2009 Favorites — Books

I was pretty happy with the number of books I was able to read this year – 37.  That number was up from 30 that I was able to read in 2008.  I must therefore posit that unemployment is a boon to literacy.
I read several books that I very much enjoyed this year, but as I look back over the collection from this past year, I think the following ones stood out for me as favorites:

Anathem

Neal Stephenson

Anathem by Neil Stephenson.   I was so impressed with this book that I wrote a review of it here after I had completed it back in February.  I won’t copy that here, but this story of a young “monk” in a recovering world that has suffered a catastrophic collapse in the past who becomes involved in events that will shake the very core of his society is well worth the nearly 1000 page investment.  Touching on science, philosophy, religion, language, culture, and class, Stephenson has created an incredibly full and complex world.  More than just a wonderfully descriptive science-fiction-fantasy-coming-of-age adventure, he has created a tale that consistently challenged my expectations and often surprised me – right up until the very end.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly.  This book did not come out in 2008 or 2009, but it’s when I read it, so for this post, it counts.  Connolly – most noted for his crime thriller books – creates another story of a young man coming of age, this time in England during the German bombing raids of the Second World War.  Young David is from a broken home and find solace in the many books full of fables and fairy tales.  During one raid, David is thrust into an alternate world in which many of his favorite tales have been turned on their head.   In some ways, it reminded me of the works of Gregory Maguire, only done much much better.  When I started reading this book, I thought it might be geared for young adults, but the story takes several dark turns that were downright disturbing (clearly not for kids).  In the end, I found myself completely engrossed in this very unconventional story and both anxious and curious to see its finale.

Olive Kitteridge: Fiction

Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.   Sometimes I get a little skeptical when I see “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize”.  I think, oh, this is some egghead-book reviewer type book that I won’t “get”.   And so, with that in mind I read this book which won the Pulitzer in 2009.   Sparsely written with beautiful prose, the book is a collection of short stories that center on a small town in coastal Maine and that to different degrees (some completely, some very little) involve the title character – a (seemingly) mean-spirited retired school teacher.  The stories delve into relationships – some good, many gone awry – and the nature of love, family, resentment and hope that power “regular” peoples’ lives.  At times funny and at (more) times heartbreakingly raw and honest, this book is moving and stays with you long after its completion.

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5 thoughts on “2009 Favorites — Books

  1. Oooh… maybe I'll get Anathem on my Nook! Much lighter in the electronic version… although I suppose you don't have the satisfaction of looking at all the pages you've completed.

  2. Have heard great things about Anathem and you've sealed the deal for me. Thanks for the review, it sounds great. I prefer long books too. I become rather attached to stories, not sure why.

  3. Interesting list and nice reviews! I saw Stephenson's 'Anathem' in the bookstore but got daunted by the size and so didn't get it. Maybe I will now muster up a little bit of courage and give it a try :)

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