I hadn't particularly realised until now but I clearly spent quite a bit of 2008 reading classic literature. Catching up with books I felt I should have read for some time. I did manage a fair bit of contemporary fiction which I also enjoyed, just not quite as much as the older stuff.
1. George Orwell "Down and Out in Paris and London" - Orwell is fast becoming my favourite author. Picked this up second hand from someone at work along with a couple of others. Read this first on his recommendation and was stunned. A fascinating account of Orwell's time spent living on the poverty line, working as a kitchen hand in Paris and mixing with the down and outs in London. A wonderfully written account that is a much better read than I am able to properly describe.
2. Robert Louis Stevenson "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" - A very familiar story of course, but reading the original text shows just why it has remained so popular and why so many television and film creators choose to revisit the premise. I'm in the middle of "Treasure Island" now and wouldn't be surprised to see that make my list for next year.
3. Woody Guthrie "Bound For Glory" - Brilliant autobiography of the American folk singer that reads more like a work of fiction. Guthrie brilliantly describes his upbringing as a child in detail that I can only marvel at and tells the story of America during the dust bowl years in a vivid and heart felt manner.
4. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle "The Sign of Four" - The second of the Sherlock Holmes stories which I'm working through in chronological order. Possibly not quite as gripping as the first but a fine piece of detective fiction none the less.
5. David Mitchell "Cloud Atlas" - Just to bring the list a little more up-to-date this was nominated for the Man Booker prize in 2004. Interesting concept that consists of six stories, each written in a different style, nested within each other like a Russian doll. There could be an element of style over substance, I certainly struggled to get into it initially, but in the end I think it's a novel with a well crafted story that does something a bit different.