So, 2008 wasn’t the best reading year for me. I read quite a bit, but much of it was required (I did take that good old master’s exam in April, after all), and after that I just completely went blank on desire for fiction. I’ve been on a steady diet of non-fiction, mostly current-affairs, since then, and though it makes me much less interesting at parties held within my department, I’ve learned quite a bit.
I haven’t kept track nearly as closely of my reading as I have of my movie watching, in part because I didn’t start keeping track online until mid-year, when GoodReads was recommended to me. I’ve found it somehow much less daunting than LibraryThing, which I used to visit religiously, in part because I’m only using it right now to track what I’ve read.
The best non-fiction book I read this year was probably The Way of the World by Ron Suskind. It interweaves several different stories — the story of the Afghani exchange student in America was somehow the most gripping for me, though his writing about a detainee in Guantanamo and even his close-up coverage of Benazir Bhutto were moving, too — about how today’s wars, America’s wars, are having an impact on lives all over the world. It’s stunning and not always what I thought it would be — critical at points, but also consoling.
As a close second, I found Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln to be a gripping book. Even though I knew how it would end, I was riveted. This book, like David McCullough’s John Adams, tops my list for best use of narrative form — they managed to combine the best traits of storyteling with true stories, which made for extremely compelling reading.
So this year, I’m resolved to do a better job, for myself, of keeping track both of what I’m reading and what I’m thinking as I read. Starting soon, when I finish the so far quite wonderful Chasing the Flame: One Man’s Fight to Save the World by Samanatha Power.