December 2009
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Top Ten of 2009

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:

FireInTheBloodNotable Mention:

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.

Number 10:

mechanicsoffallingThe 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.

Number 9:

outstealinghorsesOut 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.

Number 8

LLoveMedicineove 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.

Number 7:

helpThe 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.

Number 6:

roadhomeThe 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.

Number 5:

seaofpoppiesSea 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.

Number 4:

unaccustomedearthUnaccustomed 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.

Many thanks to both Terri and Laura – two amazing women who know exactly what I love to read.

Number 3:

LastNightInTwistedRiverLast 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.

Number 2:

DisobedientGirlA 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.

Number 1:

inhoveringflightIn 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.

23 Comments

  1. December 31, 2009    

    Such a great list, Wendy. It’s always fun to see a final compilation of everyone’s favorite reads of the year. I hope to read Unaccustomed Earth this next year. I’ve enjoyed The Interpreter of Maladies quite a bit.

  2. December 31, 2009    

    What a lovely post! Your “Best of 2009” inspired me to head over to LT and tinker with my own tagging. I use Collections and have one called Favorites, and every book is tagged by the year I read it, so between the two I can get a “best of” list. Now I’m off to make sure my Top 5 from each year are in my Favorites collection!

    Best wishes for all good things in 2010, Wendy. xoxo

  3. December 31, 2009    

    I’m now extremely interested in A Disobedient Girl!! Thanks!! Did you see my very lacking top ten???

  4. December 31, 2009    

    Great picks — I’ve read 7/10 of those and enjoyed them as well.

    Happy New Year and Happy Reading in 2010

  5. December 31, 2009    

    I only read one of these books! Disobedient Girl is great!

  6. December 31, 2009    

    Great list- so many books I’ve never read on there 🙂

  7. December 31, 2009    

    The new John Irving made my list also. So relieved to read him back in top form and delighted at his exploration of his craft, his fears. I devoured that book. 🙂 Happy reading in the new year!

  8. December 31, 2009    

    I’m sad to say I’ve only read one of your books, but I have two others in my TBR pile. You’ve made me really anxious to read In Hovering Flight now.

  9. December 31, 2009    

    I need to get my hands on a copy of “An Unaccustomed Earth” ~ I read “Interpreter of Maladies” a while back, and so enjoyed the author’s rich, lyrical writing style.

    Happy 2010 to you!

  10. December 31, 2009    

    I’ve wanted to read In Hovering Flight ever since I saw the beautiful cover. Shallow reason, but if it would get me to a good book, so it works, I suppose!

    Happy New Year!!!

  11. January 1, 2010    

    What a great list of books. There are several there that are on my TBR list!

  12. January 1, 2010    

    I haven’t seen In Hovering Flight but if it’s your #1 book, I’d better add it to the tbr list.

  13. January 2, 2010    

    Great list! I plan to read In Hovering Flight in 2010.

  14. January 2, 2010    

    WendyCat: I think you’ll LOVE Unaccustomed Earth – Lahiri is so talented.

    Laura: Happy New Year to you as well, my friend 🙂 Have fun with your tags – I am constantly changing things over there!

    Melange: What do you mean lacking?!?!? You have a lengthy list over there 🙂

    Diane: You see – that is exactly why I subscribe to your blog *laughs* Glad you have enjoyed some of the same books I have!

    Serena: It was wonderfully written, wasn’t it?

    Aarti: Thanks – I have no qualms about recommending any of them!

    Frances: I was excited about Irving too – his last couple of books were so-so and I was beginning to doubt him. I’m glad he came through with a blockbuster this time!

    Kathy: I was surprised to see In Hovering Flight get some bad reviews…but I so loved that book. It is funny how sometimes a book can speak to you at just the right time – and that was what that book did for me. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

    Susan: Happy 2010 to you as well! Lahiri is a wonderful writer…I have Interpreter of Maladies on my TBR pile – maybe this year I’ll get to it!

    Rhapsody: *laughs* I also pick books by their cover art – Unbridled has the best book covers out there, in my opinion.

    Staci: Oh good – I hope you’ll love them as much as I did!

    Lisa: *laughs* I hope you’ll love Hinnefeld’s book –

    Anna: I will look forward to reading your review of it!

  15. January 2, 2010    

    Lots of good looking books! Several I really want to read!

  16. January 2, 2010    

    The Help…agreed! I’m going to have to check out the rest of your list. I have the John Irving…but I’ve been unsure about it. Happy New Year!

  17. January 3, 2010    

    “Unaccustomed Earth” made my top 10 list too!
    And I have “The Help” on my list for 2010 … how could I not? Everyone seems to adore it!

    I’m adding “The Mechanics of Falling” to my wish list. I’m discovering what short stories can be thanks to Ms. Lahiri!

  18. January 3, 2010    

    I loved Suite Francaise so very much. I must get my hands on Fire in the Blood. I’ve kind of avoided The Help so far because it’s one of those that everone is reading and loving. I do plan to read it some day, but mabye after it’s not so much ‘the book of the moment’ everywhere.

    I also want to explore short stories more in the near future. Jumpa Lahiri’s book and one by Tom Franklin (Poachers) are at the top of my list for that.

  19. January 3, 2010    

    I absolutely agree with the help. I want to read Out Stealing Horses.

  20. January 4, 2010    

    For whatever reason, I skipped reviews that discussed IN HOVERING FLIGHT. However, based on your recommendation here, I’m putting it on my TBR list!

  21. January 8, 2010    

    WOW! I’m so happy that two books you read for our tours made your list, and what a great list it is! I’ve got Last Night at Twisted River in my nightstand stack waiting it’s turn..

  22. January 9, 2010    

    What a great list, Wendy! I’ve added Irving’s book to my TBR list. I haven’t been interested in his recent books, but I absolutely loved A Prayer For Owen Meany. Hope this one’s as good. I’ve also heard great things about Out Stealing Horses, so I’ll have to remember to snag a copy so I remember to read it! 😉 I’ve never heard of In Hovering Flight, but if it’s your number one pick, I definitely want to give it a try.

  23. January 27, 2010    

    Kailana: Glad I can tempt you to read some of these!

    Jill: The Help seems to have universal appeal. If you love John Irving, I think you’ll really like this latest of his.

    Jenners: Glad you are finding the appeal in short stories…some of these are so great. And I’ll be interested to read your review of The Help…

    Suzi: I know what you mean about avoiding books of the moment! But, don’t wait too long on The Help – it is such a great book! Glad to see you are also enjoying the short stories.

    Sheri: Out Stealing Horses is such an atmospheric book – hope you’ll love it!

    Trish: Hope you’ll love In Hovering Flight!!

    Lisa: I always get such great books from TLC! Enjoy the Irving!!

    Les: Oh, if you loved Owen Meany, I think you’ll enjoy Twisted River… I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts on it, and on Out Stealing Horses and In Hovering Flight too!

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