Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Big List - 2009 Reads

One of my goals, set about this time last year, was to read more in 2009. I think I can mark that as accomplished. I managed 41 books. When confessing this on Facebook and then asking if that made me even geekier, the answer was a resounding "yes!"

I prefer to think they're just jealous!

Here's my take on 41 books, for whatever it's worth. They are in no particular order and several got 5 stars. BY FAR the best book of 2009 for me was Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Might be the best book I've ever read!

And, here's to a 2010 with even more reading!!

5 STARS – An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor - One of my all-time favorite religious writers. On ways to see the sacred in every day life. I should read this one in January every year.

4 1/2 STARS – The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb - I've read his other books - She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True and enjoyed them very much. This one is his best.

4 STARS – What We Eat When We Eat Alone by Deborah Madison - Madison is the chef at Greens Restaurant and has authored ten cookbooks. This little book peeks into our dirty little secrets of how we eat when we're alone. Quirky. Loved it.

1 STAR – The Ruins by Scott Smith - Terrible. Horrible. Can't believe I even finished it. Any comparisons to Stephen King are an insult to King.

2 STARS – The Amnesiac by Sam Taylor - Tried really hard to like it. Too English or something. Didn't finish it.

3 STARS – The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon - (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize) - I wanted to love this. There are so many good reviews out there. Just couldn't get into it, despite a gay character. Will try it again someday.

4 STARS – Diners, Drive-ins & Dives by Guy Fieri - I love this guy's personality. His books are like his show. Enjoyed it, but not sure I will ever cook anything out of it.

5 STARS – I'm Just Here for the Food version 2.0 by Alton Brown - He's "Bill Nye, The Science Guy" for foodies. LOVE IT!

4 STARS – America's Best Lost Recipes, from the publishers of Cook's Illustrated - Anything from Cook's Illustrated is worth the money. Some old recipes that deserve to be remembered.

4 STARS – Lost Recipes: Meals to Serve Family & Friends by Marion Cunningham - same genre, but recipes are a lot more complicated. This is weekend cooking at it's best.

4 STARS – More Diners, Drive-ins & Dives by Guy Fieri

4 STARS – American Rust by Philipp Meyer – Editor's Pick: Top 100 Books of 2009; New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2009 - I'm in the middle of this one now. Really enjoying it. The pace builds slowly. About a down and out steel town in Pennsylvania and a couple of boys who make bad choices.

5 STARS – All the Living by C.E. Morgan - LOVED THIS ONE!! A young woman marries her sweetheart in rural Kentucky and follows him to a tobacco farm. In the process she begins to lose her dreams of music. Sparse language and beautiful, haunting images.

3 1/2 STARS – Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon – Editor's Pick: Top 100 Books of 2009; New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2009 - I like this but not as much as all the awards would suggest. The lives of three strangers intersect in unforeseen ways.

4 STARS – Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo – New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2007 - I like all of Russo's writings. He captures small towns and the people who inhabit them perfectly.

2 STARS – Brooklyn by Colm Toibin – Editor's Pick: Top 10 Fiction of 2009 - Irish immigrant girl during WW2 comes to New York - Didn't finish it. Just didn't capture my imagination. Got more than half way, but just couldn't do it.

2 STARS – The Clearing by Tim Gautrueaux - Murder in a Louisiana mill town surrounded by a swamp. Very dark novel. Didn't finish it. May try this one again.

5 STARS – Columbine by Dave Cullen – Editor's Pick: Top 100 Books of 2009; New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2009 - The author debunks the myths surrounding the Columbine shootings based on meticulous evidence and research. Excellent read.

5 STARS – Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – Editor's Pick: Top 10 Fiction of 2009 - This may be the best book I've ever read. I cried at the end, not wanting it to be over.

4 1/2 STARS – Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - I read her first novel Sharp Objects last year and really enjoyed it. This one is about the survivor of a childhood tragedy in which her family was murdered. Deals with the aftermath of press coverage of a high profile murder and how a woman learns to cope. Like this one very much.

1 STAR – Enduring Love by Ian McEwan - Can you say BORING??

4 STARS – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson - First in the trilogy. On the edge of your seat reading!

4 1/2 STARS – The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson – Editor's Pick: Top 100 Books of 2009 - Second in the trilogy. Almost as good as the first.

4 STARS – Half-Broke Horses: A True Life Novel by Jeannette Walls – Editor's Pick: Top 100 Books of 2009; New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2009 - True story of author's great grandmother and her amazing skill to survive in the early 1900's West.

5 STARS – The Help by Kathryn Stockett – Editor's Pick: Top 100 Books of 2009 - I initially resisted reading this. Thought it would be too sweet and and answers too "pat." Glad I listened to other people's recommendations. This is an excellent, thought provoking, mind widening read.

4 STARS – In the Woods by Tana French - Police procedural meets psychological thriller. Lots of twists and turns. Author's first novel. Liked her second one better.

4 1/2 STARS – The Likeness by Tana French - Same detective as In the Woods. In her next case she finds the body of a murdered young woman who looks like she could be her identical twin. The detective steps into the dead woman's persona to find the killer. Great read!

5 STARS – The Last Child by John Hart - I will read ANYTHING by this author. He gets his characters perfectly - depth, personality, family dynamics. This is the story of a young boy hunting for his sister's killer.

3 1/2 STARS – Little Bird of Heaven by Joyce Carol Oates - Like most Joyce Carol Oates novels, this one starts slow but rewards you for sticking it out.

5 STARS – The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker - Revenge, redemption, folk magic, family relationships, betrayal, friendship, love. This book has it all!

3 1/2 STARS – Monk Habits for Everyday People by Dennis Okholm - How to be present in life.

4 STARS – The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan - This book looks at the relationship between humans and food. A journey up and down the food chain, and how food gets from "farm" to table. Honestly, this book freaked me out so bad I couldn't finish it. Everyone SHOULD read this book.

3 STARS – The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliott - Horror. Fantasy. Gross.

3 STARS – Precious by Sandra Novack - Set in the 1970's and deals with the family ramifications of divorce, kidnapping and hope. I didn't finish it. I will try it again. (This isn't the novel the current movie is based on.)

5 STARS – The Reader by Bernard Schlink - Sex, love, reading, shame - this book forces you to wrestle with the meaning of love.

5 STARS – Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates - Yes, it's depressing. But it's also real.

4 STARS – That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo - I like all his books. This one didn't disappoint. At times it's both funny and sad and I saw myself and lots of people I know in it's pages.

5 STARS – Thirst: Poems by Mary Oliver - love her work. Lesbian. Christian. Honest.

4 STARS – Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum - Holocaust survival novel. Deals with the legacy of shame and personal responsibility.

3 1/2 STARS – The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf - Suspenseful. Great story. Crummy ending.

3 1/2 STARS – Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann – Editor's Pick: Top 10 Fiction of 2009; New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2009 - Three lives intertwine in New York City in 1974. Liked it. Didn't love it.

No comments: