reads to remember

So what were my most memorable reading experiences of 2008?

Herman Hesse, The Glass Bead Game. One of those books that one unaccountably manages to avoid reading. Which is sad, since it’s far better than any other Hesse novel I have ever read. But I’m glad I finally got around to it.

David Goldblatt, The Ball Is Round: a Global History of Soccer. I wrote a little about it here.

Jason Roberts, A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler. A biography of the once-famous — but forgotten even during his own lifetime — James Holman, who after the sudden onset of blindness when he was 25 took it upon himself to visit pretty much every part of the globe. Roberts manages a difficult task — there are considerable gaps in Holman’s story — with circumspection and great narrative skill.

Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: the Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals. A few thoughts are here.

Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains. A few thoughts are here.

Marilynne Robinson, Home. Brief comments and a link to my review are here.

Neal Stephenson, Anathem. My review is here. I didn’t get a chance to say this in the review, but Anathem owes a great deal to The Glass Bead Game.

Iain M. Banks, Look to Windward and The Player of Games. I had read Banks’s first novel of the Culture, Consider Phlebas, some years ago and was unimpressed. But these later books are exceptional. Look for my essay on Banks sometime in the coming year in The New Atlantis.

My guess is that of all these books, the one that will stay with me most powerfully is Mountains Beyond Mountains.