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Year in Review: Favorite Books of 2009

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Today’s question: What were your favorite books of the year? (Books that were new to you in 2009, if not necessarily published this year.)

Refrained from joining reading challenges and set on reading some of the books I have always wanted to read, 2009 is a rewarding year for me in reading. The best books for me are ones that stay with me for months after I have put them down. It’s a tough call to pick the best books because “best” is a very broad and somehow ambiguous term, depending on what one’s preponderating criterion is. In no particular order, here are my top 10 choices, books that are new to me in 2009, but not necessarily published this year:

Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh
The book explores friendship (gay and straight), religion, and reminiscences in life. It portrays a family divided by an uncertain investment in Roman Catholicism and by their confusion over where the elite fit in the modern world.

Howards End E.M. Forster
Forster envisions a society where all the conflicts and understandings created by division of class will disappear as the different values and ideals will resolve the differences and complement one another.

Rebecca Daphne du Maurier
The novel explores the meaning of love and the extent of mutual understanding in a relationship. Beneath the mystery of the death are deeper faults that are all too human: pride, vanity, and self-absorption.

Shanghai Girls Lisa See
The women in Shanghai Girls endure, accept defeat, mourn, and bear physical and mental agony far better than men. It’s through their stories and relationships, however petty they might be, that one sees glimpse of hope in the face of tragedy and obstacles, in a foreign land so far from home.

The Writing on My Forehead Nafisa Haji
In the face of global terrorism that jolts the world and endangers the Muslim identity, the heroine has come to terms with the truth of family and that her obligation to them mandates their happiness.

The Secret Scripture Sebestian Barry
The novel illuminates on memories that the conscious mind ruminates repeatedly, as well as those that come back without conscious thought and that are experienced again like dreams.

The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is an American classics because it captures the intimation that the American dream has been corrupted by the sole, empty pursuit of money.

The Woman in White Wilkie Collins
The intricate details and occasional discrepancy of the narratives contribute to the ingeniousness of plots in The Woman in White. That many of these characters are isolated renders them most susceptible to the chicaneries of the perpetrators. In a way, the purpose of the manipulations is to create “blindspots” in everyone involved so that one is often led to court suspicion that is wrong for the sake of diverting himself from other suspicion that is right.

Almost History Christopher Bram
The series of incidents, from back home in Washington to Saigon, Bangkok, and Manila, filled with human drama, sexuality, and political intrigues, forces him to re-examine his resignation to failure and personal life.

The Piano Teacher Janice Y.K. Lee
The Piano Teacher transports readers to a time when everyone was confronted with impossible choices: between love and safety, between fortune and family. The book ponders at how we all make choices and how important we have to stand by the choices and acknowledge responsibility if we find ourselves on the wrong end.

I have re-visited some of my favorite reads which I don’t consider in compiling this list. They hold very special place in my heart because these novels never finish t=what they have to say: transcending the plot and challenging values of our society. These books include The Hours by Michael Cunningham, Beloved by Toni Morrison, Maurice by E.M. Forster, and Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin.

New Beginning, Saramago

The Sunday Salon.com
seeingI finally put behind the year of 2008 in terms of reading. I under-estimated the time needed to finished the last book, which spilled into the new year and is counted for 2009 stats. This week has been devoted to composing year round up and new year resolution posts. Being a spontaneous reader, I don’t have a solid resolution as a reading plan:

Year in Review: Reading Wrap-Up
Bookish Resolution
Year in Review: Top Book-Related Posts

I opened the new book that I was supposed to begin on New Year’s Day. It’s a sequel to one of my all-time favorite novels. Four years after the plague that paralyzed the same unknown capital, on a rainy election day, practically no one goes to the polls until 4 in the afternoon. When the rain tapers off, everybody seems to arrive at once; when the ballots are counted, almost three-quarters turn up blank; after a week of governmental consternation, the elections are held again, on a perfect sunny day, and the results are actually worse — 83 percent of the voters have not marked their ballots. This communal exercise of what the narrator calls “the simple right not to follow any consensually established opinion” does not sit well with the authorities; one cabinet minister refers to the electoral blank-out as “a depth charge launched against the system.”

Year in Review: Reading Wrap-Up

Sticky Post (Posted until Jan 7)

Out of the 94 books read this year, let’s review some of the most memorable titles. I have enjoyed almost every book I have read in 2008, so the task to select the best reads can be equivalent to jury’s deliberation of a tough case. Other than literary erudition, unique voice, I rely on how extensively a book ingrains in my mind. I closed my Moleskine’s notebook and reflected upon the books that my memory first summoned:


Best New Fiction (Published in 2008)

The Future of Love Shirley Abbott

Letter from Point Clear Dennis McFarland

Finding Nouf Zoë Ferraris

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

The Art of Racing in the Rain Garth Stein

Best Backlist Fiction

The Birds Fall Down Rebecca West

The Uncommon Reader Alan Bennett

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian Marina Lewycka

The Dreyfus Affair Peter Lefcourt

Kansas in August Patrick Gale

Best Nonfiction

Gweilo: A Memoir of a Hong Kong Childhood Martin Booth

Best Cross-Genre Fiction

Traitor to the Race Scott Darieck

Best ARC/Books to Watch For

Little Bee: A Novel Chris Cleave

Cutting for Stone Abraham Verghese

Most Captivating Opening

Little Bee: A Novel Chris Cleave

Best Redeeming Second-Half

Landing Emma Donoghue

Most Read Author

Patrick Gale (3 Novels)