I've read a little more than 60 books this year, and there wasn't a truly bad one in the bunch. (My adoration for Mary Tyler Moore prevents me from talking too negatively about her most recent autobiographical adventure, a book I really wanted to love.)
Despite having liked the vast majority of books I read in 2009, there are a handful that definitely stand out. Below, in no particular order, are some favorite 2009 reads. (Note: just because I read them in '09 doesn't necessarily mean they were published in '09.) Click on any title for a full synopsis of the book, courtesy of Indiebound.org.
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
I found this book profoundly moving and very well-written. Jordan does an excellent job of showing us how circumstances shape us (and how sometimes we turn into versions of ourselves we'd never, ever suspect). I highly recommend this to anyone 16+.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
At this year's Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show, I went to a panel called "Got Us Shaking in Our Boots" to hear a handful of authors speak about their haunting fictional creations. As someone who reads very little mystery and horror, I thought it important to attend this session--I wanted to become more educated for my own benefit but also to better work with Avid customers who like this genre. To my pleasant surprise, I was blown away by Carrie Ryan's work. I recommend it for people 13+ who have enjoyed Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and (dare I say it?) Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series.
Oh!: A Mystery of "Mono No Aware" by Todd Shimoda
While at the Chin Music Press booth at Book Expo America this year, my partner in crime and I had the opportunity to meet the intelligent and amiable Todd Shimoda. Jim and he got along swimmingly, and before I knew it we both had autographed copies of Shimoda's book in our hands. And what a beautiful book it is! The people of Chin Music Press pride themselves on high-quality, appealing design. (Check out their site for more examples of their work.) The content is as compelling as the book's look. Shimoda's story is sparse in some places, rich with detail and emotion in others. I could say I recommend it to those interested in Japanese culture and those moved by the beauty of sadness. But if I were to say that, I'd sound more than a bit silly and maybe even pretty snobby--but I'd be telling the truth. This is a book I might never have read had I encountered it in any other way--but I'm so glad I met the author and decided to give it a chance. I just loved it.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I picked this up for a friend while shopping at Bound to Be Read Books and ended up reading it myself first. (That's excusable, right? I mean, I don't dog-ear pages or crack the spines open more than two inches!) Months later, I had the pleasure of sitting in at Bound to Be Read's monthly book club meeting and had a fun time discussing this novel with other readers. It's very funny in parts, but there exists also a nearly overwhelming sadness to the plotline. There are hand-drawnsketches throughout the book, and these bring levity to some of the seriousness of the story. I recommend it for mature kids and adults (14+).
The Great Neighborhood Book by Jay Walliasper
I picked this up while browsing the shelves at Urban Think! Bookstore in Orlando, Florida earlier this month. As someone really interested in my own neighborhood's well-being (and as the secretary of Athens's new-ish Buy Local initiative), I thought that this book would make a useful purchase. To my surprise, I gobbled it up within a day, scribbling feverishly in the margins and underlining ideas that would work well in Athens. If you're wanting to learn ways to make your neighborhood feel more homey, to make your neighborhood safe, to make your neighborhood more of the place you dream of, this is the book for you. I've already recommended it to several like-minded friends in town--won't you give it a shot as well?
Many of you already shared your favorite 2009 reads on our Facebook page, but I know there are more of you out there! Feel free to use the comments section below to tell us what you loved best this year.