…. and what were some of the best books you read in 2009 — fiction or non-?
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Mazie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear
Duma Key by Stephen King
Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China – author Jung Chang tells the story of China from 1929 to the Cultural Revolution as experienced by three generations of women in her family (her grandmother, her mother, and herself). These women were a part of that history in a very direct way: her grandmother was a concubine, her mother a high-ranking Communist official and part of Mao’s Red Army, and the author, who was “re-educated” as part of the Cultural Revolution. I read this biography nearly every year, finding something new each time.
Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical – I am fascinated by other peoples lives and experiences, particularly if they show me a world previously unknown to me. The writing is uneven but I was fascinated by these 22 women sharing their stories about, among other things, gender, mental illness, abortion, and identity. The book’s editor called the essays “un-testimony”, and I have to agree.
The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia – Approachable literary criticism; yes, it can happen! A combination of biography, analysis, and the pleasures of reading. The author is a lapsed Catholic and makes no excuses about it, and gives what I found to be a really even-handed treatment of Lewis, Narnia, and everything else from Led Zepplin to Lolita.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It was awful…and wonderful and very thought provoking. Hopeful at the end.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo & The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Cleaving by Julie Powell (who is a repulsive human being, but a good writer)
Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (I know, late to the party)
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (ditto)
and, though I technically read this in 2010, The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
Last Night in Twisted River (John Irving)
The Help (Kathryn Stockett)
City of Theives (David Benioff)
Moonflower Vine (Jetta Carleton) – older book I saw in an independent bookstore shelf, very good
The Boy in The Striped Pajamas (John Boyne)
Moose: A Memior of Fat Camp (Stephanie Klein)
Guilty Pleasure – The Sookie Stackhouse Series (True Blood on HBO is loosely based on the books)
Flight and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, both by Sherman Alexie. He could rewrite the phone book and I’d be there.
American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld.
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
A Good School, by Richard Yates
All non-fiction, which doesn’t surprise me.
The Invention of Air, Stephen Johnson (on Joseph Priestley)
The Courtier and the Heretic, Matthew Stuart (on Leibniz and Spinoza–amazing!)
Alphabet Juice, Roy Blount Jr.
Angels and Ages, Adam Gopnik
Here if You Need Me, Kate Braestrup
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley – A delicious mystery with an eleven-year-old protagonist who’s obsessed with chemistry. And trying to figure out what’s going on with the dead body in the garden. I love good mysteries, but there are so many bad ones out there…this one was a treat to find.
I also loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I’m a sucker for epistolary novels.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Aimed at kids, but wonderfully sophisticated, creative, and in spots genuinely moving. The use of language is just marvelous.
The entire Twilight series. Laugh if you want, but these hilariously badly-written but still oddly entertaining books kept me sane during the sunless stretch we had early last summer. By our fiftieth or so day of rain, I was joking in emails to friends, “love, from Forks, Massachusetts.”
I’m not sure I finished any books in 2009, but I always have 5 or 6 in progress. ADHD, hello.
You mentioned liking King on a wide canvas; have you read The Talisman? He gives himself not one, but two worlds to work with, as well as a co-author. I was totally captivated the whole time. I haven’t read the sequel, Black House, but I’d like to.
What I find most fascinating about King is how so much of his work is connected, sometimes in very subtle ways you might not even notice at a glance. Looking at the Wiki article for any given King novel (and quite a lot of the short stories) will often give you a list of ties to his other works. There are a whole bunch of connections to the Dark Tower series, which I should read one of these days. *eyes shelves upon shelves of books she owns but hasn’t read* Hm.
The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by Jose Saramago.
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor.
I just realized that the books mentioned above have something in common: neither author uses quotation marks to set off conversation.
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. I read every page and learned how to actually cook from this book.
I’ve heard good things about Bittman, Diane. Now that I’m eating more vegetarian food I might try him.
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