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Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Bloggers' Top 10 of 2009 (Weekly Geeks 2009-43)

(Well, I wasn't sure if I'd have a post up today, but what do you know? Here's one after all!)

I hadn't expected to start thinking about my end-of-the-year book choices quite yet, but Weekly Geeks is a little bit ahead of me:
This is a guest post by Jackie of Literary Escapism who has graciously offered to organize the Book Blogger Top 10 again this year.

Welcome to the Weekly Geeks Book Bloggers Top 10 of 2009!

You always see these “Top Whatever” lists that the newspapers/publishers put out and, for a second year in a row, we the book bloggers are going to put out our own Top 10 list. This week, the Weekly Geeks team and I are asking you to come up with your own Top 10 Books that were published in 2009 (books that were reprinted or re-released are not eligible, sorry).

Now, the idea is to only choose books that were published in 2009, regardless of what country you live in. If a book was released in the US in 2008, but released in your country in 2009, that's okay. I know there is still a month in a half left of 2009, but if you know there is a book coming out between now and Dec. 31st, then it’s still eligible.

This year, I am also asking for something a little more specific. When you submit your novels, you must include the genre it is from as well. Last year, when I was trying to categorize everything, I had to guess on a lot of novels and I know there were some people who disagreed with my choice.

You'll have two weeks to come up with your list before I begin compiling the voting booths. Then we'll put it to a vote. Last year, we ended up with over 1300 individual voters and I know we can make it just as big this year.

So what are your top 10 books of 2009?
This may be the first time I've actually read more than ten books published in the current year, so I'm not ending up with a "default" Top 10 list. Some of these will most likely be in the running for my personal "Books of the Year" lists too, but those will be drawn from all of the books I read in 2009, regardless of the year of publication. However, just to preserve the suspense and make you come back to find out about those later, I won't tell you which books those are.

My Top 10 of 2009 includes both fiction and nonfiction, and is listed in the order in which they were read; the titles are linked to my reviews, which are excerpted below as well.

Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni (memoir, rated Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni4/5): Some of the memoirs by journalists that I've read have felt more like a reporter's work than someone's own story - there's almost too much detachment. Honeymoon in Tehran does not suffer from that sense of distance. While I thought that Moaveni documented the political and social climate in post-September 11 Iran well, it felt - appropriately - like context for her own experience; she strikes an excellent balance between the personal and the political.

Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, by Ayelet Waldman (personal essays/memoir, rated 4/5): The book is an interesting combination of memoir and essay; each of the eighteen pieces in it (there's a significance to that number which is explained in the Introduction) revolves around personal incidents which Waldman relates to her own reflections and opinions on parenting and society. Her opinions are strong and expressed with eloquence and passion.

The Unit by Ninni HolmqvistThe Unit, by Ninni Holmqvist (fiction - speculative/dystopian, rated 4/5): The Unit takes place in a modern society where, if you make it to the age of fifty (if you're a woman - it's sixty for men) without becoming a parent and/or pursuing a socially-beneficial profession, you are considered "dispensable." You're not "needed" - relationships with spouses, siblings, and even pets don't count, nor do many jobs. However, there are still a few things you can do for "the community;" the Unit will make all the arrangements for them, and they'll make your life quite comfortable in the bargain.

Admission, by Jean Hanff Korelitz (fiction - literary, rated 4/5): Fiction in an academic setting frequently appeals to me. However, despite that, I saw this as a "domestic" novel; the suspense and drama in the story are of the everyday, character-driven variety, and much of the plot wasn't hard for me to anticipate. I like that too, though, so it wasn't a drawback. But I think one's reaction to the novel depends on how one feels about Portia, ultimately. I liked and related to her, and felt that her personal growth over the year spanned by the story was believable.

Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, by Lizzie Skurnick (literary essays/memoir, rated 3.75/5): Shelf Discovery is a thoroughly enjoyable trip back through the books you may have grown up with - and the ones that helped you grow up - especially if you were a girl growing up during the 1970's and '80's. Lizzie Skurnick has been discussing YA literature, and how it's influenced the women we've become, online for a while; those essays are expanded here. The book is divided into ten genre/thematic sections, including tearjerkers, thrillers, romances, "issues" literature, and the adult, "dirty" books that we really were too young for; the essays themselves are labeled "book reports" or, for less-remembered titles, "extra credit."

Still Alice by Lisa GenovaStill Alice, by Lisa Genova (fiction - women's/literary, rated 4/5): I had postponed reading Still Alice because I was pretty sure it would be a difficult book for me, emotionally - and it was, but not quite in the way I expected it to be.  It got under my skin, and it's stayed on my mind. It made me sad, although it didn't make me cry; but more than that, it scared the hell out of me. I was engrossed and moved by Alice's story, and I feel that it gave me a lot of insight into Alzheimer's that I didn't have before - but knowing more has made me more afraid of experiencing this than I was before, too.

The Possibility of Everything, by Hope Edelman (memoir, rated 3.75/5): Domestic drama frames this The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelmanstory, but its heart lies in the family's experiences with a hospitable inn-keeping family, their explorations of the rainforest and the ancient ruins of pre-Columbian Central America, and their visits with two healers.  Edelman's writing is conversational and full of detail, and her style is open and intimate; I found her voice appealing. I've never been especially curious about visiting Central America, but her descriptions of the sacred Mayan ruins made me think I'd like to see them. She brought me along on a journey with her family, and I never felt like an intruder. She revealed her self-awareness and shared her doubts and failings frankly; I was able to understand and empathize with them, even though I don't think I would have addressed things the same way.

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins (fiction - young-adult/dystopian, rated 4.25/5): Katniss returns to the Hunger Games in the Quarter Quell, an "all-star" edition held every 25 years and played by previous winners. The premise of the Games themselves fascinated me. It's the ultimate high-stakes reality-TV show, literally. They're broadcast around the clock throughout the country, and the tributes become overnight celebrities who gain sponsors and renown as their numbers dwindle. The contestants may form alliances or mark each other as immediate targets. Some of them are playing out a storyline that may or may not have been fully revealed to them, and they're all being manipulated and orchestrated by the Gamemakers who oversee everything. It's Survivor + Big Brother with some Lord of the Flies and a touch of Lost mixed in, and I couldn't pull myself away from it.

The Longest Trip Home, by John Grogan (memoir, rated 4/5): John Grogan is a born storyteller with a conversational writing style, and I found myself laughing out loud in numerous places while reading The Longest Trip Home, particularly during the first two sections. The last section of the book is more reflective and emotional, and readers with aging parents may feel it keenly. Grogan's issues with the Catholic Church particularly resonated with me, because I have similar ones of my own.

The Help by Kathryn StockettThe Help, by Kathryn Stockett (fiction - literary/historical, rated 4.25/5): I've just finished reading this, so my review isn't posted yet...but it probably doesn't matter, because you'll be seeing this one in many book bloggers' Top 10 lists. Kathryn Stockett's first novel is a vivid, fascinating, and memorable story about the black maids who keep the houses and care for the children of the white housewives of Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960's, the complex connections between them, and how the burgeoning civil-rights movement is beginning to change them all. This is another case of "a hundred book bloggers could be wrong, but they're not" in their praise for this novel; The Help is a must-read.

Which of these have you read? Let's discuss them in the comments, and tell me some of your 2009 favorites!

20 comments:

  1. Awesome list! I read Still Alice - why did I assume it was in 2008? I would count that as worthy. :)
    I want to read The Unit and Bad Mother and...

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  2. Great list of 2009! I would definitely include THE HELP on my list, along with Hornby's JULIET, NAKED. I am hoping to read Grogan's book, but more because I enjoy his conversational style more than the topic being of interest. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Great list. You have a couple on there that I'm really anxious to read.

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  4. Care - LibraryThing told me that Still Alice was 2009, so I went with that. I know it was self-published and circulated before a major publisher picked it up - maybe that was 2008?

    Novelwhore - I have Juliet, Naked on my Kindle, but probably won't read it until next year :-). And I agree with you about Grogan's writing style - I like it a lot.

    Kathy (Bermudaonion) - Aren't there always SO MANY books we get anxious to read :-)? I'm curious to see what other people put on their lists!

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  5. I completely agree about THE HELP. I just finished it and adored it!

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  6. I don't think that I've heard anything about "The Help" to date, but now that I've read your review I'll check it out! I'm looking forward to your actual review of it.

    I just started thinking about my Top 10 list- so many books, so little time! There were many great books that I read this year :)

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  7. Lenore - I was a little nervous about it, since it's been so praised, but now I know it was all deserved! My review will post tomorrow.

    Jonita - Maybe the book hasn't been as talked about in Canada? In any case, it's worth reading.

    I'll be posting more of my Books of the Year in a few weeks - this list was limited to those published in 2009, and some of my favorites were out earlier than that :-).

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  8. I'm really looking forward to reading 'Honeymoon in Tehran.' I bought the hardcover earlier this year after reading her other book 'Lipstick Jihad,' but I still haven't read it yet. I have no idea why! I'm glad it was one of your best books this year.

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  9. I really liked Catching Fire, and after the cliff Hanger I am dying for book three! Can't wait


    -Eric
    http://themockingjay.vndv.com

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  10. Kim - I'm reading the books in the wrong order, but I'm glad you liked Lipstick Jihad. I lucked into an ARC of Honeymoon in Tehran, but it's worth buying in hardcover :-).

    Eric - I think it's still on schedule for next summer; I know a lot of us HOPE so, anyway!

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  11. I haven't read any of these, but a few are on my tbr list.
    Like you, I'm not sure how many books I've read that were actually published in 2009. I'll need to figure that out for my 2009 wrap up lists.

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  12. Stacybuckeye - Actually, LibraryThing was really helpful with that. I've tagged every book I've read this year with "2009 review," and I sorted those by publication date - that let me find 2009 books very easily! It also confirmed that some of my favorite reading this year was not published this year :-).

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  13. I love that you were so detailed with your list, Florinda. :-) Lists like this are so much fun to read. :-)

    I still haven't managed to read Honeymoon in Tehran. Bad me, I know. :-(

    I'm really curious about The Unit and hope to one day give it a try for myself.

    I'm so grateful to you for encouraging me to read Still Alice this year. It's such a good book.

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  14. Wendy (Literary Feline) - I think you'll like Honeymoon in Tehran once you finally get around to reading it :-). The Unit kind of surprised me - I liked it more than I expected to.

    And I'm very glad you read Still Alice along with me - it really was good, and it's really important too.

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  15. There are few here I'd like to read including Honeymoon in Tehran.

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  16. Susan - I still remember parts of that one and I read it back in March, so that's a good sign :-).

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  17. I really enjoyed Admission and LOVED The Help.

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  18. Melissa - I'm still looking for someone who DIDN'T love The Help :-). Glad you liked Admission too; I know quite a few people who did, but plenty of others who were "meh" about it.

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  19. Gautami - Hope you can get to read it in 2010!

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