Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: A Year in Review

Two thousand eight began much like any other year. I was looking forward to meeting new people and visiting new places as I journeyed through the pages of my books. Like the year before, I hoped to whittle my way further into my TBR collection in an attempt to clear some shelf and floor space. I planned to participate in a few year long challenges, armed with lists of books I had been wanting to read for quite some time. I was excited and ready to go.

Although the year before I was already reviewing books for a couple of different book websites and on the rare occasion was asked to review a book by an author, I never anticipated the flood of requests and opportunities that came my way this year, offers of books in exchange for reviews. Many book bloggers found themselves in the same predicament. It was both flattering and exciting, and oh so tempting.

I learned quickly that it was okay to say no, but not before I found myself drowning in books. I am still playing catch up and imagine I will be for awhile. I am much more selective about the books I accept for review. Even then, I was only agreeing to review books I thought I might like. (having broad tastes like I do can prove to be a downside in this instance). Since I read for pleasure and not for pay, I do not want to waste my time on something I will not enjoy. As my friend Florinda said on her own blog not too long ago, I am a reader first and foremost, a reader who likes to share my thoughts and opinions on the books I read.

I love the thrill of finding a new book in my mailbox, of reading something not yet or barely released, and of spreading the word about books and authors that are worth reading. I have very few regrets about the direction my reading has gone this year, and look forward to seeing what the future holds. I do hope to get back to some of my own books this next year, as well as catch up with my current commitments and continue to test drive new authors and new books. I just need to find the right balance.

When I look back on my reading this year, I feel satisfied. I rated no books lower than 3 Stars out of 5, which on my scale is a simple "good". Looking over the books now, I can see a couple of titles that I probably could mark a little lower, however, at the time I read them, I obviously felt they were worthy of the mark I gave them. Funny how time can impact our impressions.

At the other end of the spectrum, no book wowed me enough to earn my highest rating, a fact that at first disappointed me. I am usually not so stingy about giving away that top spot. Whether I was being more critical or none of the books I read quite reached that level for me, I do not know. Regardless, several of the books I read this year do stand out. They might not have earned 5 Stars, but they certainly have my respect and recommendation.

Top Nine Favorites for 2008:
  1. The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari
  2. The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson
  3. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (although in two volumes - I am exercising my discretion to count them as one for the purposes of this summary)
  4. Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland
  5. The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
  6. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
  7. Killing Rommell by Steven Pressfield
  8. Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
  9. The View From the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier
When Kerrie over at Mysteries In Paradise mentioned that she was compiling a list of favorite crime fiction novels, I, of course, had to jump on the band wagon. I actually was quite surprised at just how many crime fiction novels I read this year.

Top Ten Favorite Crime Fiction Novels for 2008
  1. The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson
  2. Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland
  3. Out by Natsuo
  4. Death Without Company by Craig Johnson
  5. Shot Girl by Karen E. Olson
  6. A Grave in Gaza Matt Beynon Rees
  7. Kindness Goes Unpunished by Craig Johnson
  8. Sun and Shadow by Åke Edwardson
  9. Anarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill
  10. Baby Shark by Robert Fate

Longest Book Read ~ Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer (757 pgs)

Shortest Book Read ~ Judenhass by David Sim (77 pgs)

Oddest Book ~ The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall (runner up: Tokyo Year Zero by David Peace)

Best Setting ~ Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland

Best New Series ~ The Sheriff Longmire Series by Craig Johnson

Best Crime Fiction Novel ~ The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

Best Fantasy Novel ~ Far World, Book 1: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage (runner up: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling)

Best Graphic Novel ~ Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Best Nonfiction Book ~ The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari

Old Favorites ~
Linda Fairstein
Colleen Gleason
Charlaine Harris
Alice Hoffman
Karen E. Olson
J.K. Rowling

New To Me Authors I Will Definitely Be Visiting Again ~
E.A. Benedek
Kevin Brockmeier
Colin Cotterill
Joycelynn Drake
David Ebershoff
Åke Edwardson
Robert Fate
Steven Galloway
Anne George
Karen Harrington
Joshua Henkin
Adrian Hyland
Craig Johnson
Natsuo Kirino
Michelle Moran
Steven Pressfield
Matt Beynon Rees
J. Scott Savage
Jennie Shortridge
Amanda Stevens
Gayle Trent

2008 Reading Trends ~

Total Books Read ~ 84
Total Authors read ~ 72

Total New To Me Authors Read ~ 62

Books Read by Genre/Type* ~
35 Crime/Suspense/Thrillers/Mysteries
20 Fiction
13 Nonfiction
11 Fantasy
8 Graphic Novels
1 Horror
1 Science Fiction
5 short story collections
*cross-genre books counted in multiple categories.

Authors Read by Gender ~
33 Females
37 Males

Books Read by Authors' Gender ~
40 Females
42 Males
2 Multiple Genders

Books Read by Rating ~
0 Outstanding/5 Stars
9 Very Good +/4.5 Stars
33 Very Good/4 Stars
22 Good +/3.5 Stars
20 Good/3 Stars
0 Fair/2 Stars

Book Size ~
16 Pint Size Books (200 pgs and Under)
38 Intermediate Books (201-350 pgs)
26 Substantial Books (351-500 pgs)
4 Doorstop Books (501+ pgs)

Books Read by Type ~
21 Hardback Books
50 Trade Paperback Books (20 Advanced Reader's Editions, ARE)
12 Mass Paperback Books
1 e-Book

Books Read by Year of Publication ~
46 in 2008
21 in 2007
4 in 2006
8 between 2000 - 2005
5 in the 1990's

Books Read by Narrative Voice ~
37 1st Person
28 3rd Person
16 Both
3 Nonspecific Voice

Book Sources ~
52 from authors, publishers, or publicists
30 from my existing TBR collection
1 won in contest
1 loaner

Best reading month ~ December (15 books)
Worst reading month ~ April (3 books)

Reading Challenges Participated in ~ 7 (1 carry over from year before)
Reading Challenges Completed ~ 4

Top Five Movies Of the Year ~
  1. Dark Knight
  2. Milk
  3. Wanted
  4. Wall-E
  5. Iron Man

Top Five TV Shows of the Year ~
  1. The Wire
  2. True Blood
  3. Dr. Who
  4. Lost
  5. Closer

This has been a challenging year for me in many respects, but one of the things that stayed constant in my life was my love for reading (that and my awesome husband who has yet again proven just how unselfish and loving he is. Oh, and the animals too. Life would not be the same without my furkids). The books I read this year provided me with the opportunity to step outside of my own shoes, study the world and share in others' joys and pains, and even escape when I most needed to. I learned; I was entertained; I was moved to tears and laughter and forced to think outside the box. I am a better person for it.

The book blogging community is like a home away from home, and I appreciate all of the support and friendship so many of you have offered to me since I began blogging. When I was at my lowest this year, you were among those who encouraged and inspired me. We celebrated our successes together, offered support during the rough times, grieved together for the loss of a friend, and shared a bit of our lives with one another.

I hope each of you has a wonderful New Year. May you be blessed with good health, lots of laughter, happy memories, and many great books.
Happy Reading!


  1. WOAH you are WAY organized! I am incredibly impressed and it was fun reading through your list(s)!

    Nice work there. ;)

  2. Thank you for taking the time to compile such an amazing list! I am so glad that I found your blog and look forward to the enjoyment of reading it in 2009. Have a Happy New Year!

  3. You've had a great year. I like a lot of different genres and have trouble saying no, too. I've been saying it more lately, though. Love the picture of your kitty. Happy New Year!

  4. I love your year-end review - so comprehensive, and your stats are really detailed! I'm glad you included TV and movies too, being other favorite forms of storytelling. My husband definitely agrees with you about The Dark Knight being the best movie of the year!

    I'm going to be working on finding that balance between my own books and "review" books in the New Year as well (and hopefully reading MORE books, period!).

    Happy New Year to you and yours, Wendy - and hope we DO manage to meet up at the next Festival of Books :-)!

  5. That post was a jaw-dropping WOW! Not only have you read an impressive list of books this year, but being that organized about it is amazing.

    It looks and sounds like you had a great year of reading though. :)

  6. Carrie - LOL I do like my excel sheet lists! They make it easy to pull all my data together at the end of the year. Thank you!

    Sandy - Thank you so much! I always enjoy this time of year, reflecting on what I've read and comparing my stats. I am not sure how interesting it is to others, but I find it so. :-)

    I hope you have a Happy New Year too!

    Kathy - Variety is the spice of life, someone once said. :-) I love that picture of Anya too. I couldn't help but share. :-)

    Florinda - Thank you! I probably do go a little overboard, but it's fun. What you don't see is my comparison to years past--I do that too. :-)

    I wanted to add in my favorite song this year as well, but I just couldn't think of what that might be.

    Yes, finding balance this year and committing myself to read more are my main two goals this next year as well. We can do it! And we will meet up at the next Festival of Books. :-)

    Have a great New Year!

    Trisha - Haha! Thank you, Trisha. I may not have been very good at statistics in school, but I do like keeping track of details and looking for patterns. I'm not sure it means much to others though. :-)

  7. I love all the different categories you used! And I really enjoyed reading this post. You perfectly summed up why I read here: "I learned; I was entertained; I was moved to tears and laughter and forced to think outside the box."

    May 2009 bring you everything you hope for. Thank you for sharing little bits of yourself with us. And thank you for being my friend.

  8. Nymeth - Thank you so much! I usually do an international break up too, but since there wasn't a wide spread, I decided to skip it this year. I did better in that area last year. :-S

    I hope you have a wonderful New Year!

  9. Wendy: What a fab year you have had. Thank you for giving me something to strive for in my end of year roundup at some point.....

  10. Such a wide variety! Isn't it grand? Thanks for all the suggestions I've received from your reviews this year; I hope for many more.

    Happy New Year!

  11. You did really good. And it has been a pleasure knowing you.

    Very organised way of putting the list.

    I am just plain lazy!

    Wishing you a great reading 2009!

  12. You're way too organized, Wendy! I'm just speechless looking at your list and you always outline your thoughts so clearly. Well done!

    Here's wishing you another year of wonderful, spectacular reading!

    P/S: I think I've postponed Out long enough. Time to get it from my wishlist into my TBR pile...

  13. I love all your categories! I keep track of some of those but you may have inspired me to include some others as well.

    I didn't give any 5 out of 5 ratings this year either, but then a book has to be virtually perfect to get that rating from me! ;)

    I look forward to reading some of your top books, like Nefertiti. I wavered over buying The Cellist of Sarajevo last month but then decided to wait for the paperback since it'll be out in a few months I believe. I've heard nothing but good things about it.

    I hope you have a fabulous New Year!

  14. I'm in awed, Wendy! You're so organized and detailed! I love reading all your reviews, they're always so insightful and honest. Keep it up!

    Here's wishing you another great reading year, Wendy! :)

  15. Vickie - It was a good one. I picked up a lot of ideas for the end of the year wrap up by stealing ideas from other blogs. :-)

    Jenclair - It is grand! I probably owe you many more thanks for your great recommendations. :-) I hope you have a good New Year too.

    Gautami - Thanks! I am glad I met you as well. Here's to another year of learning more about each other and sharing our love for books.

    Alice - Haha! I only appear organized on the surface. If you saw the state my challenge lists are in right now, you'd know the truth. ;-)

    Now hurry up and go read Out!

    Nat - Thank you! I actually had a few more categories I decided not to add in this time. It's fun to put all of this together at the end of each year.

    I'd probably wait for the paperback copy in your shoes too. Especially since you've probably got plenty to read in the meantime. No sense spending a lot of money on a hardback if you can avoid it.

    I hope you have a wonderful New Year as well.

    Melody - You're so sweet! Thank you! I only wish I was so organized as you all seem to think. LOL

  16. Great post! My list was sort of thrown together this year! Happy New Year!

  17. Fantastic lists!! What a lot of great categories! I guess I'd better start working on mine; I'm seeing lists galore on the book blogs today!

  18. Thanks, Kitty, for mentioning our blog, The Lipstick Chronicles. You have some impressive lists. And you look a lot like my writing partner, Harry. His picture is on my website at

  19. I enjoyed reading your lists for 2008. I was surprised to see that I hadn't read very many of the same books. I did read The Translator, which was from LT's Early Reviewers Program. Hope you have a great 2009!

  20. love the categories, expecially reading trends; I think I'll go through my books and do this too.

  21. Elaine - I am so honored you stopped by my blog and commented. Thank you! I am looking forward to starting your series this year. Harry is a beautiful cat!

    Kelly - Thank you!

    Sarah - Thanks! Everyone seems to be posting their lists now. I'm glad I'm on vacation and have time to read them all. :-)

    Lisa - I read quite a few lesser known books this year, I think. I hope you have a great 2009 as well!

    Amy - It's really easy to compile many of the stats since I keep track as I go.

  22. I too have become more selective on books I agree to review - if they don't interest me, I politely decline.

  23. Happy New Year, Wendy! Such a nice list you made. I've enjoyed your blog so much. I agree with your top crime read. Well, it was my 2nd place read, but my mystery group has just gone ga-ga over Craig Johnson. Love introducing a whole group of people to a great author. I'm looking forward to getting caught up on that series as well as a bunch of other ones.

  24. That was a very impressive Review of 2008!! I will be looking at it often. I have loved so many of the books that you've reviewed. I really enjoy finding new authors and books that I might otherwise never have heard of.

    I hope you and your hubby have a wonderful 2009!!!

  25. Happy New Year, Wendy!

    You must have written the most organized and detailed year-in-review post in history! I have The Cellist of Sarajevo on my list, since it's recommended by you and my cellist friend. I'm still a bit skeptical about The 19th Wife. Will see.

    I bow out of the Man Booker Challenge with just one book short because I couldn’t get into neither of the remaining selections. I’m going to be more cautious with reading challenges this year. I might chime along and pick up a few books but probably won’t overdo it. I like to be spontaneous. :)

    In 2009 I would like to relate my reading and writing experiences through blogging. Until i started blogging, both reading and writing have been very private, keeping to myself in the Moleskine notebook. Blogging forces me to make the connection between my random skeins of thoughts into making them coherent and readable to other readers.

    I plan to tackle a few epic chunksters this year like Les Miserables and Gone with the Wind. I try to find at least one reading partner to read these giants. Also I would like to get out of my comfort zone of fiction to see more essays, memoirs and non-fiction.

  26. Stephanie - That's really the best way to go, I think. There's no point in wasting your precious time reading something you are not interested in reading.

    Kay - Happy New Year to you too! And thank you for your kind words. I miss your posts, but am glad you are able to stop by now and then. :-)

    Craig Johnson's been my best find of the year. I really enjoy his books and am glad to hear your mystery group likes him too.

    Staci - Thanks! I know I went overboard, but it was fun to compile. I hope you have a wonderful New Year as well!

    Matt - Happy New Year to you too! I've made the rounds around the blogosphere today and there a few who have me beat. :-)

    I do hope you will read The Cellist of Sarajevo. It wan't quite what I expected. As for The 19th Wife, although I really liked it, I can see why you might hesitate. If you do give it a try, hopefully you will like it.

    Not liking one or more of the prize winners to the point of not wanting to finish the book is one of the reasons I haven't been able to bring myself to join some of those award challenges. You gave it a good try though--just fell one book short, which is actually better than good.

    I look forward to seeing what new directions you take your readers on my blog. Your posts are always insightful.

    Good luck with your personal reading challenges!

  27. I loved reading this post, Wendy. You have put so much thought into your reading and I love all of the "stats." I only had one outstanding book of the year (The Book Thief), so I can understand your disappointment. On the other hand--have none below a 3 rating is really fantastic!

    Happy New Year! I hope 2009 is another great year.

  28. I love reading your stats and lists of "bests" ... Great post, Wendy...and great year. Here's to another great year of reading and connecting to other readers!

  29. Trish - Thank you! I am really looking forward to reading The Book Thief. I'm planning to make up for this past year in the 5 department. :-) I hope you have a wonderful New Year as well!

    Wendy - Thanks! This year is going to a great year for reading. :-)

  30. Great list! I've read three of your top favorites, and they also made my favorites list this year.

  31. The only problem with reading so many best of lists is that I feel that familiar desperation that I will never be able to read all the books I want to!
    Sad you didn't have a book earn your highest rating, but still looks like a great year!

  32. I like your variety of stat categories - I'll have to pinch a few to keep track of in 2009 :) Now mine are looking a bit skimpy...

  33. What a great post - I'm saving it to help me when I do my stats next year, I love how you broke yours down. I also struggle with balancing the ARCs with my own library. They are great in all the ways that you mention but they are also an obligation. I am also very choosy, but they sure have stacked up around here lately!

  34. Those are some incredibly detailed stats! I hope your 2009 continues to be filled with love, happiness, and fantastic books!

  35. Alyce - Thank you. There's such a variety among all the favorites lists out there. It's fun when you come across a common favorite.

    Amy - Tell me about it! My wish list is growing by leaps and bounds.

    Lenore - Thanks you. You are welcome to whatever ideas you think might suit you. :-) That's how I ended up with what you see above.

    Tara - Thanks! I love seeing the final breakdowns at the end of each year. There definitely is a balancing act when it comes to ARC's and older TBR books on our shelves. The problem is so many of the newer books sound really good. It's hard to say no when you really want to read the book.

    Fyrefly - I hope you have a wonderful book-filled year as well!

  36. Happy New Year! I must note the crime novels you list as I love the genre (though don't read as much as I would like)! I also really liked Persepolis (though only read the first book, will have to read the sequel this year).

  37. What a great post Wendy and so organized. I would have liked to have done something like this but not this year-maybe next year.

    I agree on finding a balance on reading my own books, reviewing books and even blogging. There are so many of my own books I'd like to get to. There has to be a happy balance right?

    I am really grateful to have met you this year Wendy and I hope 2009 will be a great year for you in reading and otherwise!

  38. Dar - Thank you! Balance is good--getting there is not always so easy. I am so glad I met you too, Dar. We'll have a great year, full of books and all that other good stuff.

  39. Great stats! I really enjoy discovering new authors. It seems as if you discovered quite a few, too. Now if we can just get back to them, right? :)

    Oh - I forgot about The Cold Dish. Thanks for the reminder.

  40. Joy - Thank you! I like discovering new authors too. :-)

  41. Nefertiti was a great story. I didn't do favorites on my blog but I love the way you broke down your list!

  42. Jen - Thank you! I had a hard time with listing favorites this year and nearly decided against it, but figured I might as well.

  43. Great post Wendy. I love reading the stats and of course checking which books made your favorites.

    I especially like what you said about drowning in books and trying to find the balance. I can so relate to that.

    I hope 2009 brings a lot of good books your way and I can't wait to hear all about them :)

  44. Iliana - Thank you! The year has gotten off a great start and I'm looking forward to see what else it has in store for me. I hope you have a wonderful New Year.

  45. What a great way to break down your yearly reading. I agree that the review requests can be overwhelming at times. I had no idea what I was in for, and I've become more selective myself. I also agree about feeling differently about some books over time. That happens to me a lot.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  46. Anna - Thank you! It is interesting how our impressions of books change over time. I suppose it is a lot like any memory though.


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