Friday, December 18, 2009

The Best Books of 2009

In the generous spirit of the holidays, this week I posed the (impossible) question of "What was the best book you read this past year?" to the rest of my fellow Warwick's booksellers. The idea was that they could share with you, the reader, the books that they most enjoyed from this past year. Early responses were, well, mixed...
"Best book published in 2009?"
"What if the best book I read this year was from 1748?"
"I can't decide - there were too many I loved."
"I can't decide - I hated them all."
"Awwwww, c'mon!"
"I told you to stay away from me! You're fired."
Despite the hardship imposed upon them by this monumental question, most of us were able to come up with a favorite book from 2009!

James:  "I'm fudging a bit on my pick for the best book of 2009 since it was originally published in 1964. However, reading A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition, I remembered how reading Hemingway shaped the way I write. All it takes is one true sentence and nobody did it better than Papa."

Adriana:  "Labor Day by Joyce Maynard. It's about a lonely boy who lives an isolated life with an even lonelier mother. They spend Labor Day weekend with an escaped convict and it changes their lives forever."

Heather:  "Why is the The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton one of the best books of 2009? Well, perhaps it’s because every member of the staff who has read it loves and raves about it to anyone who asks. Or, perhaps it’s because Kate Morton is an author who capably weaves a spellbinding tale, one that moves smoothly between time periods exploring the lives of three women and their mysteriously interlocking life stories. With alternating narratives that are gripping and brilliantly told, The Forgotten Garden holds the reader’s attention in a way few novels can. Simply put, it is mesmerizing and thus my favorite novel from 2009."

Emily:  "Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. I have a weird fascination with twins. And England. This is a (not scary) ghost story with a twisted aunt and a pair of English twins with a great surprise ending by the author of The Time Traveler's Wife. And its a lot better than The Time Traveler's Wife, by the way."

Alice:  "Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize. For those who love Tudor history, a feast. The ever-fascinating story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, told through the life of an unlikely hero, Thomas Cromwell, chief of staff to Cardinal Wolsey and survivor of his fall to become Henry's divorce lawyer, trusted counselor, and, with Thomas Cranmer, architect of the English Reformation. Readers who remember Cromwell depicted as a conniving, remorseless, behind-the-scenes operator (A Man For All Seasons) will be startled to find in Mantel's character a Renaissance man - compassionate, sexy, and smart. Beautifully written, historically accurate and expertly realized, this novel will make you look at familiar Tudor characters in an entirely new light."

Vicki:  "Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom is a true story of hope, love, discovery, and personal reflection.  Albom reconnects with his former rabbi, Albert Lewis, who is ill and asks Mitch to write his eulogy.  So begins eight years of regular visits with Albert.  Along the way, Albom is sent to do a feature story on Christian Pastor Henry Covington, a former drug dealer and addict, whose faith has changed his life.  Albom's own faith had become one he didn't practice and one he didn't discuss.  Slowly, through his encounters with these two men, his perception of faith is changed.  Albom says, 'When things you assumed were going to be there forever are not there, you drift back to something you once had and you wonder why you let it go in the first place.'  This book has a timely message for all of us."

Margie:  "Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom. What a wonderful true story Mitch Albom has presented to us - with gratifying results. Have a Little Faith has made my beliefs in a higher power just that much stronger. We all need to have a little faith - not just in God, but in each other."

Jane:  "A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick - filled with great, suspenseful, seductive writing. A great fiction debut."

Rhonda:  "The Natural Laws of Good Luck: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage by Ellen Graf.  Ellen Graf, a sculptor living on a farm in upstate New York, decided to travel to China to meet her friend's brother.  Almost immediately in spite of a serious language barrier, they decided to marry.  Was it lust or love at first sight?  Neither.  It was a leap of faith unlike anything I have ever read.  Even better, this book is a true story.  Graf's memoir is a beautiful illustration of what those marriage vows of  'For Better or Worse, For Richer or Poorer, In Sickness and In Health' really mean."

John:  "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. In evocative and moving prose, Kristof and WuDunn present a persuasive case that solving many of the world’s problems rests with reducing and, hopefully, eliminating the oppression of women. Throughout the book, they present harrowing stories of women and girls, but many of these stories are ones of hope and triumph over adversity. These stories also point the way to improving the global situation of women through education and microfinance. The authors hope that they will help to create a movement and offer a tool kit and examples for people who do want to participate. Quite simply, one of the most well-written and important books I’ve read."

Barbara:  "The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver tells the story of a sensitive, young Mexican-American boy who is born to write. An avid journal-keeper, his diaries become increasingly more interesting as he becomes involved with Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Leon Trotsky and the People's Revolution in Mexico. When he finally returns to the US, he writes the novels he was meant to write, becomes famous and again becomes embroiled in the political hotbed of the McCarthy era."

Janet:  "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen. I loved this book!  T.S. is gifted & precocious, wise beyond his years, but still, all-in-all just a 12-year-old boy. Travel with him by train across America as he runs away from his home in Montana to Washington, D.C. to receive a Smithsonian honor. Share his adventures along the way as he finds out about the elements of life that can't be mapped or diagrammed."

Scott:  "2666 by Roberto Bolano.  Every great independent bookstore has that young self-important firebrand of a bookseller who thinks that Roberto Bolano is the next great immortal of the outlaw canon of literature.  I so didn't want to be that bookseller, but I have to say 2666 fullfills my criteria for a masterpiece.  I have no idea what it's about, but that it creates its own unique, poetic, beguiling world that I found to be unlike anything I've ever read.  It is a meditative, dreamlike labyrinth through the author's own journey towards death.  Forget the hype, dismiss the tabloid nature of his biography and read this book, if you read any Bolano."

Seth:  "Tough call between T.S. Spivet and this, but the title says it all: Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr. Imagine that you were born with the absolute, unquestionable knowledge that the world would end in a fiery comet collision somewhere around your 36th birthday. How would you live your life knowing that everything you say, think, or do is relatively futile – or at least decisively finite? Would you throw it all away, would you try & save the world, or would you This was a book that completely caught me off guard – both with Currie’s brilliant narrative crafting and with the story’s powerful, raw humanity. Sharp, intelligent humor permeates every page & is the driving force behind it all – without laughter, the very idea of this would be too morose & depressing. Instead, Junior’s life story makes for one of the most original & compelling novels I have read in a long while. It’s rare that you read a new novel & come out the other side knowing that it will become one of your all-time favorites...."

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