Best Books I Read in 2008

I read about 50-100 books a year. Below are the best I read in 2008. In an upcoming post I’ll show all the the books from my “best of” lists since 2004.

  • All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen. Tries to be hip and of the moment and, remarkably, succeeds. Showcases Gessen as one of his generation’s talents.
  • Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie. Eminently readable but richly layered and densely written. An excellent novel.
  • Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck and his dog go on a road trip through America. Engaging and fun and insightful.
  • The New Asian Hemisphere by Kishore Mahbubani. Awesome assessment of the state of Asia politically and economically with thoughts about the future that are already proving prescient. Here are my detailed notes.
  • Lasso the Wind by Timothy Egan. Terrific storytelling by NYT journalist who’s lived in the West his whole life. Read it to appreciate the natural beauty of the West. Here are my favorite sentences.
  • China: Fragile Superpower by Susan Shirk. Few books are at once as authoritative and clear/readable as this one on the very complex topic of China in the 21st century.
  • Snow by Orhan Pamuk. Beautiful novel set in Turkey. Pamuk is a Nobel prize winning writer for good reason.
  • How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen. A lovely collection of essays that focus mainly on issues of “self” and on the relevance of literature in society. Here are my favorite excerpts.

 

4 Responses to Best Books I Read in 2008

  1. Glenn says:

    I have seen posts on several blogs – Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss’ in particular – encouraging folks to highlight, scribble in the margins, take notes, etc. while they read, in order to become a better reader.

    Your excerpts from Franzen probably answer this question, but do you usually use any sort of note-taking system to try and enhance what you take away from a book?

  2. Jared Akers says:

    Ben, Do you use any speed reading techniques? Such as PhotoReading.

  3. Ben Casnocha says:

    I’ve read about PhotoReading and other techniques but I don’t really employ any on a regular basis. If I need to read quickly I’ll focus on the first and last sentence of each paragraph and get good at skimming. But generally I read how anyone else reads.

  4. Ben Casnocha says:

    Here’s my post “How to Think About Reading”

    link to ben.casnocha.com

    I write in almost all the books I read (or at least underline) and type up notes / excerpts for the ones I really like.

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