My Favorite Reads of 2009

When I sat down to write this post, I was going to give you my top 5 reads of 2009.  I only read 42 books so anything more than that seemed like a cop-out.  But I read some really good books this year and I could only get my favorites list down to 10.  With one honorable mention.  I know – it’s pathetic.  But I have actually ranked them so you can see my top five.  You will also notice that there is significant overlap with this post and my husband’s below. Mostly because as soon as one of us loves a book, we incessantly nag the other to read it (in 2009’s case, it was all me nagging I think).  My next post will be a year-end reading recap with stats and other fun figures, but for now here are my top 5 10 11 books of 2009.

Honorable Mention: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart


A surprisingly enjoyable read that I couldn’t bear to leave off this list.  It is a book about a teenage girl at a private boarding school who tries to break secret society traditions and gender roles.  And she likes P.G. Wodehouse.

10: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

After creating this list, I realized that I failed to review a number of my favorite books.  And I read this one almost a year ago now so it’s hard to remember what it was exactly that I liked about it.  I guess I feel like it’s one of those great coming of age stories that all girls (well boys too but they’ll be hard to convince) should read like To Kill a Mockingbird or Little Women.

9: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton


As much as I love happy endings, I also love tragic ones.  I loved this story so much as I was reading it, but the way it ended sealed its fate on this list.

8: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart


A fantastic series for young readers and equally enthralling for adults.  This year I read all three MBS books and while I enjoyed all of them, this one was the best by leaps and bounds.  I was looking for a new group of kids to start following and Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance were just what I needed.

7: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon


This book took me ages to read.  I really struggled to get into it.  I don’t know if it was my mood at the time or my desire to love this book as much as everyone else, but it just wasn’t working for me.  Then I decided I was reading it no matter what.  And I fell in love with it.  I’ve just learned that my attention span for epic novels (this, War and Peace, Middlesex, etc.) is just something I will probably struggle with no matter how good they are.

6: Peony in Love by Lisa See


Part of why I love reading is because of the knowledge I gain through each book.  Peony in Love (and all of See’s novels) are full of history and culture that I knew very little about.  The characters in this book are based on real people and the book that the story revolves around is a real book.  The way that See manages to shape this into a story is simply amazing.

5: Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace


I think I will always remember 2009 as the year I discovered Betsy-Tacy.  I wish I had read it as a child so that I could have reread it 10 times by now.

4: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery


Everyone I’ve discussed this book with has said that it took them some time to get into the novel.  Me? I was pulled into the story immediately.  It revolves around one apartment building in France and its diverse and eccentric tenants.  Our two narrators are a 12-year-old girl intent on killing herself and a middle-aged concierge hiding her true passion for high culture and the book is full of philosophical ramblings and right place, right time interactions.  Tell me you don’t want to read that book.

3: Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy

I never reviewed Love Begins in Winter. I’m not sure why because I have so many good things to say about it.  The book is made up of five short stories about chance encounters, hope, and (you guess-it) love.  It is remarkably written – one of those books that makes you realize how wonderful language can be when manipulated just right.  This was a spur of the moment buy and read and I’m thankful I wandered into that bookstore in St. Louis and picked it up.

2: The Hunger Games (review) and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins


The Hunger Games/Catching Fire make the list at #2 because this series was my most enjoyable reading experience of the year.  I got completely lost in the books and cannot wait for the third book to come out in the fall.  They weren’t the “best” books I read this year, but reading is entertainment and entertain me these did.

1: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (review)

I apparently never reviewed this book and thus my thoughts about it are escaping me, but I know for a fact that it is my favorite book read in 2009.  It was one of those books that gets as close to perfect as possible.  The language was beautiful, the story was beautiful, and the characters were beautiful.  Please read it.


Wow, this post took way longer than I anticipated. I really hope you enjoyed it. And stay tuned for my next 2009-recap post.

Happy New Year!

Guest Post: My Husband’s Top Ten Books of 2009

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.