I’ve been looking around at all of those "best of 2009" lists that have been popping up on every website (including this one), TV show, or magazine trying to put together my own top 10 list of books in 2009, but after much thought and many variations, I’ve decided to ditch ’09 and present a list of 10 of my favorite books that most people have probably not read. It’s a mouthful, I know, but it’s my hope that someone will read this eclectic list and find a treasure.
So here they are in no particular order:
Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
Yes, I realize that this is a play, not a book, and it’s Shakespeare, so not that unheard of, but let me tell you all, this gruesome, brilliant, revenge-filled play is one of Shakespeare’s least known works. It’s gritty; there’s murder, rape, and general mayhem, cutting off of appendages, interracial affairs, war, politics, romance…I could keep going on. Mainly, this is my all time favorite of Shakespeare’s tragedies, the only one I can quote full passages from, and if you haven’t yet given it a whirl, well, you’re just not a true fan of The Bard.
How to be Lost by Amanda Eyre Ward
I’ve recommended this novel many times over the last several years and have been happy to see a few book clubs pick it up. The story of three young sisters, Caroline, Madeline, and Ellie, driven together to create a world of their own in order to survive a neglectful mother and alcoholic father only to be torn apart by the sudden disappearance of five-year-old Ellie. A tragic, yet humorous novel that explores the secret life of sisters and the coping mechanisms used to deal with an unexpected loss, How to be Lost is a read that touches the heart.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Just because I love to mix it up. This is the ultimate in computer geek sci-fi & is a brilliantly written look into the not too distant future. Stephenson creates a world where high-tech pizza deliverymen work for the mob and sim-lives and avatars are more important than reality. Action, adventure, mystery, and murder make for one thrilling read. This is by far my favorite science fiction read from the last decade.
Jennifer Government by Max Barry
First of all, why haven’t you read this book? I mean, it has everything, murder, mystery, romance, and of course Marketing. Yeah, I said Marketing. Jennifer Government presents a world where PR and Marketing rule the very air you breathe, where your last name reflects the company you work for, your children’s schools are run by toy companies and fast food restaurants, your stadiums are named after large companies (oh, wait, that’s the real world), and corporations will do anything to make a sale, even kill. Sound familiar? No? Well, the next time you watch the Chargers at Qualcomm, or catch a foul ball at Petco Park, a bell just might go off. I’m kidding, sort of…but sarcasm aside, this is a great book, fun, with some fantastic twists, and a good laugh at the free-market system.
A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner
This is actually a short story, about 44 pages total, but it is one of my all time favorites. I don’t want to go over the plot too much, because it’s short enough that I could easily and inadvertently give away the ending, but think of old south, and what happens when a reclusive gentlewoman passes away, leaving behind an eyebrow raising mystery for a gawking town.
Mallory’s Oracle by Carol O’Connell
While not the best in the series (that would be Find Me), this is the first book in O’Connell’s "Detective Kathleen Mallory" series. I don’t usually like police procedurals, but this series is so unique that I can’t help but love it. Mallory, a math and computer prodigy, former street kid, and sociopath, was taken in as a young child by Detective Louis Markowitz and his wife. Now a brilliant, if slightly uncouth, police officer, she prowls the streets looking for her adopted father’s killer. Sounds simple, but that’s deceptive, in reality this novel and the series itself has depth, exploring the psychology of Mallory through the eyes of those surrounding her. I own every book in this series, and each copy is worn and very well read, can’t say that often which is why I recommend it here.
Movie-Made America by Robert Sklar
Yes, I read non-fiction, occasionally. Even if you’re not a huge movie fan you should take a look at this book. A cultural history, this book goes beyond looking at movies as an art form, taking in the history of the creation of film, the movie industry, production, distribution, regulation, and how it all came together to help shape America as we know it today. This history is surprisingly easy to read and full of interesting facts, taking a unique look at how something some consider as art, others as entertainment, has made such a large mark on American society.
Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart
Published in 1955, Madam, Will You Talk? is Mary Stewarts first novel and one of her best. Set in the south of France, post-WWII, the novel places an unsuspecting widow right in the middle of a murderous plot. Twists, turns, and one really great car chase make for an entertaining read by the one of the queen’s of the gothic romantic suspense genre.
Just Ella by Margaret Haddix
I’ll preface this by saying that this is a teen novel. That being said, I love fairy tales, especially those that have been tweaked a bit. Not all are done very well, but in the case of this book, Haddix hit a homerun. A story that can easily be enjoyed by adults, Just Ella, is the story of Ella, the real Cinderella, a girl bored with castle life, and a rather dull, dimwitted Prince Charming, who yearns to move beyond the tired plotline and does. Totally original, this story enchants, but not with magic, with solid storytelling about what happens when you take your life into your own hands.