Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Favorite Books of 2009

For some reason, I didn't keep a list of all the books I have read this year. I'm not quite sure why, I just didn't.

So, I'm going to be dredging up 10 of the best books I read this year, inspired by Jenners' post on Find Your Next Book Here. Several were published this year, but some weren't. I'm also going to give you a little bit of my opinion on each because, well, this is my blog and I can do that.

In no particular order, here are my 10 favorite books of 2009:

1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Even though I said I wasn't going to rank them, this book is at the absolute top of the list of books I have read in at least the last five years. It is that good. Funny, poignant and very, very smart, this is one book no one should miss.

2. Blindness by Jose Saramago

This book made me think a lot about the human condition and the brutality of men (In the way that Lord of the Flies makes you think). I watched the film shortly after reading the book and, although I thought the movie was fairly faithful in its rendering, I liked the book better. This was one I couldn't put down.

3. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

I absolutely adored Morton's debut novel, The House at Riverton, so when this one came out, I had to read it. The thing I love about Kate Morton is that she gets you thinking you've solved the mystery, but she throws in enough red herrings along the way to make you re-evaluate your analysis every so often.

4. Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos

The concept of this book sounded interesting, so I picked it up. Although it seemed a little hard to fight through near the middle, the payoff is well worth the wait. This is realistic fantasy at its finest.

5. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

I adore Philippa Gregory's historical fiction, and I was glad to see her begin to tackle the Plantagenets in another series. This is one of those books in which so much happens, you don't think anymore could possibly happen, but then you notice you're only halfway through the book.

6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This is one of those books that I recommend to every kid that walks through the door of the library. It is imaginative (But when are Gaiman's books not imaginative?) and poignant, and they exist on a level that not only speaks to kids without talking down to them, but also to adults without boring them.

7. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

No one's list of great novels is complete without this monster. I loved how Tolstoy rendered not only the decadence of the upper classes realistically, but also that of the lower classes. If you'd like to read more about my debate over which character I actually liked, click here.

8. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

This book took me the longest to read of any this year, partially because of personal circumstances, but also because Rushdie can be really difficult to read at times. This book is audacious, though (If it weren't Rushdie wouldn't have spent a decade hiding because there was a fatwa out against him), and it presents a very interesting view of religion.

9. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

Roth gives a very interesting re-imagining of the 1940s in which FDR is defeated in the 1940 election by Charles Lindbergh. What results is a much less violent anti-Semitism than was seen in Nazi territory, but something very disturbing nonetheless.

10. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I couldn't believe it had taken me 24 years to finally read this book. It is so beautiful I was in tears most of the time. This is one that definitely transcends the boundaries of juvenile literature to present something that can speak to adults.


I seem to have forgotten two books that I read this year which should be on this list!

11. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

This book won the Pulitzer for a reason. It's hard to tell if you like Olive or hate Olive, but she is definitely one of the most interesting, well-rounded, vital characters I've met in a long time.

12. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

At first, I didn't want to read this book because it was all over blogs and lists of "recommended book club reading," which is kind of like Oprah's Book Club and the NYT Bestseller list in terms of turning me off. But, I'm glad I did. In a fairly simple epistolary novel, the authors show the power of reading and books in the lives of an island ravaged by war.

PS -- Thanks to martine frampton for mentioning both these books on her blog. You made me realize I had left out some great books!

Some runners-up:

1. Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
2. House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast
3. Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead
4. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
5. The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O'Rourke
6. The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman
7. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
8. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
9. Open House, Home Safe and Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg
10. Super-Toys Last All Summer Long: And Other Stories of Future Time by Brian Aldiss


martine frampton said...

Hi, followed you link from 'find your next book here'
Like your list better:-) more that I recognise and respect. Am on a waiting list at the library for Elegance of the Hedgehog, and also read Blindness some time ago, very challenging and peculiar book. I love Salman Rushdie but have never considered reading Satanic Verses, I assumed it was not a novel but maybe now I might give it a try.
thanks for sharing

Michelle said...

I have a feeling you will not be disappointed by 'Elegance of the Hedgehog.' I recommend it at every opportunity I get!

'Satanic Verses' is a novel, but it is a very different sort of novel. It's a pretty tough slog at times, but I think it's worth it in the end!

Thanks for your comment!

martine frampton said...

Hi again
just reading down your posts and wanted to send huge sympathy for your miscarriage and wow that I find you are planning to home educate. My youngest recently came out of school and all four of them were home educated when younger and I can assure you that you won't regret the decision, so good luck with all that too. I will enjoy reading about your future reading and hopefully future babies:-)
with much love Martine

Jenners said...

What a great and eclectic list ... I was jotting down titles and requesting them as I read it. I want to try "Blindness" but I've heard it is a difficult read but perhaps I am up to it. And "The Forgotten Garden" and "Sing Them Home" were already on my wish list. Thanks for posting your list ... it was fun to read and inspiring. Perhaps I'll try "War and Peace" someday.

grandmajudy12 said...

Wow! Your intellect astounds me! And to think you are my "granddaughter!" Several books you reccomend on your list, I will definitely read. Of course, you know how I do like to read as well as the crafts, cooking, gardening and, too, all that " geeky" stuff. Think I'll start with your first choice and work my way down. Love you!

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