Favorite Books of 2009
January 20, 2010

It may surprise you to know that, despite the approximately seven hours of reading I do on an average work day, I try hard to find time to read for pleasure, too. It doesn't always work--sometimes I'm burnt out after a long day to the point of eyeball explosion--but every so often I need a break from books for children, books I might be interested in signing, or books where my red pen longs to make corrections to simple sit down and enjoy a good story.While I realize it's a little late for retrospectives now that we're nearly 5% of the way through 2010, I thought I'd compile a quick list of my favorite books for 2009. As you can imagine, I tend to read more books for children than books for adults, and the list reflects that. DISCLAIMER: These are books I happened to read during 2009, not necessarily books that were published during the calender year, and do not reflect the opinion of the entire agency.So here, in no particular order, are a few of my favorite titles read during 2009:

  • Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn: Part homage, part parody of hard-boiled detective novels, Motherless Brooklyn features Lionel Essrog, a barking, spitting, tic-ridden investigator suffering from Tourette's trying to solve the murder of his former employer. Filled with terrific descriptions, surprising phrases (Lionel's constant reordering of sentences in his head has a poetic quality hidden in its absurdity), and hilarious situations, the wonderful voice and lead character mask the so-so mystery and leave you wanting more time in Lethem's version of a disappearing Brooklyn.
  • Markus Zusak's The Book Thief: I gushed about this one before and won't repeat myself. Just a wonderful, wonderful book that has stuck in my head months after I finished it.
  • Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire. I know, I know, it's a huge bestseller. And, just like The Hunger Games before it, when I finished, I realized I didn't buy some of the plot points. But Jesus, what a page-turner! I was lucky enough to borrow an ARC a few months before the release date and I read 4/5ths of the book on a flight to Texas. Thrilling, surprising, and with terrific action, the first two books of the trilogy left me drooling for more. A book that deserves the attention its received.
  • George Saunders' CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: A friend kept insisting I read Saunders and suggested I start with this collection of short stories. While not every entry is a winner and the main characters tend to run together from story to story, these tales of depressed workers in horrible theme parks, overweight CEOs, and other losers in a depressing dystopian version of America are sad, moving, and often hilarious. Another great example of voice and the type of messed-up humor I love.
  • Dave Eggers' What is the What: Easily my favorite book by Eggers, this tale of Valentino Achak Dang, one of Sudan's Lost Boys, is horrifying, funny, and charming. The fact that much of the book is true (despite being classified a novel) made the work even more moving. I read in horror as Valentino encountered tragedy after tragedy, yet somehow managed to keep going after each blow. Another work that continues sticking with me long after I finished.

Finally, honorable mentions go to: M.T. Anderson's Feed, Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me, Kristin Cashore's Fire, Stephen King's Under the Dome, and others I'm likely forgetting.How about you? What were some of your favorites in 2009?