Books: A Review of 2008

In 2008 I read only 29 books (down from 40 in 2007, and 46 in 2006). I am quite disappointed by this and plan to aim for my 2006-07 level in 2009. Nevertheless, I did read some really good books in 2008. Of the 29 I read, my favorites were, in no particular order:

I highly recommend any of these books to you. Additionally, if you know  young reader, both Little Brother and Zoe’s Tale are perfect for the YA crowd as well as adults.

This year I also reached the conclusion that I will read anything that Michael Lewis writes. I read The Blind Side and The New New Thing. Both were excellant and just missed my top 5 list. If you are at all interested in business planning, visions for the future, or technology, I urge you to read The New New Thing. The book deals with the height of the tech industy in the late 1990s. In so doing it is an excellant lens to view the vision that the industry pioneers had for us a decade ago and how that compares with the technology that we are currently using.

Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi

John Scalzi has twice had novels nominated for the Best Novel Hugo. He placed third the first time and most recently, he lost the Best Novel Hugo by 9 votes. He also won the John W. Campbell Award for the Best New Writer, largely on the strength of his first novel, Old Man’s War.

Having read all of Scalzi’s novels and enjoying them, it is not without an understanding of his accomplishments that I say that his latest book, Zoe’s Tale, is the best thing he has written. Zoe’s Tale takes place during the same time as the events in The Last Colony. However, instead of focusing on John Perry and Jane Sagan (as he did in The Last Colony), Zoe’s Tale focuses on John and Jane’s adopted teenage daughter Zoe. Because of the difference of the perspective of the main character, there is very little interaction between the events of The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale. Sure the same events are happening, however, they happen quite differently for Zoe than they did for John and Jane.

Although I have never been a teenage girl, I thought Scalzi did an excellent job of capturing her voice. Further, he expertly retold the same story found in the Last Colony without making it boring or sound like the same story again.

Not only does this book fill in some great details about Zoe and her life, it also answers some unanswered questions I had from The Last Colony, in particular, what happened to the werewolves.

Despite the fact that there not a lot of combat action (like we saw in Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, and the Last Colony), there is enough happening in the book to keep you engaged in the story. Further, I found the book more emotional than any of Scalzi’s other books (this includes The Sagan Diary). In fact, there are two chapters of the book where I was crying as I was reading it.

In sum, Zoe’s Tale, is an excellent companion to The Last Colony and is Scalzi’s finest work so far. This should be the book that gets Scalzi the Best Novel Hugo.