Most memorable reads of 2009

Plain and simple, our favorite reads of the year. What were yours?

Emera’s most memorable reads

In the order in which I read them, with review links where available, and blurbs where not. First, novels and graphic novels (with one manga series snuck in):

  • The Inside, by Isaac Marion (2008)
  • The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb (1995-1997). My first epic high fantasy in forever; mediocre stylistically, but the plot, characters, and attention to detail are captivating.
  • Swordspoint, by Ellen Kushner (1987). Swordplay, intrigue, and one of my favorite fictional couples. Exquisite, witty, bittersweet.
  • The Etched City, by K. J. Bishop (2003)
  • Battle Angel Alita, by Yukio Kishiro (1990-1995). Gadgets! Grunge! Explosions! Indestructible heroine, outrageously good art, and outrageous cyberpunk melodrama!
  • The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman (2008). Classic Gaiman goodness. Yearning, dark, delicate.
  • Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-1987). Hmm, too obvious an inclusion? Almost relentlessly artistic, with unforgettable characters.
  • The Red Tree, by Caitlín R. Kiernan (2009)
  • Orlando, by Virginia Woolf (1928). Literarygasm! History, sexuality, and textuality.

Runners-up (enjoyed, but didn’t make as much of a personal impact) were Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl (2006) and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003).

And my favorite short fiction reads this year:

  • “Carmilla,” by J. Sheridan le Fanu (1872). Lesbian vampire + weird Gothic eroticism = yes please.
  • “Over the River,” by P. Schuyler Miller (1941). Beautiful concept, beautiful execution. One of my favorite vampire stories; masterful use of perspective.
  • “Unicorn Tapestry,” by Suzy McKee Charnas (1980). Same as the above. Great characters and atmosphere.
  • “Anna,” by Isaac Marion, illus. Sarah Musi (2008)
  • “Stone Animals,” by Kelly Link (2004)
  • “My Death,” by Lisa Tuttle (2004)
  • “This is Now,” by Michael Marshall Smith (2004)
  • “Exhalation,” by Ted Chiang (2008). Both meticulous and quietly wondrous.
  • “A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antarctica,” by Catherynne M. Valente (2008). Playful and luminous.

Hm, somehow that came out to 9 each. Overall, I read 59 books – not too shabby. Also, 2009 was a big year in that Kakaner and I started seriously book-collecting. And – clearly – we started The Black Letters. Bookish goals for the coming year are to continue to attack both of those pursuits with vim and vigor – and, for me, to start using Librarything again to track my acquisitions. Happy 2010!

Kakaner’s most memorable reads

  • Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) Robert Heinlein. An obvious classic for well-known reasons.
  • Requiem for a Dream (1978) by Hubert Selby Jr. A slip-through-your-fingers look at life for those caught in the downward spiral of drugs and addiction. Jarring, haunting, dark, and a harsh reality.
  • The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden (2006) by Catherynne Valente. The meta-fairy-tale to end all meta-fairy-tales. It’s exactly what I suspect it set out to achieve– enchanting and breathtaking.
  • The City & The City (2009) by China Mieville
  • Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft (2008) by Joe Hill. A masterful graphic novel debut that is just strange enough to mess with your head.
  • Kick-Ass Vol 1 (2010) by Mark Millar. Loads of fun and full of potential– yet another anti-superhero miniseries.

Other enjoyables but not overwhelmingly impactfuls: The Little Stranger (2009) by Sarah Waters and The Icarus Girl (2006) by Helen Oyeyemi.

The short fiction:

  • “Exhalation” (2008) by Ted Chiang
  • “Urchins, While Swimming” (2006) by Catherynne Valente. Beautiful modern interpretation of the rusalka myth.
  • “304 Adolph Hitler Strasse” by Lavie Tidhar. The funniest (and most offensive) thing I’ve read in a while– Holocaust fanfiction anyone?
  • “The Third Bear” by Jeff VanderMeer. Powerful and provoking.
  • “Born of Man and Woman” by Richard Mattheson. An intense, short tale of a mutant locked in a basement– a horrifying classic.

I am deeply embarrassed to admit I read a painfully small amount of books in 2009. Precisely 27. Compared to the 91 I read in 2008 and 100+ in 2007, this is like a punch to the gut. Usually Decembers are marked by furious reading, but seeing as I had no cushy winter break or finals period this year, December was marked by no reading. I’m going to chalk it up to graduating, finding my own place, working full time, and starting Real Life.

Resolutions? READ. MORE. Consistently update TBL. Make enough headway on Bokoclient to produce a passable GUI. And slow down on the book purchasing. Look out for an enticing upcoming book giveaway! And Merry New Years!

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  1. Anda’s avatar

    2009 is when I decided to read Perdido Street Station a book I picked up on a whim in 2008 after I heard it mentioned in passing on a blog as a good read. That was an excellent whim.
    I’ve just picked up “The City and the City” and it’s fantastic.
    I haven’t read very many books this year either- I blame the distance to Bookstores. It’s a trade off. I have art supply stores that stock the strangest things, albeit when “glassblowing” and “installation art” are legit electives, you start to expect weird things.

    Reply

  2. Emera’s avatar

    Do you at least have a good library around you? Even if there are no bookstores, libraries are always lifesavers!

    Reply

  3. Anda’s avatar

    Aside from the campus library, none within walking distance. But if you want a lavish coffee-table book on Illuminated manuscripts, Fleischer-era animation backgrounds or something equally weird and artsy the campus library has it- non-fiction not so much.

    Reply

  4. Emera’s avatar

    Nooooo! That would drive me crazy – in my head, campus libraries in particular exist for the purpose of containing every book you might think to look for. (I love trying to stump my campus library’s catalogue.) :P Well, of course having access to obscure art tomes has its advantages, too…

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  5. Anda’s avatar

    It does, anything you can think of about Baroque, Disney-Renaissance, Impressionists, the comic Golden-age the library has, down to Don Bluth’s original artwork and the like.
    I think I’ve used it once, for Illuminated maniscripts. XP
    This might have something to do with the college in question being a art school.
    Though why a decent book/ comic store doesn’t move in is beyond me, given that there is a captive audience. Nobody – and I mean NOBODY, has a car.

    Reply

  6. Emera’s avatar

    It’s too bad you haven’t had to / been able to use it more – I often feel guilty that there must be so many amazing and underappreciated books in university libraries in particular that go ignored by students simply because we’re too busy doing other things. :P oh to be a perpetual student, with no actual homework!

    Though why a decent book/ comic store doesn’t move in is beyond me, given that there is a captive audience.
    I always wonder about missed opportunities like these, that seem blindingly obvious from the perspective of the deprived consumer. (e.g. Kakaner’s university has NO ice cream places within walking distance, which is unthinkable to me. :P) Maybe there isn’t enough retail space in your area? (random guess) In general, it is pretty hard to start book stores, I know, but it’s pretty bizarre that a Barnes and Nobles or the like hasn’t just opened a location there.

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  7. Melanie’s avatar

    i loved The Graveyard Book but read it in 2008 so it didn’t come up on my best of 2009 list. I started reading Stranger in a Strange Land last year but never finished it. need to dig that back out….

    Reply

  8. kakaner’s avatar

    *raises hand*

    My library. Is. Major. Suckage. I also go to a tech school so they really don’t have much in the way of awesome books. I would KILL to see more illuminated manuscripts. If I get really rich someday, I’m beelining for illuminated manuscripts at rare book stores.

    And no we don’t have an ice cream place within walking distance (unless you count McDonalds) and no we don’t have a good bookstore within comfortable walking distance.

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  9. Anda’s avatar

    There’s an antique store near where I live that has something similar to a page from a Illuminated manuscript in the window.
    I’ve yet to work up the courage to walk into the store.

    But it looks like I made out like a bandit with ice cream places! 3 Gelatto places and at least 3 more ice cream places.

    Reply

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