction, and 10 non-fiction. Far too few of them were library books.
Best Fiction I read in 2008
Libra, Underworld and Falling Man by Don DeLillo
Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
The Sportswriter and Independence Day, by Richard Ford
Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Saturday, by Ian McEwan
Best Non-Fiction I read in 2008
The Third Chimpanzee, by Jared Diamond
The Year of Magical Thinking and Political Fictions, by Joan Didion
The Looming Tower, by Lawrence Wright
The Mother Tongue, by Bill Bryson
Richard Ford's The Sportswriter and Independence Day, about novelist turned sportswriter turned real estate broker Frank Bascombe, stand beside John Updike's Rabbit Angstrom novels in the way they capture the nuances of everyday life for a regular guy in changing times. Set in New Jersey, one might say that they are the literary answer to middle-period Bruce Springsteen. I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.
Books That Feel Our Pain
Joshua Ferris' Then We Came to the End and Ed Park's Personal Days may be two of the short-list best novels ever written about work - imagine Catch-22, set in mid-sized 21st century offices - but they're more than that, they're finely observed and fully realized renderings of how young professionals live.
Marilynne Robinson's Gilead should be taught in every high school in the United States. Like The Great Gatsby, or The Catcher in the Rye, every word serves a purpose and not one word is wasted. Its just a beautiful novel, from start to finish.
Books Writers Should Read
I'm convinced that Joan Didion writes the best expository prose of any living American writer. Political Fictions and The Year of Magical Thinking are both depressing, but full of clear thinking expressed in stylish prose.