Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My favorite books of 2009

When I started blogging in 2008, I noticed that I did not read nearly as much as I used to. And 2009? Well. I seem to have half fallen off the bloggy bandwagon. I have a dozen posts that I have started. I have lots of post ideas. But. Making them come to fruition. It has not been my strong point.

So fewer blog posts equals more time to read. I read more than 100 books in '09. Some good. Some stinkers. Some real disappointments. And then there were these. The best books that I read last year:

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy- On the surface, this story is post-apocalyptic. Some sort of undefined disaster has struck. The landscape has burned. Its colors are bleak. It's cold. The unnamed characters are hungry. And hiding from other survivors. Because those other survivors are not to be trusted. But. That is all surface. At it's heart. It's a story of love. That indefinable love between a parent and a child. When you do whatever it takes to protect them. In the most harrowing of circumstances. It's lyrical. Poetic. And beautiful. Yep. Post apocalyptic. Gut wrenching. And beautiful. (And the movie? I have not seen it. Not really interested. I am not sure who would read this book and say "hey...this would make a great movie...")

2. The Help - A first novel by Kathryn Stockett...and what an effort it is. Set in 1962 in Mississippi, the novel revolves around several Junior league members and their black maids. But the story gets is umph when one of the women begins applying for editing jobs in New York. She gets some great advice in one of her rejection letters...not that traditional "write what you know" but "write about what makes you uncomfortable." She takes this advice to heart and interviews the maids that clean the houses, cook the meals, raise the children...but women that would never be invited to the table.

3. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. I have this certain affinity for young adult novels. But sometimes, they can be hugely disappointing. I read so many this year that had this overarching potential...yet they failed miserably. But this one. This one was different. It had a lot of similarities to others of this genre. Romance. Barriers between the two. Magic. But again. This one was different. It is so well voiced. The characters are so well developed. There is nothing two dimensional about it. And it's original. With it being told in first person. From the hero's point of view.

4. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley. I know it may be shocking...but I read A LOT of romances. And if you like romances...this one is incredibly well done. With a tortured hero who truly is "mad." A hero that was in an asylum in his youth. But the noises in his head are stilled - at least momentarily - when he finds the love of his life.

5. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. I love this series. It is full of action and adventures. Steeped with Greek mythology. But with thoroughly modern twists. Like...the Olympian gods follow the heart of civilization...so the modern Mount Olympus is at the top of the Empire State building. The entrance to the underworld? Naturally...it's Las Vegas.

6. Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr is a difficult book to describe. It tells the story of a boy who has known since he was in utero when the world would end. If you knew...would you live your life differently? Would anything matter? The book also delves into those little things that matter...and change everything. What I really liked about the book was that...really...for all of us...we are here on this earth for a short time. We don't know exactly when our end will come. But life can be full of unexplicable joy and beauty...where everything does matter.

7. The Space Between Us by Thrity Urmigar. I read this as one of my book club selections. And it is one of the things that I love most about being in that group...they encourage me to read books that I would not normally pick up (like the one I am reading now "On Human Bondage" which is actually quite compelling...so far). And this short novel was one of my favorites of the year. It is about two women. One wealthy. Educated. Priviledged. The other her maid. She is poor. Illiterate. One would think that the divide between these women would be huge. Divided by money. By class. By opportunity. But. They share many of the same experiences. Some they don't even realize that they share. The tale is a haunting and compeling tale of our shared humanity.

8. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. This is not an action book. It is not fast paced. Yet there is adventure. But it is quiet adventure. Observational. And full of changes. Calpurnia is a girl on the cusp. On the verge of womanhood...but not wanting to play the prescribed role. On the verge of a new century with the promise of self-discovery.

9. The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. The series is fueled by the notion that someone in Japan invented a synthetic blood. For medical use. But...because of the invention, it allowed vampires to come out of the closet. So to speak. And. Well. If there are vampires. Why wouldn't there be shapeshifters? Werewolves? Fairies? Witches? Maenads? Why indeed. And all of these fantastical creatures become part of the world of Sookie Stackhouse. Bar maid from Bon Temp, Louisiana. An ordinary girl...who just happens to hear the thoughts of everyone around her. So. Is she part of that fantastical world...or not?

10. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. After reading "The Hunger Games" last year, I really could not fathom where Collins would take her next story. She took the story in a direction I did not expect. And then left me hanging at the end. Ugh! How much longer till book three?

So...what about you? What is the best book you have read this year? What is in your to-be-read pile?

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Shannon said...

The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were my favorite books I read last year.

I also enjoyed the Sookie books. And we saw the trailer for the Percy Jackson movie yesterday... it looks good. I'm sure the books are better ;)

In my "to read" pile now are the Outlander books... I'm on the 4th one.

And I think I want to add The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie to my pile...

Elena said...

Hooray! Out of your mind and written down!

I read a few of the Sookie books this fall. Quite entertaining. The Road and The Help are both on my to read list. I have GOT to get caught up on Outlander too. My book two never did show up, I know I bought it, where could it have possibly gone? I also want to read The Year of Living Biblically. And Freakonomics. And Peter and the Starcatchers..and and and...So many good things out there!

Samantha said...

Great post! I put a few of the books on reserve at the library - we seem to like the same sorts of books so I'm hoping I would love your suggestions. And, of course, I've read some of the books on your list - Catching Fire, all of the Sookie Stackhouse books except the lastest one, and the first book in the Percy Jackson series. Ugh - my daughter and I really were turned off by that book because we listened to it on audio and the narrator was HORRIBLE - just horrible - he sort of cast a wanky hue on all of the characters. But, lately, we've been seeing the previews of the movie and my daughter and I think we might have loved the book if we had read it and pictured the characters more like the ones in the movie - not like the wanky ones the narrator led us to picture. I hope that makes sense! I plan to read the next book in the series. I have "Beautiful Creatures" and "The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie" so I'll need to read those. Great post - I love getting good recommendations!

Rhea said...

I love to hear what you're reading or have read. And I'll keep your post handy next time before I go to the bookstore. For reference!

CaraBee said...

Ah, the much anticipated Sunshine and Lemonade book post!!

As you know, there are a number of crossovers from your list to mine. After hearing so much about the book and more recently the movie, I can't believe I haven't added The Road to my list yet. Doing so now.

I used to read a lot of romances, but I haven't been in to that as much lately. I seem to lean more towards suspense or science fiction. If there's romance involved, BONUS!, but I don't gravitate towards them like I used to.

John Deere Mom said...

I think my favorite has been The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes. SO good.

Michelle said...

Wow, 100 books? That's a lot. I know I didn't read that many, but ... definitely more than 50, I think. I know.

I actually picked up 9 inter-library loan books today (why do they ALL have to come in at once!) so I'll be doing a lot of reading the next couple weeks. Have you read any of Lani Diane Rich, Karen Hawkins, or Julia Quinn? Those are some of my favorite brain candy ones lately!

larkswing said...

I like your list!I have looked at the Help book several times - but I have not had much time to read this year. I saw "The Road" too and thought about grabbing it - now I will. The two that I read, that I remember: Same Kind of Different As Me and Hansel and Gretel (a World War II book). I liked them both. Read a lot of cookbooks!

Melissa said...

Thank you for my book list for 2010! I value your opinion on books and I will definitely be reading most of these. It will probably take me until 2020, but....
My favorite of 2009 was Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers. An amazing depiction of God's love for us and how there's nothing we can do to be seperated from it.

Heather said...

I wrote this big long comment yesterday, and blogger ate it.

I was so mad, that I couldn't write another one (plus I had to leave for my class).

Giving it another try: You already know how I feel about Jamie Fraser, a la Outlander. And I loved Catching Fire even more than the Hunger Games. Anything by Francine Rivers is a win, but my favorite is the Mark of the Lion series.

Currently reading The Lightning Thief, which was one of Elijah's favorite series. I love when my kids and I can discuss a book!

Unknown said...

I haven't read any of those. My reading has slacked this past year but I've started up again since NYE.

I've read:
Breaking the Bank - eh, not exactly believable but if you're desperate it'll do.

The Year of Fog - Good, I reviewed it, but I hated the ending.

I read a few by Elin Hildebrand. They were pretty good.

Brandy said...

Well at least I had a better percentage of read books on your list then I did Cara's. Sadly I had only read one of her list. :(

I read Catching Fire, I'm in still reading Sookie Stackhouse books and I read The Help, based on your recommendation.

The good thing about lists like this is that I can refer to them for good books. The bad thing is I realize how many good books I missed.

Teri said...

I've read several from Harlan Coben (my fave), Dean Koontz and some other guy I can't remember.

I have a new James Patterson book waiting - got it for Christmas.

Tam said...

The Help is one I had on my wish list for Christmas/birthday but did not get. I will have to go check it out at the Libray. HMMM the best book I have read this year...HMMM I am not sure..but for me I had quite a few books that I did not really LIKE this year. I usually love everything I read but 2009 I had some I wanted to hurl at the wall. Maybe it is just me and this whole 40's thing going on. LOL

Angie's Spot said...

I'm not sure what my favorite read of last year was. I'll have to get back to you on that one.

However, my "to be read" pile is ENORMOUS. I'm currently reading 1 right now that I'm really enjoying. Book report to come on this one probably next week. :-)