Posted by: Gregg | January 2, 2009

Best books of the year, 2008 edition.

Hope everyone out there had a good New Years celebration. At Casa de Bookpusher, the excitement began and ended with a bottle of Tuaca. Also, we spent a substantial amount of time cringing anytime Dick Clark appeared on our TV.

Unlike the cool kids who contributed to this article over at Present Magazine, I’m not limiting myself to books published in 2008; more along the lines of May’s Machete, I’m listing the books I read this year.And I’m sure I forget some, but here goes:

1.) The Secret History by Donna Tartt. A world-class Southern gothic tale set in a small New England college. A young outsider finds a perfect group of friends and all is well until a secret unravels everything. Magical, lyrical, and packs a deep emotional punch.

2.) Old School by Tobias Wolff. Just missed getting into my Goodreads Pantheon section by a hair. Set in a New England prep school (yes, yes, I know – the second in a row. Did I mention that I’m graduating grad school this year?) during the 1960, this novel is a meditation on the power of literature to change lives and reveal truths.

3.) The Turnaround by George Pelecanos. Pelecanos’ previous novel, the Night Gardener, made me cry, and I never cry. His latest is the story of a collision of bad luck and violence in a racially charged neighborhood of Washington, DC, in the early 1970s and how a chance meeting during the present day ties the lives of the participants back together.

4.) The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow. Kaite Stover – Kansas City’s own Reader’s Advisory guru – tipped me to Winslow, and I spent about three weeks solid plowing through pretty much everything the man ever wrote. Dark, gritty noir on the beaches of Southern California with mobsters, losers, and surf bums. It sounds a bit goofy, but Winslow makes it sing.

5.) Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. Fascinating and absorbing. And here I thought he was just some barbarian dude who conquered some land that no one else wanted.

6.) and 7.) The Shotgun Rule and Half the Blood of Brooklyn by Charlie Huston. Both are awesome for different reasons. His Joe Pitt vampire series needs to be read by anyone and everyone – equal parts bloody and profane with a plot that roars like the engine of a souped-up Dodge Charger. The Shotgun Rule is about four teen friends in and early 1980s meth-laced suburbia who quickly get in deep trouble, uncovering secrets and family ties.

8.) The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly. Connelly continues to be one of the most solid and dependable writers in the biz, and his new novel, a legal thriller that continues with the character he introduced in the excellent Lincoln Lawyer, does not disappoint.

9.) Crossing California by Adam Langer. If Robert Altman had ever made a movie about coming of age in a Jewish neighborhood in 1970s/1980s Chicago, this would be it.

10.) Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian. An intimate look at a family who is shattered by an accident with a hunting rifle. Bohjalian is a master at taking a large social issue (in this case, gun control) and reducing it down to the personal. Touching and perfectly constructed.


  1. I love this time of year when I get to read lists, lists and more lists! I’m especially going to look for the Ghengis Khan book. Thanks!

  2. You know you’re my hero, right?

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