Wednesday, January 13, 2010


:my top ten books of 2009, by special request of a friend

Over coffee with a friend last night, she shared that she's been waiting for me to post about the best books I read in 2009. Never one to refuse a request to chat about books, here are the ten books that touched me most with a brief explanation of why. You can click on the link of each book title to read my original Goodreads review, which will give you more detail on how I felt about these books immediately after finishing them.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - simply put, this is the best book I've read in the last five years, possibly in the last ten years. I love the characters, I love the story, but most of all I love the writing. This book, more than any other single book, has made me long to tell a story and it has given me the challenge to tell the story in any way the story demands.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson - a well-written, suspenseful book. The subject matter is not for the faint of heart, but I loved the three separate story lines and their surprising endings.

The Gregor the Overlander Series by Suzanne Collins - this series is more juvenile fiction than young adult fiction, so I read the entire series in less than a week, I think. But I loved the world Collins created and the way she used creatures I prefer not to contemplate (cockroaches, rats, etc.) and made me see through their exteriors to their character. These books made me long to see people differently and who wouldn't want to read books that make you feel that way?

A Breath of Snow & Ashes by Diana Gabaldon - I'm a bit surprised at myself that this book makes my top ten of 2009 because it's not brilliant, it's not heart breaking, it's not highly innovative, it doesn't inspire my writing. But it's here because long ago I fell in love with Claire and Jamie and I love them still. I do want to someday create characters who populate someone else's mind the way Claire and Jamie live in mine.

French Milk by Lucy Knisley - this is the first graphic novel I've ever read, but it makes the top ten because I loved its way of telling a coming of age story. This book did such a good job of taking me elsewhere - to Paris, to my own waning days in college and the fears I had, to where I once was.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh - this book spoke my heart more clearly than I can speak it myself. It's a book I'll read again and again. It's wise. It's insightful. It's encouraging. All without being pretentious.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery - this book is in my top ten because re-reading it reminded me that book characters are like best friends from childhood who never change. Anne was just like I remembered her and I loved her just as much as I did when I was 12. It doesn't get much better than that.

The Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan - this series makes the list for two main reasons: 1) it's fun for the whole family (everyone except K has read these books) and 2) they made Greek mythology come alive for me and taught me about not only the gods, but the minor characters I'd never heard of.

The Alcatraz Series by Brandon Sanderson - I do not often read books that make me laugh. This list contains books about the holocaust, murders and atrocities. Alcatraz is none of these things. But I laughed aloud as I read it and I relished reading a book written by someone who clearly loves books as much or more (is that truly possible?) than I do.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave - I debated about whether to include this book or The Mysterious Benedict Society. I ultimately chose this one because I'd like to write like Chris Cleave does in this book. I'd like to fully inhabit a character so well that I can tell her story unflinchingly.

Notably did not make my cut:
The Help by Kathryn Stockett - the happy ending just did not cut it for me - there's no way these events don't have some fallout in the lives of the main characters
Graceling by Kristen Cashore - this book and it's prequel just left me with such a distaste for Cashore's bias against marriage that it tinges my memory of the book with sadness and frustration
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - the sequel was so far below this one that it brought this book down a notch in my estimation

While I love little more than reading, talking about and writing about books, I'd love to hear what books you read and loved in 2009. Are there some I missed? Do you hate some of the books I loved? Go ahead and tell me. I can take it.


The Robbins Five said...

Thank you so much for sharing these! I love having fresh books to read.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, Shannon! I loved The Host that you recommended to me awhile back, so I'm going to check out several on this list too. --Lana

RBM said...

Love this list!

RBM said...

Wait, I just reread your original review of The Help; you gave it four stars and didn't mention anything about disliking the ending. Did you change your mind when thinking back about it?

WordGirl said...

While I haven't gone back and re-read my review, my recollection is that I gave The Help 4 stars because of the ending, whether I said that specifically or not. The lack of satisfaction with the ending is, perhaps sadly, what has stayed with me about that book.