In case you’re interested in pointless listmaking, the New York Times offers its 10 best books of 2008. Of them, I’ve read only Netherland, a novel I felt ambiguous about and still haven’t reread. Roberto Bolaño is on the list for 2666 and is highly praised by many good critics, but I didn’t like The Savage Detectives. The nonfiction side looks more worthwhile, especially given the books that delve into the unconstitutional, anti-democratic, and cruel things the United States is doing to people, but those things are already fairly well-known and the books seem more destined to be cited than read.
Last year, I expressed skepticism at the top 10 and 100 lists at the New York Times, and this year I’ll reiterate that (although I’ve read fewer books on the list this time). This year, I’ll link to a post from January 2008 that in turn linked to a number of my favorite (and much recommended) books. To that list I’ll add The Name of the Rose and The Time Paradox.
No novels published this year enraptured me; if you think I missed one that should, send an e-mail. Finally, if you’re going to read novels based on lists, you might try Modern Library’s Top 100 instead, although it has some clunkers (Appointment in Samarra at 22? Someone(s) must be sentimental for his (their?) youth).
Just don’t try to read the readers’ top 100, because it’s half terrible!