What Was Your Favorite Book of 2009?

Last January on this blog I started a “Currently Reading” page (it’s now under the “About Me” tab). And it’s turned out to be an enlightening thing.

Before that, I’d never made a list of all the books I’d read in a year, so I didn’t realize I read fewer books than I’d supposed. (!) And I had the perception I read as much literary as romance, but clearly I’m heavy on the romance. (At least I was this year.) It’s also strange to think I read Outlander this year when it seems like such a long time ago, or to remember that I read The Namesake this year and not last.

Do you keep a list of all the books you’ve read each year? If not on a blog, then in a journal book or notepad? I highly recommend it — you might find a few surprises of your own. 

(So go get a piece of paper — Start your list for 2010, and then this time next year we’ll talk about how cool it is, okay?)

In the meantime, what’s the best book you read this year?

As I scan my list of everything I read in 2009, I realize I have a hard time selecting one favorite. I’ll have to narrow it down to maybe three. …

Here are all the books I read in 2009 (in order):

  • To Kill a Mockingbird — Harper Lee. Looooved it. Absolutely. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love this book. Atticus Finch is an amazing character, and hearing the story told from the perspective of his little girl, Scout, is a treat. This book is all about integrity — and how much courage it takes to have it.
  • Holly — Jude Deveraux. Okay, I finally finished this one. I’m usually a Jude Deveraux fan, but this one was just so-so.
  • I Was Told There’d Be Cake — Sloane Crosley. These were really funny essays about being a young single woman in NYC. It got a lot of criticism about her seemingly-conjured-up complaints (about a life that, truly, isn’t much to complain about. She’s very young, and seems to have led a rather priveleged life in NYC.). But I still enjoyed it. Writing humor is hard, but Crosley makes it look easy. And I laughed out loud several times — I would definitely re-read these essays for a quick pick-me-up, so this book will probably reside on my nightstand.
  • Things That Make Us [Sic] — Martha Brockenbrough. Funny book on grammar. I recommend if you’re a grammar nerd like me.
  • The Namesake — Jhumpa Lahiri. Beautiful, beautiful language — I love Lahiri’s lyrical style. But I never liked the protagonist — I found myself feeling rather irritated with him — so the plot started to feel a little long to me. I will definitely read more Lahiri, though. I’ll follow a great writer to the ends of the earth. …
  • Glitter Baby — Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Early work of SEP. Not my fave, but it was fun to see her writing in the “early days.” Missing the quirky humor that came to mark her later work, so she may not have been as comfortable with it here.
  • OutlanderDiana Gabaldon. Whew! What a great book. This a Romancelandia classic — always somewhere in the Top 10 of the “Top 100 Romances” list — and now I see why. It’s a historical time-travel, set in the early 1700s in Scotland, and Gabaldon shares a lot of fun historical elements about that time period. The characters are so well drawn — we really “get” Clare, and we truly fall in love with Jamie, with his Scottish Highlander brutality that softens when it comes to loving Clare. It’s verra sexy. … I look forward to reading the next in the series, and Gabaldon has the sixth (or is it 7th?) coming out this fall 2009.
  • What I Did for Love — Susan Elizabeth Phillips. This is her latest release, following the re-release of “Glitter Baby” (and with an appearance by some of “Glitter Baby”s characters). I wasn’t quite as fond of this one (felt the same way about “Glitter Baby,” actually). It’s a theme she’s done in the past — Hollywood, actors, child actors, paparazzi, etc. — and it might be lovely to some, but just isn’t a theme I’m interested in. I had a hard time liking this particular hero and caring much about the heroine. But I love SEP’s writing style, so I had fun reading it anyway.
  • Hell-HeavenJhumpa Lahiri. A short story from DailyLit (you can download for free here. DailyLit has other writers you can purchase, but they offered Pulitzer-Prize winner Lahiri for free, which I snapped up, being a new fan of hers and all.) As usual, Lahiri told this tale beautifully — I love her way with words.
  • Blogging for Dummies (2nd Edition)Susannah Gardner, Shane Birley. OUTSTANDING book to help you if you’re just getting started blogging. It’s basic enough to be easy to follow but with loads and loads of excellent “hot tips” and so many examples of good blogs that I’ll be researching them all year! For those of you just getting going, you must read this book!
  • Much Ado About You /Kiss Me, Annabel/ The Taming of the Duke Eloisa James. I read these stories in rapid succession. They’re a series about the Essex sisters: Tess, Annabel and Imogen. I couldn’t find the fourth book, which is about the fourth sister Josie, so haven’t read that one yet. These books sort of reminded me of “Little Women” … only a bit sexier. 🙂 I enjoyed Eloisa James’ style immensely. Here’s an interesting article about her here in USA Today. I really like her website, too, which is here.
  • Enchanting PleasuresEloisa James. Started this one when I couldn’t find Josie’s story above, and … I think I liked it even better! This story about “Gabby” and Quill was really cute, and is also part of a series — but it’s an older series, so the other two books are part of a rerelease. Of course, now I’ll have to go track those other two down!
  • Midsummer MoonLaura Kinsdale. Love Laura Kinsdale!!! This woman writes lovely sentences! I also love her tortured heroes. This book, however (Merlin and Ransom Falconer), wasn’t my favorite. Ransom wasn’t a sufficiently tortured hero, and I couldn’t get into Merlin at all. But I still love LK and am looking forward to the next one. I plan to work my way through her entire backlist.
  • Santa, Honey — Kate Angell, Sandra Hill, Joy Nash. I’m a big sucker for Christmas anthologies. I like the novella format: They’re super fast to read, so I can cover a lot of stories and a lot of authors in a short period. Plus I love Christmas stories to get me in a Christmas mood. Plus I wanted to read another contemporary (after a few historicals in a row) and I needed something fast and light while I worked on editing my own manuscript. … These fit the bill.

As for my favorites? I’d have to say, in order:

1.  To Kill a Mockingbird (Heartstrings. All tugged. I just loved Atticus, and I loved Scout’s perspective telling this story.)
2.  Hell-Heaven (I think the full book of Lahiri’s stories will be the first thing I buy with my Christmas gift card. Her writing is so lyrical. Hard to find writers with such a constant rhythm to their words. …)
3. Outlander (Every romance reader loves Outlander! Now I see why. …)

What about you? I can’t wait to hear your favorites!

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22 thoughts on “What Was Your Favorite Book of 2009?

  1. I didn’t keep a list, but I think it is a great idea that I am gonna do for next year! As for my favorite book I read, well – lets see….EARNING WINGS!! 😉

  2. Well I am sad to say that I’ve started about 5 books this passed year and have yet to finish a one.
    However my wonderful wife “Rocked The House” and suggested to her parents to get me this book I said I’d like to read. The book is called FAMILY OF SECRETS about the “Bush dynasty, America’s invisible government, and the hidden history of the last fifty years.”
    I am psyched to read it and have yet to put it down! So while I have yet to finish it, I must say it is my favorite book of 2009!
    Thanks honey!

  3. Debi — Aw, shucks! Thanks for saying “Earning Wings” was one of your favorites. 😉 Now 2010 will be road to getting it published. … Thanks SO MUCH for all your help and support!

    Superman — Ah, “Family of Secrets,” huh? That will be an interesting one to lead off your 2010 list. And you have all those cool-looking history ones from your dad, too, which will keep you busy. … You’ve got a lot of reading to do!

  4. I do keep a list and it’s on Shelfari.com. I find my rating is inconsistent and often dependent on my mood (do you ever have those “there’s no way I’m giving anything a perfect score” days even though you loved the book?). Like you I was surprised to see that some of the favorites I thought I read this year were actually read 2 years ago!!

    Unfortunately my 2009 favorites weren’t book club books (sorry fellow book clubbies). They were: THE LOST by Daniel Adam Mendelsohn, DROP CITY by T.C. Boyle, and CUTTING TO STONE by Abraham Verghese. The first one actually lead me to contact family on my dad’s side that I had never met before so it definitely had an impact on me.

    My favorite 2009 book club books were TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY. The one that stuck with me the most and is therefore a runner up was Toni Morrison’s A MERCY.

    And I’m excited because we’re starting our 2010 list with one of my all-time favorite books – THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver. Nothing better than starting off a new year with a good book. I think that’s a good omen.

  5. Hi, Lauran! Oooh, Shelfari is a great idea for keeping a book list! I tried LibraryThing.com, which I liked for a bit because I could connect it to Facebook, but maybe I’ll check out Shelfari, too. I know a lot of people like it. Seems like a lot of work to set up initially, but after that it will always serve as a great reference.

    Your list was interesting! Did you find those ones through reviews or word of mouth? Are you going to put any of those on our book club list for 2010?

    And I’m excited about The Poisonwood Bible, too. I can’t believe I’ve never read anything by Barbara Kingsolver, since she’s been recommended to me several times. This is the day. … 🙂

  6. But the one that I loved the most was ACHERON by Sherrilyn Kenyon. She built a specific character up through out 14 books of her Dark-Hunter series, killing us fans by stringing us all along with bits and pieces of his life. And then, finally, she published a 736 page novel of back story and conclusion that rocked me. I finished it in one sitting. I have never gone from tears, to laughter, to cussing, to swooning, to screaming, to grinning like a big idiot, in one sitting and with one book. And not just have those emotions but really experienced them The back story shows everything that this grown man has been through, things not easily written because it’s more of the norm for such abuse to be taken out on women, and yet her writing never takes away his manliness. It was BRILLIANTLY done. It stands as my favorite paranormal book ever. I’m always wanting to reread it but it is emotionally exhausting and wonderful and inspirational. It is not for the faint of heart. I think I might make it a yearly read. I may even possibly make it a new year read, now that I’m thinking about it.

    My other favorite books are TO DIE FOR by Linda Howard and THE UGLY DUCKING by Iris Johansen. Those two and ACHERON stand on equal ground for many reasons, though they are all three of different genres. But ACHERON I read this year, the other two I discovered years ago.

    GREAT post idea!

  7. Yes Laurie I am going to be reading thru this whole coming year! My father got me 3 amazing books on the “true” first discoveries of the Americas. I can’t waitto jump on those too, but I must be disciplined and go in order or I’d be all over the place. A fun year of reading is ahead of me that’s for sure!
    Thanks to everyone for the fantastic reads!

  8. I don’t know why I started that sentence of with a ‘but’, lol. Oy!

    You can connect librarything to your facebook? I didn’t know that. I use it as well. Imma have to connect mine! Hey, we are friended on FB, right?

  9. I was thinking about DROP CITY for 2010 book club. He has been a favorite author or mine for years and I was just looking for another of his to read and thought this one sounded interesting. CUTTING FOR STONE I read about through BookBrowse.Com. Can’t remember where I heard about THE LOST but I had heard about it and then found the book at the bargain table at B&N one day. Best $5 I ever spent – it’s a gem.

  10. Hi Laurie,
    I have to admit that my favorite 2009 book club book was TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. That classic still holds up to this day and I surprised myself by liking it as much as I did. I have even seen the movie 2x (also saw it years ago), and Gregory Peck plays the Atticus character quite well. I missed THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY book club meeting, but I had read that a few years ago and remember liking that a lot.
    I’m reading THE POISONWOOD BIBLE now, and look forward to our discussion of it for our January book club meeting. Happy New Year Laurie. Looking forward to 2010. See you then!

  11. I use Shelfari (www.shelfari.com) to keep my lists of what I’ve read and what I want to read. I love doodling away some time there and getting ideas from seeing what other people enjoy reading. I went there to look over my reading from this year to answer your question.

    I had a very good reading year. I resolved to read more nonfiction, which I intended as a discipline, but I have completely surprised myself by liking, in general, the nonfiction I read this year more than the fiction! Of course, my nonfiction list had been building for years, whereas when I really want to read a novel, I read it pretty quickly.

    My favorite book club book was most definitely TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, but that seems almost cheating since it was chosen as a popular, classic favorite. I think my second favorite was THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, but I am just now in the middle of THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE, and it is a great, engaging read for the holiday time at home.

    My favorite new-to-me book (to eliminate Mockingbird), was probably VELVET ELVIS by Rob Bell, a fresh (and not uncontroversial, at least for the fundamentalists) look at Christianity–it was stimulating, refreshing, and challenging. One of the few books that I turned right over and read again immediately. I also thoroughly enjoyed THE CLOISTER WALK by Kathleen Morris–its moments of greatness were sporadic, but deeply felt by me, as she melded her insights on writing, faith, and a contemplative life (which reminds me, I also loved TRAVELING MERCIES by Anne Lamott–a clear theme to my nonfiction year!)

    Enough from me. I should write my own blog! (No, Laurie, I shouldn’t!)

  12. Sorry–I wrote my comment before reading all the references to Shelfari. Laurie, I like LibraryThing but after a couple of hundred books you have to pay. Shelfari is free, and I’ve ‘met’ some good friends there who have become Facebook friends as well.

  13. Crystal — Your review of Acheron has me intrigued. I love the idea of doing “backstory” at the end, and enlightening readers in an almost “oh, by the way” fashion. Actually, the TV show “Lost” did this, and I found it thrilling every time. So I’ll have to check out Acheron. Although starting another series does seem intimidating to me — I still need to rock my way through the Outlander series! Yikes.

    As for LibraryThing and Facebook, yes it connects, but read Rosy’s comment about Shelfari vs. LibraryThing. … I might have to switch! And no, Crystal, we’re not connected on Facebook — feel free to connect to me there!!

  14. Lauran — Looking forward to whatever you recommend for the book club! One thing I love most about our book club is reading things others recommend that you might never have picked up. I find SO MANY great reads that way. (THE SPARROW always leaps to mind!)

    Lauri — Oh, I missed DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, although I really wanted to read it. Maybe this year. With it’s true-life-story infusion, I thought Chris would really like it, too. And Chicago has always kind of fascinated me.

  15. Rosy — Yes, you should start your own blog! 😉 (You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?) Seriously, look at Incurable Logophilia in my sidebar — I could totally see you doing a blog like that. She lists all the books she plans to read, then basically reviews them. Sometimes she does “studies” of certain authors she wants to read and reads everything written by them. She reads in many languages, so many of her authors are foreign, but I think it’s a great idea and her blog is so intelligent and well-written. Plus she has an entire compilation of all her best reads. (She’s also a fiction writer and translator herself — and a new mom! She’s amazing!) Anyway, I digress. …

    And besides — maybe you get to do all of that on Shelfari? Plus you get to connect to other readers right away with that, huh? Might be easier than a blog.

    Also — loved your suggestions, and interesting that you were on a nonfiction kick. That Anne Lamott one sounds particularly interesting.

    And thanks so much for the great tip on Shelfari vs LibraryThing! I didn’t realize LT made you pay after awhile. That’s an important consideration and an excellent tip.

  16. Wow, not sure I had a clear favorite from this year in terms of a new discovery, yet I can name several from past years. But, not being much for genre fiction, I’ve enjoyed reading Walter Mosley here and there this past decade. Most of his books have focused on his father’s LA, post-WWII Los Angeles centered around the black community. He has just started a fresh series, and is, now writing more contemporary mysteries set in New York, his home, starting with THE LONG FALL, which I read earlier this year. There is a satisfying clarity and an economy to his writing that I really like. (His non-fiction is equally direct, I’m noticing, in THIS YEAR YOU WRITE YOUR NOVEL. One paragraph about the discipline of writing everyday, no matter what, resonated and I can almost quote it verbatim, having only read it once.) My favortie book of his so far, stepping outside of genre, is ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED, ALWAYS OUTGUNNED. I am thinking about it for next year’s book club list, something I read after finishing an anthology of prison writing in America—context for Mosley’s focus on a man living his life 8 years after being released from prison—so it had more depth of meaning and humanity for me.

    I loved TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD all over again, too. THe movie was playing the whole time in my head as I was reading. There is so much compassion and love infused in Gregory Peck’s voice as Atticus alone. And the kindness and humanity, heroism, justice trying to overtake injustice. The effectiveness of Black and white film instead of color. And the young Robert Duvall playing Boo Radley—but we were taling about the book, right!

    Anyway, I am definitely going keep a running list of 2010 books that I read. Great idea, Laurie.

  17. I read all 7 of the Harry Potter books back-to-back this year and I’m going to say THE DEATHLY HALLOWS was my favorite book just because of the sense of loss it left me with. I had to re-read the ending the next day because I couldn’t imagine my life without Harry Potter.

  18. Hi, Barbara! Interesting that you went on a Walter Mosley kick. It’s fun, though, to read one author over several books, especially when you get to throw in some nonfiction as well, and it makes all the reading richer. And MOCKINGBIRD was, apparently, a clear favorite for our club. It’s just a book that really stays with you. I actually haven’t seen the movie yet, so I’ll have to add that to my movie list. 🙂

  19. Hi, Jersey Girl — Funny you should mention HARRY POTTER. I was just thinking about reading aloud a bit to the kids, and Harry Potter was the one I was thinking of starting with. Neither Rene, Nathan, or even Chris for that matter have read it, but I feel like it’s a “cultural necessity” for them — so many references to it just in everyday life. I think they’d be missing out if they didn’t hear the story. So we might do that. … Interesting to note your fave of the series was DEATHLY HALLOWS. Have you seen any of the movies?

  20. In 2009, I read approx 400 books. I was in the hospital for two months and laid up the entire rest of the year–lots of reading time. Books are my great escape from a life filled with difficult health and challenging days. Some of the books I read meant more to mtangan others. The following are the ones that really stick out of the crowd, at least to me: Elizabeth Lane. THE STRANGER; Gayle Eden. SHAMELESS; Lisa Kleypas. Her WALLFLOWERS’ series; Lauren Dane’s CHASE BROTHERS series; Lori Foster. THE SECRET LIFE OF BRYAN; and Jennifer Ashley. THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE.
    Each of these books/series was different in it’s own wonderful way. The heroines were interesting, independent thinkers, the heroes were strong men with good hearts.

  21. Hi, Barbara! Wow, 400 books? Hate to hear your reason was illness, but glad to hear that books provided a great escape for you. Do you keep a list of books you’ve read on Shelfari or some other online organizer? I’ve been meaning to read Lisa Kleypas. I know she’s very popular. But I have to say that the one I keep picking up is in first person (are all of hers in first person?), and I just don’t want to get that “rhythm” in my head while I’m writing myself in third (it confuses my own writing), so I keep putting it down. But one of these days when I’m between writing projects! And Lauren Dane is someone I want to read, too. I see she’s on Twitter. Thanks for your great tips!!!! It’s so fun meeting you and other avid readers on Twitter!

  22. Also, a couple other good recommendations came via Twitter:

    – NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, Sherry Thomas. Was @nanna95’s fave book of 2009, and she reads a LOT! She said she gives it 5 stars.

    – THE LOST SYMBOL, Dan Brown. Was @MommyBrain’s fave book of 2009. She said she’s a huge Dan Brown fan. A lot of people mentioned this book on the blogs as their favorite this year.

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