I am hesitant to call any title the “best” book of the year (as I am not a book reviewer but merely a book “enjoyer”) so I have compiled a list of books that I have enjoyed over the course of 2009. Some are new releases, others are books that have come recommended from friends, patrons, and other librarians.
I started off my year anticipating a few second literary fiction novels by different authors. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson is the sequel to the much-lauded The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Both of Larsson’s books are a little bit thriller, a little bit mystery, a little bit suspense but not for those that are bothered by violence in books. Larsson’s third, and last, of the series is due out in the spring.
I was also eagerly awaiting The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Zafon’s first book, The Shadow of the Wind was translated from Spanish some years ago and I have been anxious for a new book. Zafon’s novels present both original and compelling characters and situations. Set in Spain, The Angel’s Game can also provide a bit of armchair travel.
Kate Morton also released a second novel, The Forgotten Garden. As compelling as Larsson and Zafon’s novels, but less violent and more of a focus on the relationships between characters. Those that enjoy more character-focused novels may also enjoy The Believers by Zoe Heller.
Lovers of women’s/ literary fiction might enjoy Sarah Dunn’s Secrets to Happiness, Laura Moriarity’s While I’m Falling, and Lorrie Moore’s The Gate at the Stairs. All three novels present real-life situations with sympathetic female characters, sometimes sad and bittersweet, but all authors inject humor into their dialogue preventing the plot from being too melancholy.
If you typically gravitate towards historical fiction you might have missed The Turtle Catcher by Nicole Helget or Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls. Set in Minnesota during the time before, during and after WWI, The Turtle Catcher is Helget’s début novel and she is one to watch for forthcoming reads. Walls is author of the widely read The Glass Castle, a memoir about her childhood, and Half Broke Horses is her first novel. Set in the southwest just after the turn of the century, Horses is a “true-life novel” about her grandmother.
Those that appreciate stories that take place in Maine, both true and imagined, may want to check out some of the following books. Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup is a memoir about Braestrup’s years after her husband’s death and her role as a chaplain to the game wardens of Maine. A very intense and inspirational story. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout tells the story of Olive in a series of entertwining short stories. The relationship that the reader develops with Olive makes for a great discussion for book groups.
Two stories (neither new for 2009 but new to me for the year and definitely worth mentioning) that incorporate the Maine outdoors are Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert and Summer Guest by Justin Cronin. Stern Men takes place in a small island community and Summer Guest in a northern fishing camp. Both settings as different as can be but both novels explore human emotion and relationships.
A complete, printable list of books is attached (Good Reads 2009). Please add your suggestions as well!