2008: my year in reading

As this year draws to a close, I can happily look back and reflect on all the great books I’ve experienced during the last twelve months. In terms of both quantity and quality, this has been a very good year for me. As far as quantity, I can definitely say I’ve read more this year than in any past year, ever. I used to read at a pretty laid-back pace, getting through around 15-25 books a year. This year, for reasons I don’t even entirely understand, I felt a new sense of urgency in my reading, a feeling that there was too much out there I was missing. So I decided to pick up the pace, and this year I made it through 63 books (woohoo!) — 2 science books, 60 science fiction books, and one book about science fiction.

In terms of quality, well, the year was also bright in that respect. There was a small handful of books I started reading and gave up on, and there were a few books I finished reading only to end up being disappointed. But by far, most everything I read this year was well worth the time it took to read it; and many of the books were simply fantastic.

One big focus I had this year was to catch up on some of the famous classics that I had previously overlooked or ignored for various reasons. And I definitely feel my grounding in the genre is much better for it. I had a great time reading such gems as The Stars My Destination, Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Rogue Moon, Childhood’s End, Rendezvous with Rama, Mission of Gravity, A Canticle for Liebowitz, The Space Merchants, Contact, and Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang.

This year was also my first experience with Stapledon and Lem, two authors I am quickly coming to regard as some of the true masters of science fiction. And there were other authors who were “firsts” for me whom I am coming to regard very highly: Thomas Disch, Octavia Butler, James Gunn, Robert Sheckley, Dan Simmons, Kim Stanley Robinson, Vernor Vinge, and William Tenn.

Of course, I also read a bunch of stuff by authors who were already old favorites of mine: John Brunner, Ursula LeGuin, Nancy Kress, Robert Charles Wilson, Robert Silverberg, and Frank Herbert.

I also read several short story collections this year. And while I still feel this format is inferior to novels in general, I have begun to appreciate that there are interesting things that can be done with it, and that there are some great stories out there.

I had thought about listing my favorite 5 books out of all I’ve read this year, but it just turns out to be too difficult, there are too many contenders. I will say that I read two books in 2008 that impressed me enough to gain admittance to my top ten all-time favorites (at least as the list exists at this moment). Those are Gunn’s The Joy Makers and Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep.

And finally, just for the record, here is the complete list of my SFnal reading in 2008:


Brian Aldiss

  • Starship

Alfred Bester

  • The Stars My Destination
  • Virtual Unrealities

Ray Bradbury

  • Fahrenheit 451
  • The Martian Chronicles

John Brunner

  • More Things in Heaven
  • Players At the Game of People
  • Stand on Zanzibar
  • The Tides of Time
  • Total Eclipse

Algis Budrys

  • Rogue Moon

Octavia Butler

  • Clay’s Ark
  • Fledgling

Arthur C. Clarke

  • Childhood’s End
  • The Hammer of God
  • Rendezvous with Rama

Hal Clement

  • Mission of Gravity

Thomas Disch

  • Camp Concentration

Harlan Ellison

  • Approaching Oblivion

James Gunn

  • The Joy Makers
  • The Listeners

Robert Heinlein

  • Friday

Frank Herbert

  • The Green Brain
  • The Santaroga Barrier

Nancy Kress

  • An Alien Light
  • Crossfire

Ursula K. LeGuin

  • City of Illusion
  • Planet of Exile
  • Rocannon’s World
  • The Telling

Stanislaw Lem

  • His Master’s Voice
  • Return from the Stars

Walter M. Miller, Jr.

  • A Canticle for Liebowitz

Robert Morrow

  • This Is the Way the World Ends

Charles Platt

  • Dream Makers

Frederick Pohl

  • Jem
  • The Space Merchants (with C.M. Kornbluth)

Kim Stanley Robinson

  • Icehenge

Carl Sagan

  • Contact

Robert Sheckley

  • The People Trap
  • The Status Civilization

Robert Silverberg

  • The Best of Robert Silverberg
  • Dying Inside
  • The World Inside

Clifford Simak

  • Cemetery World

Dan Simmons

  • The Fall of Hyperion
  • Hyperion

Olaf Stapledon

  • Odd John
  • Sirius

Theodore Sturgeon

  • The Golden Helix

William Tenn

  • Of Men and Monsters
  • The Square Root of Man
  • The Wooden Star

Vernor Vinge

  • A Fire Upon the Deep
  • The Peace War
  • Rainbows End

Kate Wilhelm

  • Listen, Listen
  • Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang

Robert Charles Wilson

  • Blind Lake
  • The Chronoliths
  • Mysterium

4 responses to “2008: my year in reading

  1. I just recently found out about your blog, and I just wanted to thank you for all your great reviews of both older and newer books. They have definitely opened my eyes to works of authors I haven’t read before.

    So thanks for 2008, and I am looking forward to reading more on your blog in 2009.

  2. Thanks Dennis. It’s comments like yours that make me feel I’m doing something worthwhile here. I hope you keep enjoying the reviews!

  3. Still gotta get a copy of that Platt book.

  4. I’ve read a few of the books on your list. With so many “what I read in 2008” posts around the blogosphere – your’s is the first that even comes close in size to my own list.

    I have more Fantasy and Horror books on my list. The best Sci-Fi book I read last year was “Ship of Fools” by Richard Paul Russo.


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