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Long ago, when I was a graduate student in English, I was taught to scoff at terms like "the best books of the year." Everything back then had to be "contextualized" and "problematized" and shaken up in a blender and "theorized." But even then, when I was trying to sound like a true believer in the cult of deconstruction, I didn't buy it. Some books are just better than others.
You know you have a terrific book in your hands when you encounter language or elegantly presented research that startles you into fresh awareness; you know it when the atmosphere of a novel doesn't leave you for days, or years. In the case of the books listed below, I know they're among the "Best Books of 2008" because I'd be happy to read all of them — again.