My Picks: Best Books I read in 2009

January 7, 2010

Best Classics (or otherwise non-new-release literature)

  1. For its beautiful sadness and generation-spanning delicate understanding of adolescence: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. Also suggested: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by the same author.
  2. A smashing surprise: Astonishingly clear humanity from a sometimes-intimidating genius. Mary by Vladimir Nabokov.

Best Recent Literature

  1. For excellence in debut fiction and a riveting sense of mythology: The Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley.
  2. Popular for a reason, and splendid even in translation (from French): The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.
  3. Gut-wrenching modern Western genre without sounding utterly like Cormac McCarthy: The Outlander by Gil Adamson.

Best Evocative Novel

  1. I can’t leave this book out of this post: The Sea Runners by Ivan Doig. Relentless, seamless landscape and tension from a Northwest historian. Sentimental favorite.

Best “Something Else”

  1. For bringing me back to my childhood psyche and illuminating my perception of the natural and magical-natural worlds: Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences by Ursula K Le Guin.

Best Non-Fiction

  1. For narrative talent in multi-disciplinary synthesis, both The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson and Krakatoa by Simon Winchester.


  1. Despite my affection for Blindness and Baltasar and Blimunda, Jose Saramago’s Death with Interruptions lost some of the sharpness of its political parody in translation.
  2. Dickensian time period it is, well written it is not: Grace Hammer by Sara Stockbridge.