Every December I enjoy looking back over my reading journal and reminiscing about the different books I read over the past year. Most books elicit some type of memory of where I was or what I was doing while I was reading it in addition to a recollection of the plot. While I enjoy compiling a list of "best" books of the year, I also know that my list only encompasses what I read in a year. There are so many great books I still have sitting in my TBR piles, some of what I read in 2009 is already several years old, and my "best" might not be what anyone else would pick. So, with that disclaimer, here's my "best" list of 2009:
1. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld - a fictionalized version of Laura Bush's life story. For whatever reason, even though I know it's fiction I have a hard time separating Laura Bush from American Wife. I liked Laura Bush before reading this, and I still like her after.
2. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford- I read this one right when it was published; Target picked it as their book club pick. A World War II story about a Chinese American living through World War II in the Pacific Northwest. Years later he tries to find the Japanese American girl he befriended and fell in love with after they were separated during the war.
3. Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center - this one is just light women's fiction -not quite chick lit- about a mother who is bogged down by the duties of child-rearing. By novel's end she has made some changes in her life making her happier and healthier.
4. The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson - the second and third part of a trilogy (the third book won't be out in the US til 2010) these installments are suspenseful, entertaining and impossible to put down. The third book provides a satisfying resolution. This is one series I would recommend to anyone.
5. Coop by Michael Perry- I always enjoy Perry's offbeat memoirs. His ability to live without extravagance should be a lesson to all and he provides humor as well as perspective about life in general as he navigates the various twists and turns of adulthood.
6. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls - this book - although labeled as fiction- is what I call a fictionalized memoir about Walls' grandmother. I fell in love with Walls and her unique parents in her memoir. The Glass Castle. Learning about her grandmother sheds some light on Walls' own parents and their erratic behavior.
7. In His Sights by Kate Brennan - I read this early in 2009 and still think about it every once in a while. Brennan (who writes using a pseudonym) recounts with chilling detail her own experience being stalked by an ex-boyfriend. This educated and intelligent woman is still his prey and shows how little is being done for women who live through this type of psychological torment.
8. Shanghai Diary by Ursula Bacon- I'm not sure if it is the fact that this one is still fresh in my mind, my love of memoirs, or the interesting perspective provided in this book, but Bacon's account of her years in Shanghai after fleeing Hitler's persecution in Germany are so interesting to read about. I am anxious to read more of her work.
9. My book of the year - and it has made numerous lists- The Help by Katherine Stockett. I love, love, love this book. And I will gush about it and call it a "must read" for a long time. This is a debut novel, set in the South, exploring so many themes -friendship, racism, mother/daughter relationships - to name only a few, and has a wonderful plot, characters I wanted to laugh with, cry with, and a few I just wanted to haul off and hit. It will take a long time to find another book I feel so strongly about.
I still have my own personal "best" YA books, but since I now have two children waiting in line for the computer, those may need to wait until later tonight.