Saturday, December 26, 2009

Top 10 Reads of 2009

Keeping my New Year's Resolution for 2009 to read less, I cut my reading down to 107 books. (Although I think I might read at least 5 more before the end of the year). These are my favorite reads of this year, but obviously not all these books were published this year.

10. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. My only non-fiction on the list. This book is awesome because it made me think in a whole new way, laugh a lot and cry once. And a caveat: if you live in Arizona (as some of my readers do), it might depress you. The author begins the book by explaining why she is leaving her home of Tucson for greener pastures. And those reasons are compelling.

9. Sweethearts by Sara Zarr. Jenna has transformed herself from chubby outcast to popular teen when her long lost childhood friend returns and throws her for a loop. Not a book for everyone, but this one really struck a nerve with me. I love stories about people returning from our past, and found this one hitting just the right spot with me—not too melodramatic or predictable; incredibly sweet and very emotional.

8. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Brutal, startling, poetic novel about forgiving and accepting oneself. The best example of the technique and artistry of the writing craft I read all year.

7. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. Lyrical, dark, paranormal romance. This book was a great escape from the real world, and I loved the ending. I am anxiously awaiting the next in this planned trilogy: Linger. Oh, and printed in blue ink. What's not to love?

6. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Apparently, there are people who have not read this yet. This was every bit as good as its prequel: The Hunger Games, except for a few melodramatic moments for the main character. But overall an adrenaline rush with plot twists, building political tension and a killer love triangle. I cannot wait for the third installment.

5. Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. The most fun and refreshing read of 2009. A novel that left me feeling lighter and happier than when I started. So delightful that I didn't mind one bit that there wasn't much of a plot at all.

4. The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale. Hilarious clash of two different cultures, an exploration of friendship, but mostly a beautifully romantic husband-wife love story, and an emotionally charged tribute to motherhood. I found a little bit of everything in this book with a hopeful, richly satisfying ending. Highly, highly recommended. I absolutely loved this one.

3. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. This is NOT a book for everyone, but for me it was practically perfect. Really interesting, mysterious characters (and some are quite funny); a deep and intricate plot that takes the entire novel to unravel and totally surprised me the whole way through; witty references to other works of fiction; the sweetest touch of romance—just enough detail to make it lovely, but not any explicit details; funny; and heartbreaking over and over again. It was a totally unexpected treat. Every detail is crucial to the story, but I didn't realize how genius the plot was until I finished the book.

However, it is really confusing in the first chapters—there is no background given for any of the characters, so as a reader you really have to work hard to stay with the story. I think the book had to be written this way though, since it was in first person present tense, and that is exactly what the main character is experiencing: confusion. It just takes a lot of work from the reader. Possibly that's why I loved it so much. I did edit my version with a sharpie, this author uses a lot of profanity, but I forgave her because I loved everything else so much.

Well-deserved winner of the Michael Printz Award and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

2. Fire by Kristin Cashore. In a perfect world everyone would love this book with the fiery and passionate fervor that I do. A slowly enfolding romance, poetic writing, political intrigue, fantastically imaginative, a lovable best friend, and a leaning horse. I loved this book so much, I immediately had to reread it after finishing it.

Cashore shows her skill at story telling again in this one like she did in her first novel, Graceling, but the writing quality felt more lyrical and honest to me. It hit me right in the heart. I think that's why I love it so much. This is categorized as Young Adult, but on this issue I have to whole-heartedly disagree. The main character is an adult, and all the situations she is in are adult issues.

I knew I would love it when I first read the poem A Dellian Lament that comes before the Prologue. Absolutely lovely. I would love to discuss this book with anyone who reads it.

1. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marrillier. (And also, every other book written by her. Juliet is an auto-buy for me now. I love all her books and own them all.) And I know I already reviewed this book here. So just to recap: as close to perfect as a novel can get. A lovely heroine who grows, learns and changes over time; beautiful, poetic writing; epic plot; emotional depth; themes of sacrifice, family love, and romance—one of the greatest stories ever written. I found it utterly enchanting and haunting as well. Beautiful and an absolute favorite.


  1. Rachel--I must borrow Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Jellicoe Road (and read and love them). Then our favorite book list for 2009 will be exactly identical.

  2. When you say Sweethearts isn't for everyone could you explain that a bit more? I'd love to read a Sara Zarr book, have you read any of her others?

  3. debbie: without spoiling anything, i think i could say it's not for everyone because it's not the typical happy-ending-type book that i usually look for.

  4. I have just stumbled upon your your blog and I am already plotting my next trip to barnes and noble to start reading these books! I have been in dire need of something wonderful to read-so thanks for the recommendations :)

    also, your blog is really neat. love it all.

    i'm stacy by the way!