Kyle Minor is the author of In the Devil’s Territory, a collection of short stories. His recent work appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2008, Surreal South, and Random House’s Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers anthology.
Five books that knocked the top of my head off in 2008:
1. Knockemstiff, by Donald Ray Pollock – Eighteen wild and wooly stories from southern Ohio, in which a lifetime’s experience is distilled to nine or twelve pages of the most thrilling sentences I’ve ever read. If you liked Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, Barry Hannah’s Airships, or Mark Richard’s Charity, Knockemstiff is the book for you.
2. The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard, by Erin McGraw – The elegance here is Flaubertian, the prose flawless, and the story (loosely based upon the true story of McGraw’s disappeared-then-reappeared grandmother) is every bit as thrilling as anything Stephen King will serve up this year.
3. Sabbath’s Theater, by Philip Roth – The best comic novel from the best comic novelist in America.
4. American Pastoral, by Philip Roth – The best serious novel from the best serious novelist in America.
5. Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, by Scott Berg – A biography of Maxwell Perkins, the legendary editor who held the hands of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe, as they made their way together from obscurity toward literary permanence. I can’t imagine this book thrilled any reader in 1978, the year of its release, any more than it thrilled me thirty years later.