Before we get to the best books of the year, I want to give you all an update on the Taproot Theatre blogathon: there were 45 comments on the post, which means that – thanks to the generous matching donations of Esther and Herb Arden, Adam Bailey, Scott Cummins, and Tiffany Werner – together we raised $225 for Taproot! Many, many thanks to these donors–and to each of you who left a comment. I was unprepared for people to respond with such generosity and excitement, and I cannot express my gratitude. Thank you thank you thank you!
And now, on to the Best Books of 2009!
Okay, so these are not actually the best books of 2009. They’re just the books I liked best. Nor were they all published this year (in fact, I think only one of them was); I just happened to read them in 2009. I’ve read 43 books since I started keeping track in April, and these are my favorites, in no order except the order that I recorded them in my notebook (which may or may not be the order in which I read them):
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The tale of 16-year-old Kit, who moves from her home in Barbados to Puritan New England and finds herself clashing with the culture of her new home, this is one of those books I somehow missed reading as a child, and I’m sad about that. I think everyone should have the opportunity to read this lovely and delightful book when they’re a kid. I can hardly wait till Jack and Jane are old enough that I can read it to them.
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
Like The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Bronze Bow won a Newbery Medal. (Speare’s other two books were Newbery Honor books, which is like a silver medal instead of a gold, the point being, she’s an amazing writer.) The Bronze Bow is the story of an embittered boy and his ill sister and their encounters with Jesus of Nazareth. A beautiful book.
Blue Heart Blessed by Susan Meissner
This book takes place in St. Paul, Minnesota, in an old hotel-turned-apartment building. I fell in love with the community of people living in that building. They completely captured my imagination, and I wanted to move in. There’s also a sweet love story, which is always a plus in my book (uh, no pun intended).
Holes by Louis Sachar
Another Newbery winner, Holes is a masterpiece of tightly braided storylines, both past and present, that weave together to create a seamless whole. This is a brilliant book. And a bloody fun read.
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
Winner of a National Book Award, The Penderwicks captured my heart. (You can read my review here.) For today’s purposes, I think the subtitle says it well: “A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy.” Indeed.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Another National Book Award winner, this book is unlike any other I read this year. It’s a coming-of-age story and a quest story and more than either of those categories suggest. It’s tragic and hilarious. It’s brilliant and poignant. And it’s got great cartoons.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This was my third time through this classic, and I like it better with each reading. What more can I say? (Well, um, truth be told, I can say more, and if you’d like to know what that more is, you can read my review…)
A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser
The only non-fiction on this list, A Grace Disguised is one of those books I’ll likely turn back to again and again. It’s not an easy or a fun read, but it’s an important book, an unflinching look at suffering and our response to it. (You can read more about it here.)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I first read Jane Eyre when I was 19. I so completely didn’t get it. I remember not really liking it, and thinking Mr. Rochester was weird and Jane weirder for liking him. Well, let me tell you, 15 years makes a big difference. I loved this book! It sucked me in and didn’t let me go. Also, it’s a good vocabulary builder: there were easily a dozen words that highly vocabularized I not only didn’t know the meaning of but had never even seen before!
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This was my favorite book from the time I was ten until I read Gone with the Wind when I was 15, and I hadn’t read it since then. The version I read to Jack was beautifully illustrated by Inga Moore and thoroughly engrossed both of us. It also inspired me to at least want to do something with the wilderness I call my yard…
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I think this was my 12th time through Pride and Prejudice, which is one of my favorite books of all time. The six-hour BBC miniseries is great, but the book is better. So, if you haven’t read this book, what are you waiting for? It’s laugh-out-loud funny, smart, and all-around delightful, better even than Colin Firth in a wet shirt (oh, that poor, poor man; he’ll be 70, and people like me will still be making snarky comments…).
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
15-year-old Sam’s mother is in rehab for alcoholism, her father is a workaholic pastor considering an affair, and a girl in her youth group has been abducted. This trinity of tragedies plunges Sam, who was already teetering on the brink of losing her faith, into a dark night of the soul. A sad, hopeful, lovely book.
If you’d like to know more about any of these books, please leave a comment, and I’ll wax poetic: why do I love this book? Let me count the ways… Seriously, I love to talk books, so I’ll gladly answer any question or respond in kind to anyone else’s raptures about any of these books!
And I’d really love to hear what books you read this year that captured your heart or your imagination. I’m always on the lookout for a good read.