Favorite Books of 2009 and Wrap-up Post

I read a huge number of books this year, so it was hard coming up with a list of my ten favorite reads of this year. Instead I came up with a list of twenty favorites. A lot of the books I read this year were forgettable, nothing special, just OK. But I did read some great books, books that made me laugh, cry, and start them over again. These were books that I felt the need to go out and buy once I finished them, so they could be physically near me. But before I tell you my favorite books, here’s my stats for this year.

Books read: 266

Adult: 62
MG: 11
YA: 27
Children’s: 166

Graphic novels: 37
Fiction: 241
Non-Fiction: 25

I think I should read more non-fiction next year.

Alcoholism, incest, lies, betrayal, and missing fathers is just a part of what makes up August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, August: Osage County is the tale of the Weston family days after the patriarch of the family, Beverly, disappears. This is family dysfunction at its very best. The Westons are people who have gone through so much and the revelation of secrets is too much for some family members to handle. This play definitely deserved the Pulitzer it was awarded.

The Rights of The Reader by Daniel Pennac (2008). Translated from the French by Sarah Adams. It’s hard to believe that this love song to reading is a sleeper in the United States. The Rights of the Reader was originally published in 1992 in France and didn’t find a publisher in the U.S. until a few years ago. Pennac shares with readers his experiences as a high school teacher, teaching children others thought would never come to love reading. He also illustrates beautifully how important reading is.  Included in the book is Pennac’s famous ten rights of the reader, which includes the right to not finish a book.

The Negro Speaks of River by Langston Hughes with illustrations by E.B. Lewis. As much as I love children’s books this is only one of two picture books that made my top 20 list. The Negro Speaks of Rivers is a famous poem written by Hughes in 1923. The illustrations by Lewis are so beautiful to look at, don’t be surprise if time just flies by as you take in every brushstroke.

Losing Everything by David Lozell Martin (2009). Losing Everything chronicles Martin’s childhood with a mentally ill mother and a brilliant but painfully shy father who was prone to fits of rage. The memoir also tells of Martin’s troubled marriages and also the day that he almost committed suicide. What sets Martin’s memoir apart from others is that it’s not a story told with self-pity. Martin is brutally honest about his affairs in his first marriage and his reaction to what may have just been flirtation between his wife and another man. The memoir ends with a few of the lessons that Martin has learned throughout his life.

Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson (2003). Lonnie Collins Motion also known as Locomotion is a young boy who  has lost his parents in a house fire. Separated from his younger sister, both kids are sent to foster homes where they rarely see each other. Writing poetry helps Lonnie grieve for his parents, for not always being able to see his little sister, for the life he lost when his parents died. It helps him keep going. I cried so many times throughout this book. I cried as a parent for this fictional child who has lost so much. Lonnie with his grief and also his joys comes across realistically. Woodson is a talented author. I won’t hesitate to read anything else by her.

Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way by Ruth Reichl (2009). After the death of her mother, Reichl dives into the letters and diaries her mother left behind. It’s through these papers that Reichl learns so much about her mother’s life and who she was before she became a mother.

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp. According to Tharp, creativity stems from the habits that we have in our everyday lives. Creativity is something that everyone needs, not just painters or poets or dancers. The Creative Habit is filled with examples and exercises that are enjoyable and helpful.

Wonder Woman: The Circle by Gail Simone. This is the Wonder Woman that every girl, no matter what age she is, needs to read about. The Wonder Woman who is strong, fearless, loyal but also merciful to her enemies. In The Circle the homeland of Wonder Woman is attacked by villains and though banned from ever going home, she searches for a way to save her village.

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant (2008). Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. This was a great picture book-biography to start my kids off with. The book details Williams love of nature and poetry as a child and how he grew up to be the physician/poet that he was. It’s the perfect book that teaches children that if you love something enough you will find a way to do it every day.

Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks (2002). Winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this play is brilliant. Lincoln and Booth are brothers who were abandoned as teenagers by their parents. Now adults, Lincoln is an ex-card hustler who works in a carnival while younger brother Booth is still a street hustler, going from scheme to scheme to make money. There’s tension between the two brothers as they live together, dreaming of a life that doesn’t include struggling for money. This is the story about family tensions, sibling rivalry, violence, poverty, and so much more.

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose (2007). I don’t know how I found out about this book, but I am so glad I did. Prose tells readers why reading books carefully while becoming conscious of style, narration, characters, and more helps to get more out of what one is reading. She uses examples by Flannery O’Connor, Philip Roth, Anton Chekhov and more to get her points across. Reading this book is like taking a great literature class with no homework but the enjoyment of reading.

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes by Tony Kushner. Winner of 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Angels is everything and deals with everything. When I write that, I mean it’s a tragedy and a comedy, it’s about AIDS, and being gay, and being yourself, it’s about justice, and mercy, religion, and so much more.

Touch Magic by Jane Yolen. This collection of essays was originally published in 1981 before being revised and new essays added and published in 2007. The cover of this collection calls it a call-to-arms for Yolen and I have to agree. Throughout the collection, Yolen convinces readers that myths and fairy tales are so important for children to know. They’re a part of our society’s fabric. She illustrates why fantasy as a genre helps people to loosen the armor around their minds and see people who look drastically different from themselves as having the same emotional needs and ties.

Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs (2001). Raymond Briggs takes the lives of his parents and turn it into a tribute to them. Ethel and Ernest Briggs were working class people who were married for almost fifty years. Throughout the story you see their relationship progress and the many changes that society goes through like such things as electricity in the home to the introduction of cars, WWII, to homosexuality.

Fables 10: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham. I have been a fan of the Fables series since I read the very first book last year around this time. With this series Willingham has taken fairy tale characters such as Cinderella, Beauty, her husband the Beast, Bigby a.k.a The Big Bad Wolf, and others and placed them in modern-day New York. The result is a thoughtful and engaging series. Book ten is mostly the story of The Frog Prince, now named Flycatcher, and his overcoming his grief over the loss of his family hundreds of years before with the help of Sir Lancelot. There are many retellings of fairy tales and myths but not many are as bright as this series.

Thanks for reading this long post about my favorite reads.  Have a safe and happy new year.

29 thoughts on “Favorite Books of 2009 and Wrap-up Post

  1. I read The Rights of the Reader when it first came out in French and loved it. I was still a kid at that time, but I re-read it a couple of times since then and it was each time a great read.
    You had a great reading year. I wish you the best for 2010!

  2. I love your stats by genre at the top! I track that too & made a pie chart for my wrap-up post, which I realize outs me as a total geek.

    I’ve only heard of a couple of these, but I’m adding The Creative Habit to my library hold list NOW and a few others to my TBR. Thanks for pulling this together for us!

  3. Wow. You read as many children’s books as I do. It is fun though, isn’t it? Love that your list is not a cookie cutter list. And now you have made me want to pick up that Francine Prose again. Happy New Year to you and yours!

  4. 266 is an impressive number! I hope I can make 100 this year but that remains to be seen. :)

    I keep seeing the Fables books around the blogosphere and Twitter. I’m wondering if I should read the first to see if I like it.

  5. I became a total Jacqueline Woodson fan this year! :) I didn’t realise Rights of the Reader was originally French…is it bad that that makes it more interesting to me? lol

  6. I’ve been wanting to get The Rights of the Reader for a while now. I think I’ll get it soon. :D

    I love several of the books on your list, and added many more to my wish list.

    Glad to see you enjoyed Reading Like a Writer, too! I love that book very much.

    Congrats on a great year of reading!

  7. I need to read Locomotion! And wasn’t Touch Magic amazing? I read that from the library and definitely need to get my own copy so I can return to it.

    Happy reading in 2010, Vasilly!

  8. I loved reading your list because it was so different from all of the other lists I’ve been reading! I read Reading Like a Writer a couple years ago and thought it was amazing – I need to pull it out again for a re-read. I love that you included plays, graphic novels, and children’s books here. Happy New Year!

  9. I so want to read Reading Like a Writer. It’s on my wish list. :)

    I chuckled when I saw you want to read more NF this year. I am going to try to read less! lol I read a lot this year, though.

  10. Bermudaonion: Then I’m glad I told you about these books then. They’re really my favorites.

    Katy: When it comes to reading graphic novels, Fables is a great beginning. Also try Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. It was one of my favorites last year.

    Kay: Isn’t it a great book? I wished more people knew about it. Happy New Year! I hope you’re getting some great reading in while on break.

    Amanda: Thanks!

    Kelly: I love your pie chart! Next year I’ll definitely add that to my stats post. I hope you enjoy The Creative Habit as much as I have.

    Vivienne: I hope you get a chance to read them. Happy reading.

    Frances: I love children’s books.I’m starting Prose over again now. Happy new year!

    Michelle: I hope you try Fables. It’s a really great series with complex characters. I hope you get to 100 this year.

    Eva: LOL! That’s probably a good thing.

    Emily: Thanks! The Rights of the Reader is a book you need to have post-its and a pencil next to you when you read it. You’ll find many passages to love.

    Memory: That’s the great thing about blogging: you learn about books you never would have otherwise.

    Nymeth: Touch Magic is so amazing. I think my favorite essay in the collection is Tough Magic. So inspiriing.

    Michelle: Great to hear I got you interested in some of the books. Happy reading.

    Rebecca: I want to balance out a little the number of fiction vs non-fiction titles I read every year. We’ll see how it goes. :)

  11. I posted a comment a while ago and it didn’t show up! Ack – now to remember what I said? Hmmm, I loved Reading Like a Writer when I read it a few years back – need to re-read it, I think. I also loved that you included so many genres and such different titles than I’ve seen on other best-of lists. Happy New Year!

  12. I really admire the amount of books you read with worthy, substantial, topics. I’m not familiar with many of them, but it’s good to be aware of them. I read Goldengrove by Francine Prose, but not her reading like a writer book. I’ve seen it a few times around the blogosphere, and I think I should pick that up. I also love Raymond Brigg’s The Snowman. But, I can’t elaborate as lucidly as I’d like on your beautiful end of the year post. Way to go with over 200 read!

  13. I’m impressed at how many books you’ve read. I still have to count up mine but nowhere as much as you. I’ve read Reichl’s autobiograghy series so this new one about her mother should be interesting.

    I’ve been telling myself for a long time I should read Twyla Tharp’s book; thanks for the reminder!

  14. I hadn’t read any of those but remember The Rights of the Reader from your earlier posts, which you made me put on my wish list. Happy new year! Hope 2010 brings your better, more unforgettable reads. :)

  15. Wow, look at all those books you read1 I had checked out Ethel & Ernest from the library and never got a chance to read it in time. You’ve reminded that I need to add that to my list again!

  16. that Hughes poetry book looks lovely, I just requested it from my library! And I think I may seek out Reading Like a Writer soon. I’ve heard such great things about it.

  17. I ‘m going to review The Negro Speaks of Rivers during Black History Month in February. Great book! Read that one for Cybils. And I ADORE Woodson. 25 non-fiction is a great number! I know many who don’t even read one. A great year! Here’s to another one.

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