It is that time of year when the bloggers start putting out their lists of the great books they read. I love reading them and adding to my wish list.
I read some amazing books in 2009 – I tagged 22 books on Library Thing for “BEST of 2009.” But I have decided to whittle that list down to my top 10 for the year with one Notable Mention. Each book on this list garnered a five star rating. Publication dates are the dates for the edition I read. Here they are in ascending order with links to my reviews:
Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky (published 2008 Vintage International, ISBN#9780307388001) – read my review
I read this book right at the end of the year and it really touched me. Set in a small village in France, Nemirovsky’s novella tells a tale of family secrets and explores the contrast between youth and old age, and the dark side of the human spirit.
Many thanks to Jill who knew I would love it.
The Mechanics of Falling and Other Stories by Catherine Brady (published 2009 University of Nevada Press, ISBN#9780874177633) – read my review
Catherine Brady’s fabulous collection of eleven short stories explores how individuals deal with the unexpected events in their lives. Filled with complex and memorable characters, these simple stories are an intriguing look at the deep issues of infidelity, violence, medical decline, aging and single parenthood.
Many thanks to TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book – it was a delight to experience Brady’s wise and excellent prose.
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson (published 2008 Picador, Translated from the Norwegian by Anne Born, ISBN#9780312427085) – read my review
Originally published in Norway in 2003, Out Stealing Horses has won numerous literary awards including the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature, and International IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize. The book tells the story of the aging Trond Sander who is remembering his youth and his relationship with his father. What appears to be a simple tale at first, eventually reveals itself as a complex study of grief and loss. Beautiful descriptions of the Norwegian countryside make this book especially memorable.
Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (published 2005 Harper Perennial Modern Classics, ISBN#9780060786465) – read my review
Love Medicine has won a number of literary awards, including the American Book Award (1985), and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction (1984). I found myself completely enthralled with Erdrich’s dreamlike and poetic prose in this beautifully wrought tale of a Native American family living on a North Dakota reservation. There are multiple characters in Love Medicine, and Erdrich alternates point of view and moves back and forth in time while exploring interconnectedness of family, personal despair and triumph, and the truths upon which our lives are built.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (published 2009 Putnam Adult, ISBN#9780399155345) – read my review
Kathryn Stockett’s debut novel got five star reviews all over the blog-0-sphere this year, and for good reason. Told from the points of view of a white journalist and two black maids in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, The Help tells a story about what it means to be human regardless of the color of one’s skin. Powerful and important, this novel swept me away and stayed with me long after I had turned the final page.
Many thanks to the publisher who sent me this Advance Readers Edition.
The Road Home by Rose Tremain (published 2008 Little, Brown and Company, ISBN#9780316002615) – read my review
Written with sensitivity and insight into the human condition, The Road Home snatched the coveted Orange Prize for Fiction in 2008. The protagonist, a young man named Lev, is forced to leave his home in Eastern Europe to seek work in London. What follows is a tale of loss and identity while Lev discovers that sometimes the past must be left behind in order to move forward.
Many thanks to Miriam at Little, Brown and Company who sent me this book for review.
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (published 2008 Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN#9780374174224) – read my review
Sea of Poppies is a sprawling saga set in India just prior to the Opium Wars in the mid-nineteenth century. Although filled with adventure and interesting plot twists, the novel is also about what makes us human in the face of crisis. Ghosh’s writing is richly textured and his use of language in the novel is brilliant. This is the first book in a planned trilogy.
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (published 2008 Knopf, ISBN#9780307265739) – read my review
Jhumpa Lahiri’s beautifully rendered collection of short stories won the 2008 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Lahiri is a gifted storyteller, one who writes effortlessly and ties together complex themes with ease. In Unaccustomed Earth, the stories share a common theme of growing and changing relationships over time and how these changed relationships accommodate, or not, the needs of the characters. Each story involves a Bengali family or individual who has immigrated to America.
Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving (published 2009 Random House, ISBN#9781400063840) – read my review
I was so thrilled when I saw Irving was set to publish another novel in 2009, and he did not disappoint me. Beginning in 1954 in New Hampshire, the novel spans more than fifty years (ending in 2005) and moves from Boston to Vermont to Iowa to Colorado and finally to Toronto. Last Night In Twisted River is full of quirky and memorable characters. It is John Irving story telling at its best, and marked by Irving’s signature meandering style. Big, lush and captivating … the novel is about life with all its ups and downs, unexpected events, and relationships which surprise us.
Many thanks to the publisher for sending me this Advance Readers Edition.
A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman (published 2009 Atria, ISBN#9781439101957) – read my review
Ru Freeman’s writing is stunning, beautifully crafted and powerful. I loved this novel set in Sri Lanka which tells the story of two women whose lives are interconnected in surprising ways. A Disobedient Girl examines the destructive power of secrets, betrayal, loss, domestic violence, and the power of love to overcome tragedy. Freeman transports the reader with her exquisite language and extraordinary characters. I will be watching for more novels by this talented author in the future.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours who offered me the opportunity to read and review this book – it is a novel which I will not soon forget.
In Hovering Flight by Joyce Hinnefeld (published 2008 Unbridled Books, ISBN#9781932961584) – read my review
It was not a hard decision to choose as my number one book of the year Joyce Hinnefeld’s beautifully wrought and soothing story about what it means to love another, about the flaws in relationships and how they are sustained despite these flaws. I loved this book. I read it shortly after Caribou died, and for some reason it spoke to me and comforted me. Perhaps it was Hinnefeld’s sensitive and evocative prose. Or maybe it was simply its celebration of the human spirit in the face of failed dreams and the ability to heal after loss. In Hovering Flight is a book I still think about even though I read it nearly a year ago.
Many thanks to Caitlin at Unbridled Books who continues to send me wonderful books written by talented authors.