Best Books of 2009

Wuthering Expectations and Litlove over at Tales from the Reading Room have reminded me that it’s time to round up a few of the very best things I read this year. I have to say that 2009 has been one of my very best reading years since I started keeping track, along with the golden aura that surrounds 2002. I discovered many wonderful new authors, and read works I loved by authors I already knew. I got to participate in the Classics Circuit and do a few posts in conversation with Teresa about books we both loved. In making a list like this, I feel as if I’m taking my jewels out of my box and spreading them on black velvet. Look, my preciousssss.

Best literary fiction: Home, Marilynne Robinson; The Puttermesser Papers, Cynthia Ozick; The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters; The Solitudes, John Crowley.

Best book in translation: All the Names, Jose Saramago; The Story of the Stone, Cao Xuequin; War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy; The Pillow Book, Sei Shonagon.

Best crime novel: When Will There Be Good News?, Kate Atkinson; The Language of Bees, Laurie R. King.

Best 19th century novel: Bleak House, Charles Dickens; War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy (sorry, but I had to mention this at least twice!); North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell.

Best children’s or young adult novel: Surrender, Sonya Hartnett.

Best speculative fiction: Fledgling, Octavia Butler.

Best book that made me laugh: The Writing Class, Jincy Willett; Alphabet Juice, Roy Blount, Jr.; Remake, Connie Willis.

Best travel or exploration memoir: The Lost City of Z, David Grann; Travels in Alaska, John Muir.

Most appalling and yet extremely popular hegemonic disaster of a book: Bel Canto, Ann Patchett.

Weirdest children: A High Wind in Jamaica, Richard Hughes.

Worst sex: Rabbit, Run, John Updike.

Please link in the comments if you have your own list. I love reading them!

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28 Responses to Best Books of 2009

  1. Nymeth says:

    I really need to read Fledgling before long!

    I’ve been thinking of what to include in my list…I’ll definitely post one, but probably not for another week. I’m always hoping that another book will blow me away at the last minutes :P

    • softdrink says:

      Nymeth…you MUST read Fledgling!

      I’ve tried to read Bel Canto. Twice. I finally realized it’s just never gonna happen.

      • Jenny says:

        She’s right, Nymeth, you do need to read Fledgling. Much the most interesting vampire (ish) fiction I’ve read. And softdrink — don’t bother with trying Bel Canto any more. I can say it’s definitely not worth it.

  2. Mel u says:

    This is a very interesting list-we have one overlap-War and Peace- I was also inspired by Wuthering Expectations to work on a 2009 best reads list

    <a href="; Reading Life Best Reads of 2009-part I

  3. rebeccareid says:

    I’m going to do a list too — but I have to wait until the end of the year, as the “best of” might be read in the next two weeks!

    How fun, though to put it in those categories and look back over the year through books! I think I’ll have War and Peace on my 2010 schedule, so I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed it so much.

    • Jenny says:

      Rebecca — I can’t recommend War & Peace more highly. I absolutely loved it. Can’t wait to see what you think of it!

  4. Teresa says:

    Oh, it just makes my heart happy to see that Saramago and Fledgling made your best of the year list. And Home of course…but I know you would have read that without my pointing you toward it.

    I’m going to post my own for the last Sunday Salon of the year, and I haven’t yet compiled it, but a couple on your list are definitely contenders for mine (Big surprise, right?)

    And I’m really tempted to steal your most appalling and yet extremely popular hegemonic disaster of a book category.

    • Jenny says:

      Teresa — steal away. :) I am looking forward to your list. And no, it’s no big surprise that some of our favorites would be the same, but how nice to share the pleasure!

  5. Christopher Lord says:

    How wonderful for the 139 years dead Charles Dickens to make your “best of” list for 2009! I applaud you. Bleak House is near the top of my list, just under Our Mutual Friend. Try that for 2010.

    Regarding John Updike: as 2009 closes I am reading “Rabbit at Rest” for a book club, and never has such beautiful language been wasted on such awful people with such louche sex lives. But the language…few modern authors are his equal. His turns of phrase make me ache with beauty. But I wouldn’t cross the street to have lunch with a single one of the characters.

    Love this blog!

    • Jenny says:

      Christopher, Our Mutual Friend is my other very favorite Dickens. I am so glad we have the same taste!

      I agree with you *exactly* about Updike. I told my father after reading “Rabbit, Run” that Updike was a master craftsman working with the shoddiest possible materials.

  6. Pingback: My Favorite Lit-Blog Things: December 18, 2009 « Hungry Like the Woolf

  7. justabookreader says:

    Thanks for the reminder to start putting my list together. That’s a great list of reading. I’m so impressed that you read War and Peace!

  8. This is a really interesting mix of books that I didn’t like (Home, When Will There be Good News) and books that I’ve enjoyed/really looking forward to (Little Stranger, All The Names)

    I love the different categories you’ve used!

    • Jenny says:

      Jackie — One reason I love your blog is that we don’t have exactly the same taste in books, but your take is always so thoughtful that I get a huge amount out of what you say. Thanks!

  9. sagustocox says:

    I haven’t read Bel Canto, but I didn’t like Run!

  10. litlove says:

    What a fabby list – I’m going to read all the books you mention in the comedy section. I’ve decided on a read-for-pleasure year next year, or the first few months of it in any case!

    • Jenny says:

      Litlove — for me, every year is a read-for-pleasure year. Follow your heart. And I really hope you enjoy the ones that made me laugh!

  11. I mentioned this at WE, but I thought your Story of the Stone posts were especially good. Not to knock other posts! But because of the size of the book, it is not read as much as it obviously should be, and your posts made it look very appealing. Someday, someday.

    I may read the Muir book next year. Maybe North and South, too.

  12. Juxtabook says:

    What a great list. lots of my favourites including Bleak House and North and South, and lots I know I must read too.

  13. anokatony says:

    Anyone who reads the entire War and Peace deserves in a year deserves to list it more than once. Besides War and Peace, my favorites from your list are Saramago and Gaskell.
    Anyone can get to my “Best of Year” list by clicking on anokatony above.

    • Jenny says:

      anokatony — I mostly list War and Peace twice because it was such a pleasure. I hope lots of other people will decide they shouldn’t be intimidated by it and will read it. And thank you for your lovely list!

  14. Lesley says:

    That’s a great idea! I will have to remember to do this when I write my year-in-review post.

  15. Dorothy W. says:

    It does sound like you had a very good reading year! I’m reading and enjoying Kate Atkinson right now (although a different book) and perhaps I’ll get the Willett one because a a book that offers a good laugh sounds great.

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