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

5 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.


  5. Impressive list. Please note, though, that “This Is the Way the World Ends” is by James Morrow (not Robert).

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