Saturday, January 9, 2010

Best Books of 2009

OK, so I'm way late on this post. Most of the "Best Of "lists come out on December 31st. A few late ones come out on January 1st. The really lazy writers may dare to post theirs on the 2nd.

Here it is, January 9th and I'm posting my book list. Oh well. I've been busy.

In 2009 I read 84 books, up from 2008 when I had read 59, so that's pretty good considering I became a mother in '09 and my reading time went WAY down. One thing I did was get a bunch of free audio books, so that helps with the numbers, but also with the enjoyment of my hobby. I listen on my way to work and back everyday.

I rate the books I read after finishing, with a star if they fit all or most of the following categories: "can't put it down", "weird lifestyle" "made me actually laugh out loud" "made me cry" "Extremely well written", "I'll remember for a long time" or " tells an amazing story". If they are poorly written, they don't get a star. If I put the book down over and over and it takes more than a week to read due to lack of interest, it won't get a star. I really enjoy reading about lives that are out of the ordinary, or different from mine... about things I will never experience.

So, without further ado, here is my list of the Best Books of 2009. Mind you, these books were not necessarily RELEASED in 2009. I just happened to pick them up in 2009.


Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
- Ferrari Adler
A mishmash of foodie writers dispute, humorously or more self-seriously, the pros and cons of cooking and dining alone. Includes recipes from well known authors for dishes they enjoy eating alone.

Stiff - Mary Roach
"Uproariously funny" doesn't seem a likely description for a book on cadavers. However, Roach, a Salon and Reader's Digest columnist, has done the nearly impossible and written a book as informative and respectful as it is irreverent and witty. From her opening lines ("The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back"), it is clear that she's taking a unique approach to issues surrounding death.

The Girls - Lori Lansens
Conjoined twins Rose and Ruby Darlen are linked at the side of the head, with separate brains and bodies. Born in a small town outside Toronto in the midst of a tornado and abandoned by their unwed teenage mother two weeks later, the girls are cared for by Aunt Lovey, a nurse who refuses to see them as deformed or even disabled. She raises them in Leaford, Ontario, where, at age 29, Rose, the more verbal and bookish twin, begins writing their story—i.e., this novel, which begins, "I have never looked into my sister's eyes."

There is No Me Without You - Melissa Faye Greene
All the Ethiopian adoptive families know about this one. If you don't, you should.

The Glass Castle - Jeanette Walls
I could NOT put this book down. It helped me through the pain of a surgery in February. Thank you, Ms. Wells. Form Amazon: "She opens her memoir by describing looking out the window of her taxi, wondering if she's "overdressed for the evening" and spotting her mother on the sidewalk, "rooting through a Dumpster." Walls's parents—just two of the unforgettable characters in this excellent, unusual book—were a matched pair of eccentrics, and raising four children didn't conventionalize either of them. Her father was a self-taught man, a would-be inventor who could stay longer at a poker table than at most jobs and had "a little bit of a drinking situation," as her mother put it. With a fantastic storytelling knack, Walls describes her artist mom's great gift for rationalizing. Apartment walls so thin they heard all their neighbors? What a bonus—they'd "pick up a little Spanish without even studying." Why feed their pets? They'd be helping them "by not allowing them to become dependent." While Walls's father's version of Christmas presents—walking each child into the Arizona desert at night and letting each one claim a star—was delightful, he wasn't so dear when he stole the kids' hard-earned savings to go on a bender. The Walls children learned to support themselves, eating out of trashcans at school or painting their skin so the holes in their pants didn't show. Buck-toothed Jeannette even tried making her own braces when she heard what orthodontia cost. One by one, each child escaped to New York City. Still, it wasn't long before their parents appeared on their doorsteps. "Why not?" Mom said. "Being homeless is an adventure."

Confessions of a Medical Examiner - Michael Baden
This engrossing book covers: (1) several famous cases, including Baden's personal re-examination of the autopsy findings for Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy; (2) unusual cases Baden had as medical examiner for NYC, such as an autopsy on a dining room table at the Plaza Hotel; (3) how medical examiners decide on means of death, with a section on poisons; (4) the history of coroners and medical examiners since 12th century England; (5) disturbing politics involved in the office of the Chief Medical Examiner of NYC; (6) identification of the dead; (7) time of death; (8) multiple-murder cases; (9) an almost perfect murder; (10) close calls, including near deaths during sex; (11) cases of mistaken diagnosis; and (12) autopsy findings that shed light on what happened in the Attica uprising.

His Favorite Wife: Trapped in Polygamy - Susan Ray Schmidt
I read a bunch of polygamists' memoirs. I found them fascinating, maybe because it's so foreign of a culture and something I will never experience.

Against Medical Advice - James Patterson and Hal Friedman
I picked this up in the grocery store, read the first sentence, and couldn't put it down. Cory Friedman woke up one morning when he was five years old with the uncontrollable urge to twitch his neck and his life was never the same again. From that day forward his life became a hell of uncontrollable tics, urges, and involuntary utterances.

Into The Wild
- Jon Krakauer
My top favorite book of 2009. It still haunts me. The movie was great too. I now have a crush on Emile Hirsch who played the lead role in the movie. From Amazon: "God, he was a smart kid..." So why did Christopher McCandless trade a bright future--a college education, material comfort, uncommon ability and charm--for death by starvation in an abandoned bus in the woods of Alaska? This is the question that Jon Krakauer's book tries to answer.

There are actually many more titles I can recommend for 2009, but this post is getting long enough. Many of the descriptions come from Amazon, giving credit where it is due.

I hope fellow readers might put some of these on their wish lists. Enjoy :-)


Anonymous said...

I loved Into the Wild as well. I teach it. I hear that Krakauer's new book about Pat Tillman is very provocative. dcuz

eihpets said...

What a great list! My Amazon wish list is longer now...
Thanks for posting and I hope Charlie is feeling better!