What were your favorite books of the year? (Books that were new to you in 2009, if not necessarily published this year.)
This year, I started The Literary Omnivore. I’ve been a voracious reader for years, and I decided book blogging would be a wonderful creative outlet for me somewhere in October, after a presentation at my school about “e-portfolios”. The book blogging community has been more than welcoming- thank you, ladies! It’s been one of the best things about this year, up there with the inauguration, Dragon*Con, and my first semester of college.
In order to answer this question, I’ve put together a top ten list of the books I read this year. I try to read widely, but I must admit- I have a predisposition for fantasy and strong female characters, which shows in this list.
10. Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
We start with Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth, the recommendation for which I picked up on my senior trip to England this year. Labyrinth entwines the story of Dr. Alice Tanner in the modern day and Alaïs Pelletier in the thirteenth century, both women who suddenly find themselves crucial to the Holy Grail. The reason this is only number ten is because of Alice- she’s largely superfluous, and a lot of events occur in her life simply because they mirror Alaïs’. The reason this is number ten is because of Alaïs, a worthy and realistic heroine for her time. She’s stubborn and capable, and her story is fantastic. If only Alice weren’t involved…
9. Atonement by Ian McEwan
After the film came out, I was quite interested in reading Atonement, and I’m glad I did. The only reason this isn’t placed higher on the list is because it’s absolutely heartbreaking. The execution is perfect, especially how scenes overlap each other- Cecelia tosses a dress to the floor, which Briony trips on later, for instance. This isn’t a book for rereading, but it is an amazing novel.
8. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
In September, I caught up to the rest of the world and read The Other Boleyn Girl. Unsurprisingly, I loved it. Gregory manages to make a story to which we know the outcome suspenseful, and gives Mary, the other Boleyn girl, a quiet dignity to contrast with her scheming, cunning, and thoroughly delightful sister, Anne. Tudor life is dealt with frankly, especially women’s sexuality and how it was viewed. While I’m told it’s not entirely historical accurate, I can’t quite bring myself to care. The story of Mary Boleyn is that good.
7. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
I’d never read Michael Chabon before, and now I know I need to. While The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay has a wandering portion in the middle of the novel, the adventures of Sammy and Josef, cousins and comics men, are fantastic. Michael Chabon includes his research in the subtlest of ways, and he covers a lot in his novel, from World War II to Levittown.
6. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Footnotes and meticulous world building add up to a marvelous alternate history novel about England’s history of magic. The plot’s just as intriguing as English magic, and everything- and I mean everything- is properly researched, but you never feel like Clarke is simply unloading research on you. The novel is split into three volumes, and while Volume I is very good, Volumes II and III blow it out of the water. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is very long, but also very worth it.
5. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Sunshine is misrepresented as a “tale of supernatural desire”. Ignore that silly copy and enjoy the plot- small town baker is captured by vampires, where she meets a vampire who, of all things, needs a mortal’s help… It’s suspenseful and Rae, the baker, is a wonderful character- obviously vulnerable in her new crowd, but determined to succeed and retain her normal life. McKinley’s world of vampires and other supernatural creatures is one of the best I’ve encountered in the past few years.
4. Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
One of the first books to be featured on my Tuesday feature, The Literary Horizon, Rampant caught me with its amazing premise- killer unicorns and the virgins who hunt them. I was hooked. While the beginning is a bit slow, when Rampant takes off, it takes off. I was gasping out loud and eschewing waking up at a reasonable hour the next day just to find out what happened.
3. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
Alternate history literary detective fiction. Yeah, you’d love it too. With plenty of delightful wordplay, a very human main character in Thursday Next, and plenty of interesting plots, schemes, and gadgets, The Eyre Affair was just delightful. Read Jane Eyre prior, though- it’ll definitely help your appreciation of the novel.
2. Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
This is a book I hunted for after I saw it in Publishers Weekly. It takes an amazing plot to make me like zombies, my eternal foe (you’d think I’d more scared of, oh, I dunno, fire), but Boneshaker definitely delivers. Its steampunk world is fascinating, and Briar Wilkes is a marvelous protagonist. I adore the device of using a young character’s parent as a protagonist in young adult fiction- it allows for more variety in main characters. I definitely look forward to more adventures in The Clockwork Century.
1. Graceling, by Kristin Cashore
An accessible, interesting fantasy world and a wonderfully prickly main character who grows as the political intrigue does? Kristin Cashore, you have a loyal reader from now until eternity. (Or you publish something as pointless to your overall story as A Lion Among Men. Which you won’t, I know.) There’s romance, political intrigue, interesting world building, and, most of all, there’s Katsa- a marvelously prickly female character who doesn’t compromise an inch for anything, even love. It’s amazing.
Well, Happy New Year’s Eve to everyone! May the new year bring you many blessings, and many more good books besides.