Sunday, December 20, 2009

My best reads of 2009

Well, it’s that time of year to roll out the best reads of 2009. The nice man at the library informed me that I’ve checked out around 200 books this year so my apologies if I leave some out. These are the books that stick out in my mind (and have 5 stars in my Goodreads), but I read so much it really is easy for me to forget about books. Even books I love in fact. (I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve even checked out books I’ve already read but didn’t recollect the name.)

Fair warning: I am totally posting this on both blogs.

So here are my favorite books I read this year in no particular order:

1. The Inferior by Peadar O. Guilin

Stopmouth and his family know of no other life than the daily battle to survive. To live, they must hunt rival species, or negotiate flesh-trade with those who crave meat of the freshest human kind. It is a savage, desperate existence. And for Stopmouth, considered slowwitted hunt-fodder by his tribe, the future looks especially bleak. But then, on the day he is callously betrayed by his brother, a strange and beautiful woman falls from the sky. It is a moment that will change his destiny, and that of all humanity, forever.

If you like dystopias and strange world building then this book is for you. I just can’t wait to get my hands on the next installment of this series. It’s just great in that seriously fucked up kind of way (and that's my favorite kind). If I had to pick just one, The Inferior would be my favorite read of 2009.

2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Barcelona, 1945—A great world city lies shrouded in secrets after the war, and a boy mourning the loss of his mother finds solace in his love for an extraordinary book called The Shadow of the Wind, by an author named Julian Carax. When the boy searches for Carax’s other books, it begins to dawn on him, to his horror, that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book the man has ever written. Soon the boy realizes that The Shadow of the Wind is as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget, for the mystery of its author’s identity holds the key to an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love that someone will go to any lengths to keep secret.

I actually found this book to be quite scary. I really like horror, but I can’t think of another book that left me as creeped out as The Shadow of the Wind. I stayed up all night to read it and I found myself being uncomfortable walking through my dark house and paying far too much attention to the random noises my house makes. The Shadow of the Wind is also really beautifully written and I cannot recommend it enough.

3. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy

Meet the Female Chauvinist Pig -- the new brand of "empowered woman" who embraces "raunch culture" wherever she finds it. In her groundbreaking book, New York magazine writer Ariel Levy argues that, if male chauvinist pigs of years past thought of women as pieces of meat, Female Chauvinist Pigs of today are doing them one better, making sex objects of other women -- and of themselves. Irresistibly witty and wickedly intelligent, Female Chauvinist Pigs makes the case that the rise of raunch does not represent how far women have come; it only proves how far they have left to go.

Some of you will remember that I did a video about this book not that long ago. This book is a quick and easy read that will make you think. And I love books that do that.

4. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Young Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Irish Lord Colum of Sevenwaters, a domain well protected from invading Saxons and Britons by dense forest where, legend says, fey Deirdre, the Lady of the Forest, walks the woodland paths at night. Colum is first and foremost a warrior, bent on maintaining his lands against all outsiders. Not all of his sons are so bound to the old ways, and that family friction leads to outright disobedience when Sorcha and her brother Finbar help a Briton captive escape from Colum's dungeon. Soon after, Colum brings home a new wife who ensorcels everyone she can't otherwise manipulate. By her spell Sorcha's brothers are cursed to become swans. Only Sorcha, hiding deep in the forest, can break the spell by painfully weaving shirts of starwort nettle--but then Sorcha is captured by Britons and taken away across the sea. Determined to break the curse despite her captivity, Sorcha continues to work, little expecting that ultimately she will have to chose between saving her brothers and protecting the Briton lord who has defended her throughout her trials.

This is another book I mentioned before, but it’s so good I’m surprised I didn’t mention it a hundred times. This is a book that will make you laugh and cry and fall in love with the characters over and over. Daughter of the Forest really is that good and I dare you to read this book and not fall in love with Juliet Marillier.

5. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Trying to make coffee when the water is shut off, David considers using the water in a vase of flowers and his chain of associations takes him from the French countryside to a hilariously uncomfortable memory of buying drugs in a mobile home in rural North Carolina. In essay after essay, Sedaris proceeds from bizarre conundrums of daily life-having a lozenge fall from your mouth into the lap of a fellow passenger on a plane or armoring the windows with LP covers to protect the house from neurotic songbirds-to the most deeply resonant human truths. Culminating in a brilliant account of his venture to Tokyo in order to quit smoking, David Sedaris's sixth essay collection is a new masterpiece of comic writing from "a writer worth treasuring" (Seattle Times).

What needs to be said about Sedaris that hasn’t already been said? His books are great and if you need a good laugh about the mundane yet entertaining aspects of life then this book is for you. You can read my favorite essay from this book here.

6. Why Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne

Why Evolution Is True weaves together the many threads of modern work in genetics, paleontology, geology, molecular biology, and anatomy that demonstrate the “indelible stamp” of the processes first proposed by Darwin. In crisp, lucid prose accessible to a wide audience, Why Evolution Is True dispels common misunderstandings and fears about evolution and clearly confirms that this amazing process of change has been firmly established as a scientific truth.

This book changed my life. Read it.

7. The Good Mayor by Andrew Nicoll

Tibo Krovic has been the mayor of Dot, a small town in an unnamed country on the Baltic Sea, for 20 years. He's hopelessly in love with his secretary, Agathe Stopak, who's miserable in a loveless marriage with her drunkard husband. After consulting a psychic, Agathe begins to see the good mayor in a new light, and after the two tiptoe around each other for weeks, Tibo gets up the courage to ask Agathe out for lunch. But being the good man he is, he finds it difficult to cross any other boundaries with a married woman, even as tension builds between them. Meanwhile, Agathe gets tired of waiting for Tibo to make his move and stumbles into a mistake that could have very far-ranging consequences. Told with fantastical detail, delightful insights and a touch of humor, this fairy taleish romance is a genuine treat.

This book is essentially a simple love story. What makes it worth mentioning though is the amazing writing of this simple love story. To be honest I can’t really explain the whimsy or lyrical perfection the writing in this book is, but I promise you it’s good. Very good.

Just read the passages I included in my review of the book here and tell me you didn’t swoon a little. I dare ya.

And that’s it. If you haven’t read any of the books I mentioned then you are seriously missing out.

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