I'm cheating a bit. I was only going to pick ten favorites, which is pretty generous as I only read a few more than 80 books so that's more than 10% of what I read this year. But in the end I couldn't stop at just ten. Picking favorites is such a subjective thing. Some (though not all) of my favorites are a little on the fluffy side that might well be dismissed by other readers, but all the books met some need that I had at the time--actually went beyond that need and ended up being really good books even if they were on the light side. If you click on the title, the link will take you back to my original post. I've snagged a quote from each to get a taste of what I was thinking at the time. So without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2009 in order that they were read.
Troubling Love, Elena Ferrante - "Sometimes the most interesting books are the ones you're not looking for and the ones that aren't easy. Troubling Love turned out to be a dizzying, disorienting read that constantly set me on edge and still has me thinking about it days later."
Two Days in Aragon, Molly Keane (M.J. Farrell) - I'm afraid this is one I didn't write about, but it was the impetus that made me want to read all of Molly Keane's works -- it was that good.
In the Woods, Tana French - "For me it was one of those near perfect reading experiences, where the author gets just about everything right--an intricate suspenseful plot, finely developed characters and all nicely paced (and I should mention really good writing!)."
The Lost Art of keeping Secrets, Eva Rice - "Well, I shouldn't use the word charming to describe Eva Rice's The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, as that's a word I tend to overuse and you'll stop believing me (though it is charming), so how about utterly delightful? Eva Rice is a talented author. She's made me feel nostalgic for a time I've never even experienced."
The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters - "Once again Sarah Waters has written a ripping good tale that kept me glued to its pages late into the night until I could no longer keep my eyes open, and got me up early the following morning to finish. It's clever and complex and relies as much on the reader's perceptions and beliefs as on the storyteller's ability to convincingly describe events that take place in this chilling tale."
The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton - "Every once and a while a book will come along that's pretty much perfection. Everything about it is just right. The story is absorbing, the writing is beautiful and elegant, the characters have depth and breadth and they mature and change over the course of the story. Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence is pretty much that sort of book for me."
Brooklyn, Colm Tóibín - The story is at times a very simple one and is always simply told, but I think that is a bit misleading. Sometimes it's what an author doesn't say, what's written between the lines that's so forceful. I like Tóibín's spare but elegant prose as it seemed to reflect the rhythms of Eilis Lacey's life and personality well (which could also be misleading)."
The Corinthian, Georgette Heyer - "It is quite literally the perfect summer read, a page turning romp through Regency England with all the right elements pulled off perfectly."
Dance Night, Dawn Powell - "If Dorothea Lange has given me the visuals, then Dawn Powell has given me the words. Dance Night's Lamptown, Ohio is as drab and dreary as any town that Lange may have photographed, and Powell has captured the small town claustrophobia of it in the days just before the Depression."
The Folded Leaf, William Maxwell - "This is a moving story that's intense in its simplicity yet it's heart-wrenching as well. In a sense it's about first love that's in many ways fulfilling but also misunderstood. Some passages are so beautiful but at the same time they break your heart."
The Tortoise and the Hare, Elizabeth Jenkins - "I'm going to borrow Hilary Mantel's very apt description of the story and also call it "exquisite". When I first began reading I knew it was a book deserving to be read slowly. As a matter of fact I found myself wanting to stop and reread passages along the way. The subject matter is not particularly happy. It's a novel about marriage and infidelity. But Jenkins twists things around a bit and breathes new life into what might seem like a clichéd topic."
Beware of Pity, Stefan Zweig - "Although in many ways Stefan Zweig's Beware of Pity is a distressing read, I can't help but admire the work in the same way I admired The Post-Office Girl earlier this year. In Beware of Pity Zweig shows what happens when the best intentions are misinterpreted for something they're not and how people mire themselves in deceit to tragic consequences.
I read so few nonfiction books this year I don't think I can pick a favorite as I enjoyed them all and don't think I could choose just one.
I do have a few honorable mentions, however.
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson - She does 'disturbing' oh so well! If you've not read her, you really must add her to your list.
The Franchise Affair, Josephine Tey - This was in part an inspiration for Sarah Waters's The Little Stranger. A classic mystery tale that's excellently done.
Greenery Street, Denis Mackail - Pure, unadulterated comfort read. I loved it and will keep it high on my list of books to turn to when I'm in need of a really nice story that's not too taxing but very entertaining.
So, there you have it. Lots of favorites. So much for starting off the new year fresh as I'm in the midst of some really good books that I'll not likely finish now until early next year. That's okay--nothing like getting the ball rolling right away.