The end of the year has come – and it’s time for me to list the best and worst books that I read in 2009. I won’t be including the books I couldn’t finish because.. well.. then the post would be the Best Books I Read and the Worst Books I didn’t Read of 2009.
Obviously, I read a lot. I’m blessed by having a life that provides the opportunity to do so. Between sitting in carpool for long periods of time each day to reading to two beautiful children and having an incredible library system (and a Kindle!) it does make for a life well spent in reading. And if you aren’t signed up on Goodreads.com I highly encourage you to go there and sign up – that place will inspire you to expand your horizons more so than anything I, or anyone else, could do.
So, on with the lists.
My Favorite Books from 2009: Fiction and Non-Fiction
1. A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka – There wasn’t even a contest for this spot. Out of all the 250 or so books I read this year, this book blows them all away. The beautiful love story between the Polish “Pigeon” and Anielica during WWII, this book will take everything you thought you knew about love stories dash it to pieces. Whimsical and charming, this is not a book you should miss.
2. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork – When I was reading this book I was constantly calling my father to read portions of it to him. This book is about Marcelo, a boy who has an autism-like impairment. He hears music inside his head… but not real music, just the feeling you get from listening to good music. The story deepens from there and I found myself in tears and soul-searching more than a few times.
3.The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett – This Non-Fiction book read exactly like a Fiction novel. While I did not agree with John Gilkey’s methods in acquiring rare books, reading Bartlett’s descriptions of the workings of a book lover and why he went to the lengths that he did was fascinating… and I recognized myself in a few of the descriptions.
4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – One of many young adult novels I read this year, many of them good, many not-so-good, The Hunger Games stands out due to the intense story being told. I don’t like to spoil this book at all, you simply have to read it. Don’t expect Harry Potter, approach it with an open mind. (And get Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) too because it’s just as good).
5. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – I didn’t read this book as a teenager and I wish I would have. Written 60ish years ago by the author of 101 Dalmations, this is the story of a 17 year old girl who lives in a crumbling castle with her destitute family. This coming-of-age story is a must-read for every young woman.
6. The Child Thief: A Novel by Brom – I was enchanted and horrified by this book. This is the darker story of Peter Pan. The book is gorgeous and includes beautiful illustrations. My tastes tend to run dark when it comes to fantasy and this book was no exception. It’s brutal and harsh, make no mistake about that. In my opinion, Brom did an incredible job retelling the story in a way teens could understand and even learn from, today.
7. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – Another dark young adult story. A sort of “Jungle Book” but involving a graveyard and ghosts instead. Beautifully written and illustrated and you will get sucked in from the very first page.
8. Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel by Audrey Niffenegger – I’ll probably take some flack for this one, but I loved The Time Traveler’s Wife and was not at all disappointed by this second book of Niffeneggers. The story of mirror twins and ghosts and secrets and answers, Niffenegger once again takes science fiction and makes it feel like it could happen to us without us even realizing it.
9. The Mysterious Island (Modern Library Classics) by Jules Verne – I read three books by Verne this year and let me tell you, that’s no easy task. That man was one of the wordiest, nerdiest authors ever lived I think. There is so much information crammed into these books that at times it feels as if you are reading an encyclopedia.. only even more dull. But despite that all, this final book of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea trilogy is worth it all. I’ll tell you what my dad told me, “Read it, it’s mysterious“.
10. Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman – If you enjoy historical novels and haven’t read Sharon Kay Penman I highly recommend you do so. This is the first book of a trilogy set in 13th century Wales and dealing with King Llewellyn and his wife, King John’s illegitimate daughter, Joanna. I recommend this book every chance I get.
Books I was Disappointed with in 2009:
1. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai – Never a good sign when you cannot clearly understand who the story is supposed to be about.
2. So Long at the Fair by Christina Swartz – Spun my head in circles and then the author just.. stopped writing.
3. A Mad Desire to Dance to Dance by Elie Wiesel – I feel horrible putting anything by Wiesel on here, but this book was the strangest one I read all year. And it put me in a really bad mood.
4. The Twelve by William Gladstone – Do NOT even get me started on this book. I’ll just say that by the end of the book I was convinced that the author considered him to be some kind of savior. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
5. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert – What could have been a great story was made.. disappointing by the pure selfishness exhibited by Gilbert in this book.
6. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson – This book could have been so much more than it was – but instead the author chose to focus on shock elements and not the story he was capable of writing.
7. Skeletons at the Feast: A Novel by Chris Bohjalian – I enjoyed other Bohjalian books, but this one left a bad taste in my mouth.
8. A Trace of Smoke (Hannah Vogel) by Rebecca Cantrell – Again, another book that could have been so much more than it was.
9. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel by Susanna Clarke – I feel bad putting this book on this list, because I really, really wanted to like it. But I was more annoyed by it than anything else. Hence, the disappointment.
10. The Twilight Series (I’m not even going to link to them) – I didn’t read these books this year but everyone constantly asks me if I’ve read them and I am so tired of hearing them talk about it as if these books were some kind of incredible literature. They are not! They are horrible! Please ask your librarian for something more interesting to read!