Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Best Reads of the Year

by Marcus Sakey

Hard to believe it, but another year has blown by. Time, she passes.

And so in keeping with tradition—it’s tradition if I do it twice, right?—I thought I’d list my favorite reads of this year. This isn’t about books released in 2009, just my personal picks of the 70 or so I’ve read since January 1st. (You can see last year's picks here, if you're interested.)

SAMARITAN, Richard Price
For my money, Price is probably the best “crime” writer working today. He’s got a subtle understanding of humanity, unmatchable style to his prose, and pitch-perfect dialogue.

A MOVABLE FEAST, Ernest Hemingway
I rediscovered Hemingway this year, and I’m thrilled about it. Yes, the complaints about him still ring true, but what he does well, he does amazingly.

IN THE LAKE OF THE WOODS, Tim O’Brien
I’ve never been anything but floored by O’Brien’s work. THE THINGS THEY CARRIED remains my favorite, but this one is a masterpiece.

THE POWER OF THE DOG, Don Winslow
One of the most ambitious and accomplished crime novels I’ve ever read. An epic telling of the war on drugs from every angle.

BAD MONKEYS, Matt Ruff
Matt Ruff is one of this year’s discoveries; I’m actually reading another of his right now, FOOL ON THE HILL. A fantasist with a wonderful sense of play who also has something to say.

THE SONG IS YOU, Arthur Phillips
Phillips continues to dazzle with this novel of music, love, and obsession.

THE HUNGER GAMES, Susan Collins
The most fun I had reading this year. Smart, tense, and entertaining as hell, this one is really is pure pleasure.

SATURDAY, Ian McEwan
It’s Ian McEwan.

MARKET FORCES, Richard K. Morgan
Morgan was last year’s big discovery, and the most exciting sci-fi writer I’ve come across since William Gibson.

THE YIDDISH POLICEMAN’S UNION, Michael Chabon
Chabon can, apparently, do any goddamn thing he pleases, including write a noir fantasy about a Jewish state in Alaska. His style is so adroit and so muscular it leaves me at once thrilled and pissed.

THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO
Junot Diaz

Probably the second most fun I had reading this year. Diaz’s debut novel is charming, wicked smart, and wonderfully nuanced.

If you’re looking for more recommendations, on my website I keep a running list of books I dug. They’re all over the place in genre and style, but all of them entertained, educated, or inspired me.

How about you? What blew your hair back this year?

6 comments:

Jen Forbus said...

I'm still compiling my favorites for the year, but among my reads this year were 3 of Winslows...all great. YEAR OF THE DOG is the one I have signed by him and it's still waiting in my TBR pile. I'll get there one of these days.

This has just been an outstanding year for me reading-wise it's going to be hard to pick a best-of list and have it not be 30 books long!

Bethany K. Warner said...

One of the students I work with recommended Hunger Games to me and I agree -- a highly entertaining read.

Loved Oscar Wao as well.

Jonathan Barnes "The Domino Men" got high marks from me this year.

Anonymous said...

Pete Dexter's "Spooner" is an amazing journey of a book.

mw said...

re Tim O'Brien. What did you think of his last two books? I read 'Tomcat in Love' and thought it very slight. I didn't even bother with 'July, July'. I love his earlier work, but he's been quiet a while now.

Steerpike said...

Good recommendations!

I loved The Hunger Games. Takes a sort of confidence, on the part of the writer, to drop the reader into such a complex world and make it work with only minimal exposition. Reminds me a bit of George RR Martin, but maybe a little more on top of deadlines...

Martel said...

I loved THE HUNGER GAMES and the sequel, CATCHING FIRE. Now I have to wait another year for the final book :(

Some of my other favorites were: DARK PLACES by Gillian Flynn, and THE DARKNESS by Jason Pinter.

As far as rediscovering old works, I'm now hooked on the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald.