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Constant Reader > Best Books READ in 2009

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message 1: by Barbara (new)

Barbara | 5667 comments In the thread on books published in 2009, Sara asked if we had a thread for best books read this year. So, I'm starting it now. To clarify, I'm asking for your favorite books that you read this year, not necessarily books that were published this year. I haven't made my list yet, but will be back. In the meantime, I would love to see yours.

message 2: by Jane (new)

Jane | 1993 comments Well, darn it, Barb! The year isn't over yet, and I am still busily reading. Being the obsessive-compulsive type about lists, I cannot make my "best of" lists until January.

message 3: by Dottie (last edited Dec 19, 2009 03:23PM) (new)

Dottie  (oxymoronid) | 1485 comments The Awakening - Chopin
The Women - T.C. Boyle
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Barbery
Kafka on the Shore - Murakami
The Fig Eater - Shields
Giovanni's Room - Baldwin
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Baum
Anna Karenina - Tolstoy
The Arrival - Shaun Tan (this non-graphic novel person was bowled over by this one and it makes the top ten)
The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis (nearly the entire series -- but it was far beyond my expectations after avoiding it for years)

message 5: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 856 comments These were my favorites:

Someone Knows My Name (AKA The Book of Negroes outside of the US), by Lawrence Hill;

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden;

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich;

Children of the Waters by Carleen Brice;

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan;

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie;

Before I Forget by Leonard Pitts;

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins;

City of Refuge by Tom Piazza;

Serena by Ron Rash;

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell;

and Drop City by T.C. Boyle.

I loved all of these books, but my favorite was the first on the list, The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. An absolutely amazing book.

message 6: by Yulia (last edited Dec 19, 2009 04:56PM) (new)

Yulia | 1625 comments El, I have Rebecca waiting for me at the library. I can't wait to get to it!

My own favorites were:

The Awakening (Chopin), as well
Man's Search for Meaning (Frankl)
Fear And Trembling (Nothomb)
Starting Out in the Evening (Morton)
Breakable You (Morton, the Meryl Streep of the year)
The Little Stranger (Waters)
Blackwater Lightship (Toibin)

message 9: by Al (new)

Al (AllysonSmith) | 1101 comments Capitu:

You must now see the movie of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis - it is fantastic and I think you will really enjoy it. I've been thinking about reading DeNiro's Game for a while - I may move it up on my list now that it has your seal of approval. Also, thanks for nominating Dom Casmurro - I'm really loving it so far.

AJ: I've always been a bit intimidated by At Swim Two Birds, maybe 2010 will be the year I tackle it.

Mina: you should try Sherman Alexie's newest short story collection, War Dances - I think you would like it. And also, you should feel like you have already done your part this December in terms of introducing a non-black reader to a black author - I'm already on my 2nd August Wilson play in as many months!

message 10: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 9172 comments A.J. wrote: "Best books read in 2009:
Out Stealing Horses
Where I'm Calling From
Under the Volcano
At Swim-Two-Birds
The Third Policeman


I read Out Stealing Horses last year. Enjoyed it a lot. CR did At Swim, Two Birds as a Reading Selection a few years ago. I loved it.

But most of all, I'm delighted to find another fan of The Third Policeman. One of the funniest books around. I keep trying to get people to read it.

message 11: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 20, 2009 05:51AM) (new)

My new 5-star reads of 2009:
Willem Elsschot – Kaas (Cheese)
James Baldwin – Giovanni’s room
Dick Matena, Willem Elsschot - Kaas: een beeldroman (Cheese: a graphic novel)
Tom Stoppard - Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead
Erling Jepsen - De kunst om in koor te huilen (The art of crying together)
Alan Moore - Watchmen
Marlon James - The book of night women
Knut Hamsun – Mysteries
Jan Kjærstad - The conquerer

Erling Jepsen’s book was my #1 of the year, but I don’t think it has been translated into English yet. It is about a young boy in a dysfunctional family and has the most wonderful dark humor. It is written from the perspective of the young boy who doesn’t understand everything that’s going on. He for example thinks it is perfectly normal to make his sister sleep with his father to cheer him up and is very surprised when she doesn’t want to. Without being disrespectful, this is the funniest book on the effects of incest on a family I’ve ever read.

5-star rereads (to be honest, almost all my rereads were 5-stars):
Leo Tolstoi – Anna Karenina
James Baldwin – Giovanni’s room
Jaroslav Hašek - The Good Soldier Svejk: and His Fortunes in the World War
Samuel Beckett - Waiting for Godot
Knut Hamsun – Hunger
Lars Saabye Christensen - The half brother
E. du Perron - Country of origin

message 12: by Al (new)

Al (AllysonSmith) | 1101 comments Ruth:

Maybe we should nominate the third policeman for CR to read together later this year?

message 13: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 9172 comments I did rope CR into making Third Policeman an "official" read quite a few years ago, Al. I think nobody much liked it, the discussion was pitifully short. Maybe it takes a certain personality to warm up to that particular kind of weirdness.

message 14: by Al (new)

Al (AllysonSmith) | 1101 comments Good to know. I am making at personal goal of reading at least one Flann O'Brien in the coming year - which one would you suggest?

message 15: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 9172 comments I attempted his At Swim, Two Birds just last year, but I bailed early on.

message 16: by Wilhelmina (new)

Wilhelmina Jenkins | 856 comments Al, War Dances is definitely on my list and I am so thrilled that you're enjoying August Wilson so much!

message 17: by Al (new)

Al (AllysonSmith) | 1101 comments I may start with The Best of Myles which is a collection of the newspaper columns he wrote from the 1940s-1960s.

message 18: by Rosana (new)

Rosana | 599 comments Al wrote: "Capitu:

You must now see the movie of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis - it is fantastic and I think you will really enjoy it. I've been thinking about reading DeNiro's Game for a while - I may mo..."

Al, thanks for the suggestion of the movie. I should look it up. The book is wonderful. I am also glad that you are enjoying Dom Casmurro. I find I get very anxious after nominating a book, worrying if it will generate a good discussion or not. As for De Niro’s game, I do recommend it. The writing is quite good, and although the ending disappointed me, I feel so pleased when I find a young writer with such great potential.

message 19: by A.J. (new)

A.J. The Best of Myles is probably not the best choice, as the newspaper columns were topical and satirical; if you don't know the Irish politics and personalities of the day, I should think a lot of it will miss the mark. (Caveat: I haven't read it.)

At Swim-Two-Birds is challenging, filled with references to Irish folklore. I think The Third Policeman is more accessible, but you have to be prepared to leave any attachment to realism behind. It is hilarious, and disturbing. Now I don't let my kids ride their bikes.

Another Flann O'Brien that is well worth reading is The Poor Mouth. This was originally published in Gaelic and is a spoof of a specific Gaelic book, but you don't need to read the original to get it. It's a hilarious sendup of Irish cultural politics (that I think should be translated into French and published in Quebec).

message 20: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 9172 comments Right, AJ. I will never look at a bicycle in the same way again. Ya gotta watch them things.

message 21: by Carol (new)

Carol | 6971 comments ok Now I have to read The Third Policeman, just to find out about the bikes.

message 22: by Jane (new)

Jane | 1993 comments I am one who did not like THE THIRD POLICEMAN. Is AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS at all related to the wonderful book AT SWIM, TWO BOYS?

message 23: by A.J. (new)

A.J. No, the latter is just playing on O'Brien's title.

message 24: by Dree (new)

Dree | 141 comments This thread is adding to my to-read list. But I am going to wait til January to post!

message 25: by Al (new)

Al (AllysonSmith) | 1101 comments A.J.:
thanks for the feedback on O'Brien - I was just out walking with someone who also recommended The Third Policeman as one of his most accessible books, so I am switching back to that.

I recall from when we read Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter A Novel that you had a lot of anxiety about your nominations, so I wanted to put your mind at ease about this one :)

I guess when I will actually get to these books has a lot to do with whether I bite the bullet and read 2666 this winter. I have ordered the book and CDs from the library but I still don't feel fully committed yet.

message 26: by Ken (new)

Ken | 811 comments I loved Out Stealing Horses, only I read it in 2008. Still, it deserves all praise coming to it, as it has all the components I love in a good book -- great description, characterization, sensory details, and most of all, SOUL.

As for books READ in 2009, my two favorites were Tim Winton's BREATH and Mark Salzer's TRUE NOTEBOOKS: A YEAR IN JUVENILE HALL.

For YA fare, my favorite reads were THE MAZE RUNNER (James Dashner), WINTERGIRLS (the amazing Laurie Halse Anderson), and THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST (Rick Yancey). The last, a Gothic thriller set in 19th-century New England, is fit for adults to read and enjoy as much as kids. Try and see for yourself, if you like "monster" books.

message 27: by Al (new)

Al (AllysonSmith) | 1101 comments I also really liked Out Stealing Horses A Novel - I might have even read it in 07?

I like to read YA books from time to time, I find them to be a good palate cleanser between books and I also enjoy a lot of them. Two that I read this year did not live up to the hype that went with them in my opinion: Love is the Higher Law I found disappointing - a much better YA NY based book I read a few years ago was Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You. The other much hyped YA book I read this year was When You Reach Me - it was good, but my expectations were so high.

message 28: by Kenneth P. (last edited Dec 20, 2009 07:34PM) (new)

Kenneth P. (kennethP) | 748 comments Some of this year's faves:

Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr

Fools of Fortune by William Trevor

All the Shah's Men by Stephen Kinzer

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

Ghost Wars by Steve Coll

The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer

Three Day road by Joseph Boyden

The James Jones WW2 trilogy (From Here to Eternity, the Thin Red Line, Whistle)

message 29: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) Top 10 books (in no particular order):
1. Into The Air (Jon Krakauer) ****
2. I, Robot (Isaac Asimov) ****
3. Homage to Catalonia (George Orwell) ******
4. The English Patient (Michael Oondatje) ******
5. Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited (Aldous Huxley) ******
6. From the Earth to the Moon (Jules Verne)
7. The Guns of August (Barbara Tuchman) *****
8. Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War (William Manchester) ****
9. Fight Club (Chuck Palahniuk) *****
10. Citizen Soldiers (Stephen E. Ambrose) *****
Honorary award: The Children of Hurin (JRR Tolkien) *****

What a great year! I feel so blessed.

message 30: by Sarah (last edited Dec 21, 2009 10:56AM) (new)

Sarah Hart | 705 comments Kenneth, I was just looking fondly at my copy of From Here to Eternity last night, remembering my enjoyment of that book 20 years ago. I have never attempted the other books in the trilogy as I didn't want him to come down off my pedestal.

Silvana, I, Robot is on my shelf on the recommendation of a client.

I second (or third, or fourth) Out Stealing Horses, which I read last year. His more recent one is on my TBR list.

NE, I am just discovering Laurie Halse Anderson. I recently read Speak and have eyed others by her on the library shelf. I like her approach to writing YA.

message 31: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 9172 comments Because I didn't keep a list, you'll have to get my best books read in dribs and drabs as I think of them.

These two could also go in the Best Books of 2009 list.

Old Filth by Jane Gardam - a joy to read
The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker - delightful

message 32: by Bridgit (last edited Dec 21, 2009 11:12AM) (new)

Bridgit | 3 comments My top 10 for the year:

1. Wolf Hall - Hillary Mantel
2. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami
3. The Red Scarf - Kate Furnivall
4. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
5. Salt A World History - Mark Kurlansky
6. The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenger
7. The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
8. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
9. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
10. Daughter of Fortune - Isabelle Allende

message 33: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 21, 2009 05:17PM) (new)

Ruth wrote:
Old Filth by Jane Gardam - a joy..."

I'm tickled to hear that Ruth, I've had it in my TBR stack for a while. :)

My 2009 favorite list:

Birchwood by John Banville
The Queen of the South by Arturo Perez-Reverte
In The Country of Last Things by Paul Auster
The Gurensey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Deadwood Beetle by Mylene Dressler
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
An Echo in the Bone By Diana Gabaldon
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household

message 34: by Carol (new)

Carol | 6971 comments The Queen of the South by Arturo Perez-Reverte

This was a good book. I read it in 2008. Have you read his Captain Alatriste series . They are a favorite of mine.

message 35: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 21, 2009 05:34PM) (new)

carol (akittykat) wrote: "The Queen of the South by Arturo Perez-Reverte

This was a good book. I read it in 2008. Have you read his Captain Alatriste series . They are a favorite of mine."

No, the only other one by him I've read is The Club Dumas, I just checked out the series you mention on Amazon...looks good!

message 36: by Carol (new)

Carol | 6971 comments It is. It blends Spanish History with a James Bond character in the 1700's

message 37: by [deleted user] (new)

carol (akittykat) wrote: "It is. It blends Spanish History with a James Bond character in the 1700's"
LOL I just ordered a second hand copy of the first one on Amazon... :) Thanks for the recommendation.

BTW, I'm reading the Drakulic book....great essays! Thanks.

message 38: by Carol (new)

Carol | 6971 comments Welcome

message 39: by Melissa (new)

Melissa (Melissaharl) | 1321 comments My favorite reads in 2009. The first two are among my all-time favorites:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Evidence of Things Unseen A Novel by Marianne Wiggins

Poems New and Collected by Wislawa Szymborska

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Secret Scripture by Sebastien Barry

What We Carry by Dorianne Laux

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Black Swan Green A Novel by David Mitchell

message 40: by Ken (new)

Ken | 811 comments Love David Mitchell's Black Swan Green. Except for the centerpiece story of Cloud Atlas (the one in the middle that isn't revisited like all the others building to and winding down from it), I like that book to.

Mitchell is on my "Authors To Watch" List.

message 41: by Barbara (new)

Barbara | 5667 comments Philip, you remind me that I still haven't read Unaccustomed Earth and I love Lahiri's writing.

message 42: by Gail (last edited Dec 22, 2009 05:09AM) (new)

Gail | 295 comments Best 2009 reads:

Anna Karenina
Testament of Youth
Life in a Medieval Castle
The Wee Free Men
The False Inspector Dew
Mystic River
Dry Storeroom No. 1
Author, Author
Homage to Catalonia

Huh. Hadn't realized my tastes were quite so eclectic.

message 43: by Al (new)

Al (AllysonSmith) | 1101 comments All this 2009 talk got me thinking about 2010, so I found this blog that talks about some of the "hot" books coming out next year:

Many of you will be happy to see David Mitchell has a new book coming out. I've been meaning to read him for a while, your comments push him up on the to-read list.

And, Barbara, do treat yourself to reading Unaccustomed Earth - I know you'll love it. It also makes me think you will really love In Other Rooms, Other Wonders too.

message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

Philip wrote: My favorite reads in 2009........ Black Swan Green A Novel by David Mitchell

I just bought a copy at the Library Sale last weekend, having read Cloud Atlas a few years ago and loving it, I'll be reading BSG soon I hope.

message 45: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 9172 comments Another best of 2009 - Here Bullet The title poem was my personal choice for discussion a week ago. Brian Turner has a degree in poetry, and he fought in Iraq, and before that was in Bosnia.

Heartwrending work of incomparable beauty.

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) | 3817 comments Jane wrote: "I am one who did not like THE THIRD POLICEMAN. Is AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS at all related to the wonderful book AT SWIM, TWO BOYS?"

Jane At Swim, Two Boys was based on At Swim, Two Birds. I agree, I think At Swim, Two Boys is a wonderful book!

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) | 3817 comments Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Love and Summer by William Trevor
Death in Summer by William Trevor
New and Selected Poems Vol. II by Mary Oliver

message 48: by A.J. (new)

A.J. I don't see any direct relationship between the two, other than that the latter (like the former) plays on Irish literature.

But based on?

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) | 3817 comments Roddy Doyle said he based it on the first one, so I'm not going to argue with the author, A.J. Good grief.

message 50: by A.J. (new)

A.J. Roddy Doyle didn't write it. Jamie O'Neill did.

In At Swim-Two-Birds, a writer's own characters rebel against him with the aim of overthrowing his control of their lives. This is a book within a book, making use of stock characters of Irish myth. I just don't see any relationship between it and this other novel, except that At Swim, Two Boys plays on the title and makes knowing references to both O'Brien and Joyce.

I've never seen any suggestion that one is based on the other, only nods to the obvious allusion in the title.

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Books mentioned in this topic

Rebecca (other topics)
Song of Solomon (other topics)
In the Beginning Was the Ghetto: Notebooks from Lodz (other topics)
The Pillars of the Earth (other topics)
A Garden of Earthly Delights (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Lawrence Hill (other topics)
Henry James (other topics)
David Mitchell (other topics)
Marianne Wiggins (other topics)
Linda Pastan (other topics)