Today you all get a special treat. My husband has decided to write a guest post with his favorite reads of 2009. Ben reads even more than I do and he’s a high school English teacher so reading is sort of his thing. I like to think that I have something to do with it since his passion for reading started around the same time as our relationship, but I know he would have become a reader anyway. I am working on my own top reads of the year as well as a reading recap post. In the meantime, and without further ado, I turn this post over to Ben.
10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith: We grow up and see the word differently as Francine’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of being a child in America, just as we did with Scout Finch.
9. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: SPOILERS This novel was a laugh-out-loud chronicle of a typical teenage boy. Until it turned dark. The dizzying pace at which Oscar spirals downwards reminds us that life is fragile. END SPOILERS
8. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout: From the opening, haunting pages Strout hooks the reader. The way characters and stories are woven together across generations is simply marvelous. Uplifting and heart-wrenching at the same time.
7. Amsterdam by Ian McEwan: Typical Ian McEwan- wonderful prose, great story, tension, and an unforgettable twist.
6. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: This is the third Pulitzer winner on my list (Oscar Wao and Olive Kitteridge) and it’s easy to see why. The struggles of Calliope/Cal become a metaphor for the city of Detroit (lovingly and harshly portrayed). Severe, unblinking, and honest, Eugenides opens our eyes to the realities of an intersexed person.
5. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss: Absolutely beautiful and lyrical prose. Krauss breaks your heart with Leo’s story, only to put it back together through Alma.
4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: Extremely intriguing, mysterious, and dark. We discover the true horrors of Kathy, Rose, and Tommy’s purpose in life is discovered (or at least suspected) by the reader much sooner than the characters, which makes it all the more terrifying. Your heart bleeds and hopes for Kathy as she struggles with the realities of her life.
3. The Hunger Games/Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins: These novels have filled part of the hole left in my soul by the ending of Harry Potter. A combination of “The Lottery”, “The Most Dangerous Game”, and The Truman Show. Insanely addictive and captivating, I cannot wait until the final volume is released next summer (rumored to be titled The Victors).
2. Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy: The most poignant and beautifully written book I’ve read in several years. This collection of short stories touched me the way that only a select few books have. I was nearly brought to tears multiple times, not because of the stories, but by the beauty of the language.
1. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon: This first novel shows the promise of Chabon’s talent (which will later be fully realized in the brilliant tour de force that is The Amazing Adventures of Kavelier and Clay). This book gave me that ineffable feeling that accompanies reading a truly special piece of literature. Carefully crafted plot and characters lead us to conflicts that arise naturally, as if the author simply let the characters take the story where they will.