Favorite Books of 2009

22:53 Tue 31 May 2011
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I read 55 books in 2009; my reading rate seems to be dipping towards about one book per week.

A dozen books stand out for me from that year.

The first is Mary Gentle’s Ash: A Secret History (which I read as one book—the UK edition is published that way, while the American is apparently four(!) books). Kind of fantasy/alternate history/science fiction, it started stronger than it finished, but it was worth reading; I liked the faux-academic conceit, and I really thought the early sections of the medieval narrative were great. (Thanks Dave!)

I re-read Ringworld, which remains a sci-fi classic on the strength of its setting; I covered it in a more in-depth review.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was good, and enjoyable, but at this remove I feel it left less of an impression than I thought at the time.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, on the other hand, still stands out in my mind. This is perhaps because of its popularity; it’s definitely not as well-written as The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and both have highly memorable characters in Oscar and Lisbeth, but Larsson’s novel seems to stick in my mind more (this might also be due to my having read the sequels more recently). In any case, I do recommend it as a page-turner and excellent modern crime/espionage thriller whose heart is definitely in the right place; in my view its biggest weakness is that Blomkvist sometimes seems like a Mary Sue. I also consider it to have a positive feminist theme (perhaps it would be more accurate to say an “anti-misogyny” theme).

The Judging Eye, the first book in the followup trilogy to R. Scott Bakker’s The Prince of Nothing series, was disappointing in comparison to that prior series but still quite good, modern fantasy with a very dark streak along with what feels like “realism” in psychological and political terms, which I seem to more or less require from my fantasy works these days.

I was extremely impressed with Anne Enright’s The Gathering just after I read it, despite some reservations, but again it doesn’t seem to have stuck in my mind so well. I wonder if there’s something about books that I love for their style that makes them ultimately less memorable for me; that would make some sense, since I tend to be more plot- and setting- oriented.

The Dispossessed was another book I re-read, and another book that deserves its classic status, as I wrote in a longer review.

The Terror, by Dan Simmons, was excellent in terms of atmosphere and verisimilitude, even if in the end I wasn’t quite convinced by the plot, and there are significant issues of exoticization in it. Despite those issues, it definitely lived up to its name, and deserves praise for that.

Marshall Jon Fisher’s A Terrible Splendor is an excellent non-fiction account of the 1937 Davis Cup match between America’s Don Budge and Germany’s Gottfried von Cramm, including considerable detail on the sporting and political background to the match. I highly recommend it, even to those not interested in tennis.

Chine Miéville’s The City & The City was excellent and interesting (thanks Niall!), although I felt that the setting wasn’t on par with New Crobuzon and that Miéville might have been slightly too clever with it.

I remember really enjoying This Side of Brightness, by Colum McCann (thanks Sharon!), while I was reading it, but while I still remember its plot quite well, I again feel as if its impact has faded significantly over time. I still recommend it, however, and recall that it was very well written.

The last book of 2009 was a recommendation from Jeff Fry: He, She and It (apparently also known as Body of Glass) by Marge Piercy. Broadly a corporatist-future cyberpunk novel, it’s an excellent exploration of the possibility and implications of artificial life/artificial intelligence, love, and loyalty.

The books I read in 2009:

  1. The Fall of the Kings; Ellen Kushner and Della Sherman 02/01/2009
  2. Ash: A Secret History; Mary Gentle 03/01/2009
  3. The Time Traveler’s Wife; Audrey Niffenegger 16/01/2009
  4. Ringworld; Larry Niven 26/01/2009
  5. De Niro’s Game; Rawi Hage 30/01/2009
  6. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Junot Díaz 09/02/2009
  7. Bad Science; Ben Goldacre 14/02/2009
  8. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Stieg Larsson 16/02/2009
  9. Snow White and Russian Red; Dorota Mas?owska 25/02/2009
  10. The Judging Eye; R. Scott Bakker 26/02/2009
  11. The Gods Themselves; Isaac Asimov 19/03/2009
  12. The Last Wish; Andrzej Sapkowski 22/03/2009
  13. The Company; K. J. Parker 23/03/2009
  14. Out Stealing Horses; Per Petterson 25/03/2009
  15. The Gathering; Anne Enright 28/03/2009
  16. Rendezvous with Rama; Arthur C. Clarke 30/03/2009
  17. The Born Queen; Gregory Keyes 03/04/2009
  18. The Fire in His Hands; Glen Cook 09/04/2009
  19. With Mercy Toward None; Glen Cook 09/04/2009
  20. The Shadow of the Wind; Carlos Ruiz Zafón; Translated by Linda Graves 15/04/2009
  21. Neuropath; R. Scott Bakker 18/04/2009
  22. A Shadow of All Night Falling; Glen Cook 20/04/2009
  23. October’s Baby; Glen Cook 20/04/2009
  24. All Darkness Met; Glen Cook 21/04/2009
  25. The Black Company; Glen Cook 22/04/2009
  26. Shadows Linger; Glen Cook 22/04/2009
  27. The White Rose; Glen Cook 23/04/2009
  28. The Inheritance of Loss; Kiran Desai 27/04/2009
  29. The Dispossessed; Ursula K. Le Guin 30/04/2009
  30. A Ticket To The Boneyard; Lawrence Block 04/05/2009
  31. Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: The Secret Agent Who Made the Pilgrimage to Mecca, Discovered the Kama Sutra, and Brought the Arabian Nights to the West; Edward Rice 30/06/2009
  32. Fall of Thanes; Brian Ruckley 04/07/2009
  33. The Terror; Dan Simmons 08/07/2009
  34. A Terrible Splendor: Three Extraordinary Men, a World Poised for War, and the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played; Marshall Jon Fisher 10/07/2009
  35. Well Played 1.0: Video Game, Value and Meaning; ed. Drew Davidson 11/07/2009
  36. The Master; Colm Tóibín 11/08/2009
  37. The Forever War; Joe Haldeman 15/08/2009
  38. Levels of the Game; John McPhee 17/08/2009
  39. Gateway; Frederik Pohl 21/08/2009
  40. Tennis and the Meaning of Life: A Literary Anthology of the Game; ed. Jay Jennings 29/08/2009
  41. Dreamsnake; Vonda McIntyre 05/09/2009
  42. The City & The City; China Miéville 08/09/2009
  43. Sundiver; David Brin 09/09/2009
  44. Startide Rising; David Brin 18/09/2009
  45. Ender’s Game; Orson Scott Card 23/09/2009
  46. Speaker for the Dead; Orson Scott Card 29/09/2009
  47. The Steel Remains; Richard K. Morgan 07/10/2009
  48. The Futurological Congress; Stanislaw Lem 15/10/2009
  49. A Dance at the Slaughterhouse; Lawrence Block 16/10/2009
  50. The Doomsday Book; Connie Willis 07/11/2009
  51. This Side of Brightness; Colum McCann 06/12/2009
  52. Best Served Cold; Joe Abercrombie 08/12/2009
  53. The Curse of Challion; Lois McMaster Bujold 13/12/2009
  54. Beggars in Spain; Nancy Kress 14/12/2009
  55. He, She and It; Marge Piercy 22/12/2009

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