We steal our reading moments where we can find them: waiting for an oil change, standing in line for lunch, walking to work (it being too dark to read on the walk home these days). We ignore our partners and stay up too late, gripping spines until the last page. And we still wind up with considerable lists of books that got away — those too daunting to start at the last minute (Roberto Bolaño’s 2666); those we didn’t get our hands on in time (Mark Harris’ Pictures at a Revolution); those we simply didn’t get to (Ethan Canin’s America, America). This week arrives, and we’re still reading, devouring last tomes, making arguments for more, more, more.
What we squeeze into Winter Reading each year is not a best-of list, exactly, though we do strive to include those books we want to recommend to friends, parents, anyone with a pair of eyes. It’s more of a case for reading, for sharing the wonders of a good story and for remembering that, as Laura Miller recently wrote on Salon.com, “books provide more hours of entertainment per dollar, more life-enhancing education and more grist for post-materialistic soul-searching than any other form of purchasable culture.” Miller’s point is vital not just locally, where fewer dollars may need to stretch for presents, and where independent booksellers always need more business, but in publishing houses across the country: Last week saw major layoffs, reorganizations and scary tumult in the struggling publishing industry. If you’re a reader, you should be concerned. If you love a reader, we probably don’t have to tell you that books make really good gifts. — Molly Templeton
Note: Unless otherwise indicated, all books included in Winter Reading were published in 2008.