For this week’s Booking Through Thursday meme Deb asks what were your favourite books from 2008? Well I’m going to turn the question slightly, because in reality I didn’t read that many books that were published in 2008, preferring instead to concentrate my reading efforts on a wide-range of titles with a definite onus on ‘timeless’ classics. So I’m going to answer the question as what favourite books did I read during 2008?
2008 was definitely a year of two halves for me. The first half was completely consumed with finishing my Medieval History and Archaeology Degree at the University of St. Andrews, so ALL of my reading between January and June was for this degree. Out of that though came two truly memorable books that will stick with me forever:
The first is Jean Froissart’s Chronicles. Written during the fourteenth-century both as a history (primarily of the opening decades of Hundred Years War), and a ‘guide’ for knightly conduct, Froissart’s seminal work is sublime. We spent an entire semester picking this work apart and it’s amazing the kind of stuff that surfaces when you read between the lines. There’s no need for everyone reading this to go to such depths though, it’s a magnificent work when read ‘normally’ and one that can be enjoyed by anyone.
During my final semester I also participated in a module exploring Inca Civilisation and its eventual destruction. It brought a truly memorable climax to my four-year course as a whole, not least because it explored a civilisation that was so diverse and different to anything I’d studied in Medieval History before. Out of that module came my 2nd book highlight of the first half of 2008 – Pedro de Cieza de Léon’s Chronicles of Peru.
Cieza de León was a Spanish conquistador who participated in many expeditions during the Spanish conquest of the Incas. He is one of the few people who extensively explored and recorded the Inca Empire in its ‘native’ state and as such this multi-part work reads as a kind of comprehensive ‘Rough Guide’ to the Inca Empire. A truly awe-inspiring work, especially for those interested in travel and culture.
On to the second half of 2008 and the onus of my reading very much shifted towards fiction and novels, as I began my 50 Novels in One Year reading challenge. It is during this second half of the year that I truly discovered just how amazing John Steinbeck, Knut Hamsun, Anton Chekhov and Edgar Allan Poe were. From this challenge (which still has to June 18th 2009 to run) came my most favourite novel, not just of the year but of a lifetime – Cannery Row by John Steinbeck (HERE are my afterthoughts). A number of other favourites read during this latter half of 2008 also emerged as ‘soul touchers’:
As we enter the opening days of 2009 my reading outlook is vastly different to that of 2008. I’m no longer ‘burdened’ by course reading so my reading choices for the entire year are largely my own. This should allow me to push towards completion of my 50 Novels challenge, where there are still many seminal but unread authors for me to explore.
One of my resolutions for 2009 is to also read more up-to-the-minute, so at the start of 2010 when Debs asks “what are your favourite books from 2009?”, I should be in a better position to answer.
See you next week!