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RAPS Best of 2008

This week I met with the Readers’ Advisors of the Puget Sound (RAPS) group for our quarterly meeting. We shared some online Readers’ Advisory tools, and then went around the room to share our favorite reads of 2008. We each had about 2 minutes to share. The books weren’t all published in 2008, but the majority of them were. I thought it was a good mix of fiction, nonfiction and teen fiction, and seeing as this is the season for lists, I thought that the Book Group Buzz readers might like to take a peek into what librarians in the Puget Sound region have enjoyed this year. I have tried to capture the essence of what was said about the book, but by no means captured the raves verbatim. Just some quick annotations to give you a feel for the appeal of each. Here goes:

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol 1 (The Pox Party) and Vol 2 (The Kingdom of the Waves) by M. T. Anderson
Teen novels set during the American Revolution featuring a black man, whose mother was a slave, who has been experimented on by the Americans, which leads him to flee to the British side. Will Octavian find better treatment with the British? Powerful books. Also led reader to Simon Schama’s Rough Crossings: The British, The Slaves and The American Revolution and The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare for more New England settings and history.

The Forever War by Dexter Filkins
Written by a journalist, this book captures the human recollections of what happens in war.

The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper
Tells the story of a family of freed slaves who resettled in Liberia. Explores history of Liberia and how hard it is to research the geneaology of slave families.

Crashing Through Cover

Crashing Through: A Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See by Robert Kurson
Mike May lost his eyesight as a child, and is given the option to restore his sight as an adult. Kurson creates a page-turner in this stunning look into the psychological aspects of sight lost and regained. Kurson weaves a lot of science into this book and writes about arcane stuff compellingly.

Impossible by Nancy Werlin
A teenage girl’s family is cursed, and the secret lies in the song “Scarborough Fair.” Can she solve it before it is too late? Beautifully written and would appeal to adults as well.

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley (February 2009)
Great for a mother-daughter book group, this forthcoming teen novel is a book about beauty. An otherwise lovely girl has a port-wine stain on her face with mars her beauty, or so her father thinks. But everytime they try to remove it, the stain grows back.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell’s books appeal to the reference librarian (in all of us!), as he pulls interesting examples together to craft his arguments. This book is about success and whether anyone has an equal chance of success or not.

The Silent Man by Alex Berenson (February 2009)
The third in a series of thrillers featuring a devout Muslim action hero. Berenson knows how to capture your worst nightmare on the geopolitical stage. The first book,The Faithful Spy, is the best.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks CoverThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
A perfect book for smart girls who feel they aren’t taken seriously. Frankie returns to her prep school sophomore year having been transformed from an ungly duckling into a knockout. Then she falls in with a popular boy who hides his affiliation with a secret society from her, until Frankie decides to infiltrate. Replete with nerdy wordplay and brainy references to feminism and Foucault’s Panopticon.

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
The main character is a teenage alcoholic who befriends a girl who needs a confidence boost. A very realistic teen novel in which nothing really gets resolved at the end. Strong, memorable voice.

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein
While sometimes difficult to read (its examples are shocking), Klein takes a hard look at Milton Friedman’s school of economics. Sobering and timely.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
An epistolary novel that shows the power of literature in helping them get through horrific events.

Dead Reign by T. A. Pratt
A goofy, funny urban fantasy that is the third in a series. If you love urban fantasy, you will love Pratt!

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
A murder mystery that includes a woman who sees ghosts and great family dynamics between two estranged sisters.

The Spellman Files and The Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
This funny and light series follows a young woman who grew up in a family of sleuths. Needless to say, her love life gets complicated when she starts investigating her boyfriends! Great read-alike for Janet Evanovich fans.

Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
A plague tale with a quirky cast of characters.

Assistant by Robert Walser
Originally published in 1908, and only recently translated into English, this novel feels very modern. Admired by Robert Musil and Walter Benjamin, Walser captures youthful vitality and indolence in this story about a young apprentice to an absent inventor.

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi
Douglas Preston stumbled upon an unsolved mystery while vacationing in Italy and explores this real-life story with the same fast-paced thrills you’ll find in his fiction. Preston delves into the case of the serial murders that plaugued Florence for a couple of decades; incidentally, Preston has become persona non grada in Italy due to this book.

Who the Hell is Pansy O’Hara?: the amazing stories behind 50 of the world’s best-loved books by Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy
Everything you never learned as an English major–fun and juicy facts.

There you have it–something for everyone!

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

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