The Five Best Books I Read In 2008
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
It’s the time of year for reviewing things, and after pondering the books I read in 2008 (48 of them - it was a good reading year), I’ve come up with my favourites. Here, listed in the order I read them, are the five books which were most memorable for me in 2008:
1. Going To Extremes: mud, sweat and frozen tears by Nick Middleton
The author - a rather adventurous guy - describes his visits to the world’s hottest, coldest, wettest, and driest inhabited places. It was an enjoyable mixture of travel, adventure and science: fascinating to learn how people have adapted to living in hostile climates, both physically and psychologically, and why they bother. Oymyakon in Siberia is now on my travel wish-list.
2. The Pillars Of The Earth by Ken Follett
I never imagined myself enjoying a historical novel, but my quest to read all of Ken Follett’s books led me to this one. Centred around the building of a cathedral in a 12th century English village, this epic tale is one of Follett’s most popular. After more than 1100 pages, and a story spanning several decades, I found myself totally absorbed in the characters and also the well-researched medieval setting.
3. In Praise Of Slow: how a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed by Carl Honore
The book’s blurb says “The Slow movement is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace; it is about living better in the hectic modern world by striking a balance between fast and slow.” Honore challenges our culture’s assumption that faster is better, and shares examples of the many ways people have slowed down, and lived better because of it. I’ve often thought that an obsession with speed was counterproductive, so it was reassuring to read a book that explains why.
4. To The Poles (without a beard) by Catharine Hartley
Catharine Hartley was a 34 year old Chardonnay-sipping London girl with no previous polar experience, who wondered if an amateur like herself could walk to the south pole. Not only did she do it, becoming the first British woman to walk to the South Pole, but she followed it up by trekking to the north pole as well. Reading this humorous account of what can be achieved with willpower was inspiring, as you’d expect. The candid way she shared what was going on in her mind and heart made it delightfully different from all the other polar exploration stories I’ve read, which were written by men (with beards).
5. Dirt Music by Tim Winton
This was the first novel I’d read by acclaimed West Australian author Tim Winton, and I found it hard to get into. The style was easy enough to read; it was just very different from other authors I’ve read. But it was worth persisting, and the vivid way Winton describes characters and landscapes made me feel like I’d been to the fictional coastal town much of the story is set in. Some of the impressions from this novel lingered long after I finished reading, a bit like the aftertaste from an intense and really good espresso