Favorite Books of 2009

trophyIt may surprise you to know that, despite the approximately seven hours of reading I do on an average work day, I try hard to find time to read for pleasure, too. It doesn’t always work–sometimes I’m burnt out after a long day to the point of eyeball explosion–but every so often I need a break from books for children, books I might be interested in signing, or books where my red pen longs to make corrections to simple sit down and enjoy a good story.

While I realize it’s a little late for retrospectives now that we’re nearly 5% of the way through 2010, I thought I’d compile a quick list of my favorite books for 2009. As you can imagine, I tend to read more books for children than books for adults, and the list reflects that. DISCLAIMER: These are books I happened to read during 2009, not necessarily books that were published during the calender year, and do not reflect the opinion of the entire agency.

So here, in no particular order, are a few of my favorite titles read during 2009:

  • Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn: Part homage, part parody of hard-boiled detective novels, Motherless Brooklyn features Lionel Essrog, a barking, spitting, tic-ridden investigator suffering from Tourette’s trying to solve the murder of his former employer. Filled with terrific descriptions, surprising phrases (Lionel’s constant reordering of sentences in his head has a poetic quality hidden in its absurdity), and hilarious situations, the wonderful voice and lead character mask the so-so mystery and leave you wanting more time in Lethem’s version of a disappearing Brooklyn.
  • Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief: I gushed about this one before and won’t repeat myself. Just a wonderful, wonderful book that has stuck in my head months after I finished it.
  • Suzanne Collins’ Catching Fire. I know, I know, it’s a huge bestseller. And, just like The Hunger Games before it, when I finished, I realized I didn’t buy some of the plot points. But Jesus, what a page-turner! I was lucky enough to borrow an ARC a few months before the release date and I read 4/5ths of the book on a flight to Texas. Thrilling, surprising, and with terrific action, the first two books of the trilogy left me drooling for more. A book that deserves the attention its received.
  • George Saunders’ CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: A friend kept insisting I read Saunders and suggested I start with this collection of short stories. While not every entry is a winner and the main characters tend to run together from story to story, these tales of depressed workers in horrible theme parks, overweight CEOs, and other losers in a depressing dystopian version of America are sad, moving, and often hilarious. Another great example of voice and the type of messed-up humor I love.
  • Dave Eggers’ What is the What: Easily my favorite book by Eggers, this tale of Valentino Achak Dang, one of Sudan’s Lost Boys, is horrifying, funny, and charming. The fact that much of the book is true (despite being classified a novel) made the work even more moving. I read in horror as Valentino encountered tragedy after tragedy, yet somehow managed to keep going after each blow. Another work that continues sticking with me long after I finished.

Finally, honorable mentions go to: M.T. Anderson’s Feed, Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, Kristin Cashore’s Fire, Stephen King’s Under the Dome, and others I’m likely forgetting.

How about you? What were some of your favorites in 2009?

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. A Northern Light, but Jennifer Donnelly. And Territory, by Emma Bull. I really wish that woman would write more than one book a decade…


  2. I had 27 favorites (out of 247 books read), but I’ll just list a few here:
    DEMON’S LEXICON, by Sarah Rees Brennan
    FLASH BURNOUT, by LK Madigan (just won the Morris Award)
    MAGIC UNDER GLASS, by Jackie Dolamore
    CARTER FINALLY GETS IT, by Brent Crawford
    WHEN YOU REACH ME, by Rebecca Stead
    ALIBI JUNIOR HIGH, by Greg Logstead
    GIVE UP THE GHOST, by Megan Crewe
    NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL, by Justina Chen Headley
    THE REALM OF POSSIBILITY, by David Levithan

    …last year was a great reading year! I’m thinking this one will be even better 🙂


  3. I’ll second Under The Dome and add The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.

    I’m glad you’ve made this post. I’m always looking for something new to read. Now I have a long list!


  4. The Child Thief by Brom.
    The War That Killed Achilles by Caroline Alexander.
    The Fall of the Roman Empire: a New History etc… by P.J. Heather

    I haven’t read much new this last year but I am re-reading Patrick O’Brian’s series because those are my escape from reality books. Plus he has the most interesting approach to series.


  5. I’ll go with Flash Burnout by LK Madigan and Lips Touch by Laini Taylor. Hm… Oh, and I really enjoyed Shiver and Perfect Chemistry.


  6. Tried to whittle down, but had a lot of books I loved this year–not all published in 2009.

    Marcelo in the Real World: Francisco Stork
    Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano (but she does love being in recitals): Peggy Gifford
    When You Reach Me: Rebecca Stead
    Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, and A Mango-Shaped Space: Wendy Mass
    Graceling: Kristin Cashore
    Catching Fire: Suzanne Collins

    Adult Fiction/nonfiction:
    Year of Living Biblically: AJ Jacobs
    Unaccustomed Earth: Jhumpa Lahiri
    Olive Kitteridge: Elizabeth Strout
    No Impact Man: Colin Beavan
    Bad Mother: Ayelet Waldman


  7. I read a lot of great books in 2009 – Candor, Marcello in the Real World, The Carbon Diaries, Ash, Silver Pheonix, Catching Fire… But, my four favorite reads in 2009 were:

    Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta (2009 Printz Award Winner)

    Liar, by Justine Larbalestier

    When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead

    Skulduggery Pleasant: The Faceless Ones, by Derek Landy

    I adored When You Reach Me, and think it’s one I’ll be giving as a gift and recommending for years. And Skullduggery Pleasant is one of my favorite series -fantastic, sarcastic voice and very cool cast of characters.

    But both Jellicoe Road and Liar have compelled me to come back time and again to leaf through the pages and find a section, almost like bits are stuck in my brain.

    Liar, particularly, has stayed in my head for months after reading it. I will likely re-read it again, and try again to weave together what I *think* was *true*. Brilliant book, that I wish was getting more attention for its writing and story.



  8. No,5% into the is not too late. I just did mine last week too. Here is my list:

    Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout)
    When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead)
    Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins)
    The Likeness (Tana French)
    Maze of Bones, Book 1 of the 39 Clues (Rick Riordan)
    Wintergirls (Laurie Halse Anderson)
    Wednesday Wars (Gary Schmidt)
    The Underland Chronicles (Suzanne Collins)
    Percy Jackson and The Olympians (Rick Riordan)


  9. Oh you had two of mine (The Book Thief and Catching Fire), but also Wake and Fade by Lisa McMann, and Gone Too Far by Jen Echols.


  10. Re-read Riddle-Master by Patricia McKillip. Love that book!
    I enjoyed the Skulduggery Pleasant books
    H.I.V.E (and its sequels)
    Look Me in the Eye
    Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains
    Princess of the Midnight Ball
    Just One Wish
    Forest Born
    Catching Fire
    Twice Upon a Marigold
    Princess Ben


  11. I like thinking about these things. I’ve read heaps this year but last winter is such a long time ago! This year I will have to actually take notes about what I’m reading for just this sort of question.

    But books that spring to mind include these:

    Alvin Ho (both books) — laughed out loud. Really. And Alvin is such an endearingly real boy

    Emily the Strange, The Lost Days — I love graphic novels, I love weird, I loved this.

    All five Percy Jackson, Demi-God extraordinaire books: (next page, next page, next page, ooh, next page, next page, wow, next page, clever! next page…)

    13 Reasons Why –I’d read so much about it, and yet it still pulled me along by the nose. Or the heart. That sounds better. By the heart.

    Secret Diary of a Part Time Indian — such a voice! If you had told me the plot and said, you’ll love this, I would have thought you were crazy. But I loved it.

    Savvy (I love magic and real life all mixed up)

    The Willoughbys (If children are to have adventures, the parents must be killed. Yes indeed.)

    The Penderwicks (because it brought back memories of first reading The Four Story Mistake)

    Odd and the Frost Giants. (I want to BE Neil Gaiman. Full stop. And then I’ll get to marry AFP and go to the Golden Globes and sit thinking with my amazing, dark, cavernous brain of story.)

    Oh, and Persepolis. Wow. And Oscar Wao was pretty amazing too.


  12. The Willoughbys (hilarious, esp on audio)

    and debut novel by my pal and Class of 2k9 co-president, Albert Borris,
    A great story about 4 teens who meet on the internet and make a suicide pact.
    Riveting and true to life.


  13. The favorites for 2009 that come to mind quickly are:

    Both SKIN HUNGER and SACRED SCARS by Kathleen Duey


    LIPS TOUCH THREE TIMES by Laini Taylor


  14. I love posts like these because of the great suggestions I can add to my must read list.

    Here are a few of my favorite reads of 2009:

    The Hunger Games/Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins)
    Love, Aubrey (Suzanne LaFleur)
    The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
    The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks (E. Lockhart)
    Shug (Jenny Han)
    Wolf Brother (Michelle Paver)
    Gossamer (Lois Lowry)


  15. Ingrid Law’s Savvy was one of my favorite books last year.

    I read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games last year (Catching Fire is on my to-be-read pile), and, although I agreed with the reviews that it was a great page-turner, I ended it thinking I prefered her Underland series, although I am looking forward to reading Fire.

    I also read the third and fourth Percy Jackson books last year (the last one is also on my to-be-read pile) and loved them, even if the villian does seem to be following the Voldemort pattern.

    And I read the first book in Michael Buckley’s Fairy Tale Detectives series, which was a lot of fun.


  16. Have you read Alan Bennett’s novella, The Uncommon Reader? Yes, it’s for adults and yes, it’s from 2007, but it’s like grapefruit sorbet in the midst of a feast.

    I’m in a MFA program in writing for children and have been reading children’s literature exclusively and happily. Then a friend handed me The Uncommon Reader – great for the psyche and soul and a fine example of craft.


  17. Ditto to The Hunger Games/Catching Fire, The Book Thief and 13 Reasons Why. Add to those: The Little Book by Selden Edwards, Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems by John Grandits, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

    I also reread and thoroughly enjoyed The Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce, which got me through a traumatic week.

    My selections are limited because I spent the summer plowing through War and Peace. Please note that it isn’t among my favorites, but Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me has just been added to my must read list. Thanks.


  18. I did like The Hunger Games; also “The Forest of Hands and Teeth” by Carrie Ryan. Loved Kiki Lon’s “Enter the Parrot” a fun kung fu romp, and “Unwind” by Neal Schusterman which left me wondering ‘what if?’.


  19. My top five are:

    Star of Kazan, Eva Ibbotson
    Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
    The Year the Swallows Came Early, Kathryn Fitzmaurice
    A Countess Below Stairs, Eva Ibbotson
    The Amaranth Enchantment, by Julie Berry


  20. The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver!


  21. And the reading pile grows, thanks for sharing!

    Some of mine:

    Graceling-Kristen Cashore (the sequel is out, as well)
    Evermore-Alyson Noel
    Wondrous Strange-Lesley Livingston
    Impulse-Ellen Hopkins


  22. the Secret, by Beverly Lewis


  23. I chronicled my entire reading year here http://writeupmylife.com/2010/01/05/to-all-the-books-i-read-last-year/, but my top five were:

    1. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
    2. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
    3. Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips
    4. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
    5. The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon


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