Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Your Book of 2008


Josh and Kevin reading.


What's the best book you read in 2008 that was either written before 1970 or by a writer no longer with us?
(Thanks, Joe. Whew!)

I'm going with I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson.


32 comments:

Scott Parker said...

Well, this is certainly an interesting post. Since I read so much "new to me" material, half the books I read were by dead writers. I'll narrow down the list to four with the #1 spot officially answering your question:

1. Erle Stanley Gardner (Top of the Heap)
2. Day Keene (Home is the Sailor)
3. James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice)
4. William Colt MacDonald (Mascarada Pass)

I liked the ESG book so much because of the character of Donald Lam and ESG's light writing style. Keene is great because of the moral dilemma the protagonist faces. Cain because he can say so much in so few words. MacDonald because of the character of Gregory Quist.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And I was worried people only read live writers. Thanks, Scott.

debra said...

I'll have to think on that one, Patti. I'm re-reading a Rex Stout mystery now, though.

Lisa said...

I don't think I read any fiction by a dead writer, but I did read an excellent non-fiction book called ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM IN AMERICAN LIFE, by Richard Hofstadter and it was excellent. It won the Pulitzer in 1964 and he died in 1970, but it's still in print.

pattinase (abbott) said...

One of my husband's favorites. (My husband is a political theorist).

Cathy said...

Without going back to check how many authors I read are dead, I'd have to say Stieg Larson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, Kathy-that's a sad one. I was thinking of people who lived their full life, had much success and then died.

Joe Boland said...

{Pssst - hey, Patti? Richard Matheson is still with us.}

Lastyear said...

John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids. Holds up much better than I expected. Also been reading George Simenon this year. NYRB press has been reprinting his best works. Especially loved Man Who Watched Trains Go By and Dirty Snow.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, I've been buying some of the Simenon too. Love his standalones.

Michael P said...

Hard to go wrong with "I Am Legend" but, as someone pointed out, Matheson is very much alive. It so happens that the two best novels I read this year were old ones by dead people: "How Like an Angel" by Margaret Millar (maybe the best mystery novel of modern times) and "Revolutionary Road" by Richard Yates, perhaps the saddest novel I've ever read. This was my second reading of the Millar and the third of the Yates. Both were originally published in the early 60s, and both hold up beautifully.

Randy Johnson said...

Mine is a sort of tie I guess. I thoroughly enjoyed both.
1. Embrace The Wolf back in February, just a month after Benjamin M. Schutz passed away
2. the Executioners, one of John D. MacDonald's best, made into two great films titled Cape Fear

Jerry House said...

Haven't kept a list of what I've read this year, but a recent read that I really liked was You Shall Know Them (1953) by Vercors (Jean Bruller). It's a quasi-mystery/courtroom/sf novel that explores what it means to be a human. Also published as The Murder of the Missing Link and as Borderline.

Another recent read was Bikey the Skicycle and Other Tales of Jimmieboy (1902), a collection of juvenile fantasies by John Kendrick Bangs. I happened to read the last story in the book, "The Stupid Little Apple Tree", on Veteran's Day. It's about a fallen and forgotten soldier and it really touched me.

I caught up on a lot of Max Allan Collins and Dean Koontz this year -- two living authors I'm glad will be around for a long time.

Randy Johnson said...

They seem to keep missing that you said, "either written before 1970 or by a writer no longer with us?"

pattinase (abbott) said...

Michael-Revolutionary Road is one of my favorite books--all of Yates' stuff including The Easter Parade. And Millar-I like her as much as MacDonald. Great books.
Randy-That's cause I had it wrong first. I said by a dead writer until Joe clued me in. Duh! I didn't
Jerry-some new ones for me. Thanks for bringing them to my attention. You should write about it for Forgotten Books.

sandra seamans said...

I read Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. What an amazing book and I'm blown away by the courage Ms. Metalious had to even write this book knowing the backlash that would and did come after it was published.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I read PP years ago and am very glad it held up. Also saw the movie, the TV series, read a bio about her. Very interesting all around. A lot of Halberstam's THE FIFTIES was about it too.

Jacob said...

I'm in the same boat as Scott. I've been playing catch-up and reading mostly the "Classics" all year. If Mike Hammer were holding a gun to my head I'd probably have to pick Rendezvous In Black (Woolrich) or The Gutter and The Grave (McBain). I would be embarrassed to admit some of the titles I've excluded here but those 2 really blew me away.

pattinase (abbott) said...

hey, I read my first Woolrich last year and I am an old lady. So don't apologize. I've read crime fiction my whole life but a different sort. Two great titles, Jacob. Thanks for remembering them and if you care to write about them for Forgotten Books, let me know.

Chris said...

Since I've been reading so much Louis L'Amour lately, I'm going to have to go with The Outlaws of Mesquite, the first book I reviewed over at The Louis L'Amour Project. I think that the stories from West of Dodge are better crafted, but Mesquite had more of a visceral impact, particularly the excellent story "The Ghost Maker."

pattinase (abbott) said...

Great, Chris. Just reading my first ever Western.

Barbara Martin said...

Great post, Patti. One I'm prepared for with two books:

1. Caesar by Patrick O'Brian (first published in 1938), and

2. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott (author deceased a very long time).
The latter I like to reread time and time again for its quaint turn of phrase.

Dana King said...

I only read a handful of books that qualified, but THE LONG GOODBYE was one of them. 'Nuff said.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Haven't read Ivanhoe since 9th grade. What a great idea.
The Long Goodbye, a bit later but not much. Actually, I'll only read a few that qualified too. Another was New Hope for the Dead by Willeford.

Travis Erwin said...

My reading has suffered this year, but I'll as a huge Richard Russo fan I'll go with Bridge of Sighs, though I have enjoyed others novels by him more.

Cormac Brown said...

"The Far Side of The Dollar" by Ross Macdonald. Finally a Lew Archer book that to me, lived up to all of the hype that I've heard about Macdonald.

Corey Wilde said...

I gotta go with a couple of Scott Parker's choices. Erle Stanley Gardner's 'Top of the Heap' is a perennial favorite (the entire Donald Lam series in fact). I re-read that book often enough so that I can't really count it. But I read Cain's 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' for the first time this year. What a fantastic book. The impact of the writing is almost physical.

One other title, 'Very Cold for May,' by William P. McGivern, was a great find for me.

All three authors are dead and the books were all published before 1970.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, I'm sad he doesn't hold up that well, Cormac. Glad you found one. Have you tried his wife, Margaret Millar. She's great.
Travis-Love Russo. Especially the academic novel that I'm blanking on. Hysterical. But all of his work is great-I think I've read every one of them. And the movie Nobody's Fool with Newman is a favorite.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Very Cold For May. Love the title. I'll look for it.

John McFetridge said...

Raymond Carver - Cathedral.

And I really like the movie "Nobody's Fool," too.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Isn't it fun to read versions of Carver, the ones he wrote compared to the ones Gordon Lish edited?

Cormac Brown said...

I haven't read Margaret, though I understand that she was quite a writer in terms of plotting.