These are my four 2008 favorite reads, in descending order:
First, The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
McCarthy posits a loving and capable father and a dependent and obedient son, survivors and parasites on a seemingly decapitated earth, "among the last of the surviving good guys." This is a bleak book with a glint of eternal light at the end. My words and thoughts can do it no justice. It may not be for everybody, but it is for me!
Second, The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak.
Bravo Zusak! A standing ovation, a mighty opus. You stood Death on her head, removing her dark cloak and scythe, clothing her with feeling and letting us see she has eyes to see and a heart to feel, and the intellect to narrate a compelling story. I was so glad to find out she has a womb. Out of Death comes Life. (More at GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19063.The_Book_Thief)
Third, What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, a novel, by Dave Eggers.
I read this book and Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture one month this summer. It was interesting to contrast their two lives and situations. The two "storytellers" had the help of "professional" writers to relate what had happened and was happening to them. The professionals did marvelous work, but the way these two men, Valentino and Randy, lived their lives made it all reverberate within the soul. I preferred this book and story to Pausch's. It made me realize the continued inhumanity of humanity to the poor and downtrodden, despite the lessons of history. Oh, how much more we should do as a blessed people and a nation! How much do we waste on the hell of war when we could deliver so many innocent boys and girls unfairly consigned to hell? (More at GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4952.What_Is_the_What)
Fourth, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.
My religious heritage includes polygamy. I suppose most people's does, whether they realize it or not. Any female progenitor of mine who shared a husband with other women has my utmost sympathy. It has never interested me the least to find out about it if it happened, even though in my culture that would be the natural thing to do. And then to brag about it, also, and to allude to it as some sort of badge of honor. I suppose I would just as soon surmise that the women in my ancestral line had better sense than submit to that. But sometimes they have no choice.
In his book, Hosseini imagines Nana, a woman and a mother who cherished each blue-and-white porcelain piece of her deceased mother's Chinese tea set, but not much else. Such was the sole relic of Nana's mother, who had died when Nana was two. At the beginning of the book, five-year-old Mariam, Nana's sole daughter, ends up dropping the blue-and-white porcelain sugar bowl, painted with a hand-painted dragon meant to ward off evil, from the set. It shatters. Mariam drops it while awaiting arrival of her father. (More at GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/128029.A_Thousand_Splendid_Suns)