Saturday, January 09, 2010

Favorite Books read in 2009

Reading update from 2009 and goal/plan for 2010.

Well, for those who've followed my blog over at least the past year, you may be aware that I had a goal to read 50 books over the course of 2009. There were some that I really enjoyed, others that were an annoyance to finish and others that were alright but nothing to write home about.

Now, if I were to include the various young children's books I read with my kids (Bernstein Bears, Barbie, Arthur, Sweet Pickles, etc), then I most certainly achieved the goal of 50 books. By excluding those short kids/picture books from my official list of "books read", I don't want you to think that I have anything against those books. On the contrary, I really love a lot of those books and really enjoy reading them. And if I come across one that I find particularly new or noteworthy, I will likely include it on a future list. However, with most of those young readers, I have already read the book before and for those I haven't read already, the time and investment in reading those books is generally very little. And honestly, the purpose of my goal is to stretch my reading habits. Some may argue that the graphic novels I included should be left off for the same reason. Honestly, there are a few graphic novels I read that I didn't include. Those I did include were those I either particularly enjoyed or those I felt needed some extra attention.

So, over the course of 2009, I read the 43 books indicated on this page. In many/most cases I also wrote a review…ranging from a couple of paragraphs to a couple of pages. The reviews can be found here on my blog as well as on Goodreads, Library Thing, Selfari and even some on and

Looking over the list, here are some of my favorites from 2009 (in no particular order):

Both of the books in the Mysterious Benedict Society series

I really enjoyed this newly discovered series of children's books. The protagonists are very intelligent young kids just slightly older than my oldest. While the books are targeted at younger kids, they are very smart, witty and intriguing. At times the writing did drag a little bit, but it made up for it with plot and characters that were well thought out and well executed.

Captain Blood

Being a lover of all things pirate, I was excited to get into this book. I must admit that some other pirate adventure books can be tedious and boring at times. Captain Blood did occasionally slow down to provide historical or political context, but the moments felt well placed and I was always returned to the suspense and adventure before I became bored with the narrative housekeeping. Additionally, I really loved that the plot involved more than a simple pirate tale of looting and sacking. Instead, it is a well thought out story that creates a very vivid and full character in Captain Blood.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice

I gave this book to Lynette as a gift a few years ago and has since voraciously devoured the rest of the series while continually proclaiming how good these books are. Enjoying Sherlock Holmes myself and being a fan of mysteries, I gave it a try and I have to agree with her that the writing and the mystery is very well crafted. Over time, I intend to catch up with her in the series to find out where Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell go together.

The Lightning Thief

This series was recommended to me by a neighbor and I'd often heard it touted as "Harry Potter meets Greek Mythology." I'm honestly VERY skeptical anytime something is compared to anything that has become pop culture. With Lightning Thief, I was pleasantly surprised to find a funny, fresh adventure with great characters and wonderful imagination. I'm anxious to continue the saga (currently reading book 2)

Fables: Volume 1 - Legends in Exile

I thoroughly enjoyed the remained fairy tales in this book. The modern day crime novel is a fun place to find them duking it out and I think the graphic novel was a great way to present this story. I look forward to reading more in this series and watching these intriguing characters develop.


I had never read Frankenstein before and could only base my knowledge of the movies and other cultural references I had encountered. Instead of a pulp horror book, I was surprised to find a very thoughtful novel which provided a lot of insight and thought into humanity and social relations.  I really liked the man vs monster discussions as well as thoughts about the responsibilities of a creator...human or otherwise.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

While this is a fairly depressive novel filled with one tragedy after another, I found this to be an entertaining and insightful read. I enjoyed the portrayal of 18th century England as well as the depiction of rural/farm life around the country. The plight of Tess through her life was a really intriguing read. While not a happy story by any means, I really enjoyed this book.

Rapunzel's Revenge

Another fairy tale retelling in graphic novel form, this time by Shannon Hale (who I also read for the first time this year and enjoyed). I really liked the whimsical nature of this story as well as the interesting twists and turns. The artwork was a lot of fun and the read was definitely enjoyable.  I was impressed with Hale's storytelling and creativity.  I'm also excited to know that a sequel to this book is being released VERY soon (this week?).

Red Harvest

This book really hit me as an interesting new find. I'd never really read anything in this particular genre…the "dimestore crime novel" or "gritty noir" style. It's interesting to me that this was written in the early 20th century. Admittedly, it is set in that era, but the language just feels so picturesque and animated as compared with other novels from the early 1900s (not to say those other novels were bad). I really loved the narrative voice and characterizations in this novel. The plot was fast paced and exciting with a lot of great twists and turns. It was gritty, exciting and a lot of (violent and crazy) fun.

The Sun Also Rises

Speaking of novels from the early 1900s, I read my first Hemingway novel this year and really enjoyed it. For some reason, I'd always thought Hemingway's work would be very obtuse and unapproachable. I actually found it to be a much simpler read generally but with a lot of nuances and symbolism that was painted between the lines and I'm certain much of it passed by transparent to me. Still, the story and characters in this novel were very engaging and really intriguing to follow. The style was fluid and comfortable. I really liked this novel and look forward to more Hemingway in the future.

Now, just because a book from my read in 2009 list didn't make my favorites list above doesn't mean it wasn't a good book or wasn't worth reading. I pushed through and finished all of them, which says something either about the book or about me. Some were certainly much better than others and there are a number of them that I won't be recommending, but there are few (if any) that I would actually dissuade someone from reading.

I'm looking forward to another great year of reading. My goal is once again to try and read 50 books this year. Even if I don't reach 50, as long as I meet or surpass last year's count of 43, I'll be happy….especially if I like as many this year as I did last year.

Happy Reading!

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