Sunday, January 3, 2010

TSS - 2009 in Review

JoAnna and I are VERY ready for a new year. 2009 just seemed....hard. For a whole lot of reasons. But my sweet girl and I are both looking forward to great things in 2010.

(And I hadn't shared a picture of my adorable niece in a while - isn't she a doll!! Almost ready to walk...)

But first let's take a look back at 2009 in books. I've been having fun reading posts from other bloggers about their favorites, and least favorites, and all the other lists you have created. As I was looking over the books I've read in 2009, I noticed that the books that really stood out to me weren't necessarily the ones that I rated the highest (although there were plenty of those), but the ones that surprised me in some way.

SO, here's my list of books that were unexpected pleasures this year.

Best Book with a Woolly Mammoth as a character:

Alaska by James Michener
- my first selection in my Relative Reads feature, I read this book on the recommendation of my Grandpa. I hadn't read anything by Michener before, and was frankly a bit intimidated by it's size. Also, there were entire chapters written from the perspective of animals, and they totally worked. I'm hooked on this author, and have more of his books on my shelf to read this year.

Best Book that I was SURE I wouldn't like:

So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger
- It's official - MY MOTHER IS ALWAYS RIGHT. There, I said it. I remember really not liking Enger's first novel, so when my mom gave me this one to read I was.....not excited. But I will happily eat my words, because I loved this novel - so much that I plan to go back and re-read the other one.

Best Book I picked up from the library completely randomly:

My Abandonment by Peter Rock
- proving that sometimes you SHOULD judge a book by it's cover, this was a last minute grab in the library bag, and it blew me away. You do NOT want to know too much about it going in - just read it and wait to be astounded.

Best Book in which I totally disagreed with the author:

Losing My Religion by William Lobdell
- This book was hard to read, and I don't agree with the author's ultimate conclusion - that believing in God is not a choice, but a foregone conclusion - but I deeply respected his journey to that conclusion, and thought he wrote about his painful experiences with great eloquence.

Best YA Book that doesn't involve vampires:

Skellig by David Almond - I'll be honest - I'm a little bit "vampire/werewolf/fairy/etc" 'd out. Do authors write YA books that don't involve some kind of extra-human creature anymore? Well, Skellig has something like that too, but it's completely different from what you expect, and I found it delightful.

Best Completely Unreliable (and yet, somehow absolutely believable) Narrator:

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon - You know right away that Lou is probably not the best judge of his own life story, and yet he makes SO much sense - this was a brilliantly written novel, probably the best SF I read all year.

Best Book that could easily be turned into a trashy show on The CW:

Gossip of the Starlings by Nina de Gramont - admitting I liked this novel feels a little bit like admitting I enjoy One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl - just a little bit ashamed of myself. But oh, if you want a guilty pleasure read, look no further - this one is juicy.

Best Book that should probably be on the Oprah's Bookclub list:

After the Fire, a Still, Small Voice by Evie Wyld - this novel = bleak. You know how most of Oprah's picks kinda make you feel heavy when you get done reading them? (Or is that just me?) This novel had a bit of that same feel to it - it wasn't a cheery read, but it was arresting.

Best Book where I'm not quite sure I know what was going on:

Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente - honestly, I almost can't even give you a plot summary of this novel. It was odd, and dense, and wonderful, but I have a feeling it would really be a love-it or hate-it kind of book. I loved it.

Best Book about an Inanimate Object:

The Big House by George Howe Colt
- who would have guessed I'd become so engrossed in the fate of an old, slightly rickety house that I've never seen? But I certainly did.

Best Use of Chess as a metaphor for Life:

The Kings are Already Here by Garret Freyman-Weyr
- I'm pretty sure this is my favorite "new author" find of the year, and I loved this YA novel about a ballet dancer and a chess player. (And please note - no supernaturaly things going on - just a really good story about really interesting people.)

My Book of the Year -

Life's That Way by Jim Beaver - this book affected me in ways I still can't quite articulate. I want everyone to read this book - don't be put off by the heavy subject matter. This is a book about celebrating life - rejoicing in every moment - and it was so exquisitely written. I completely loved it.

Highest Rated books:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
My Abandonment by Peter Rock
Losing My Religion by William Lobdell
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Life's That Way by Jim Beaver
Skellig by David Almond
The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by M. Shaffer & A. Barrows
The Sandman: The Dream Hunters by N. Gaiman and P. Russell
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
The Big House by George Howe Colt
Reader and Raelynx by Sharon Shinn
The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden
The Darkness that Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker

Lowest rated books:

The Marchesa by Simonetta Agnella Hornby

Ulysses by James Joyce
Eve by Elissa Elliott
The Believers by Zoe Heller
Liars and Saints by Maile Meloy
On the Road by Jack Kerouac

So, that's my year in a couple of quick lists. As always, I'm happy that the list of books I loved is MUCH longer that the list of books I didn't.

"You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." ~Paul Sweeney

I felt that way a lot in 2009, and am thankful for all the friends I found along the way. Here's to another great year in 2010.

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