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My Four Favorite Books of 2009

January 3, 2010
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Last year I posted a list of all of the books I read that year, highlighting my favorite book of 2008, In the Middle of the Night. I finished 13 books in 2008, a count that I doubled in 2009 thanks to numerous road trips and an invigorated book club.

Four books received the coveted Jamey Stegmaier 5-Star Rating in 2009. They are as follows in no particular order:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (mystery, 608 pages, author is dead)

Why you should read it: This is the best-written mystery I’ve ever read. Hands down. Larsson (and his translator) don’t waste a single word, so the 600+ pages fly by. His characters are well realized through showing, not telling, especially Lisbeth Salander. The mysteries within the book unfurl at exactly the right pace.

Acacia: The War with the Mein by David Anthony Durham (fantasy, 768 pages, author blog here)

Why you should read it: Durham (who I’ve had the good fortune of e-mailing with a little bit) is an incredible author with some of the best world-building skills I’ve ever seen. His work is fantasy, but it doesn’t always feel like fantasy because of the traditions, customs, and religions he incorporates into Acacia. Despite all that supporting material, the book is always moving forward.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (dystopian young adult fiction, pages, author page here)

Why you should read it: This is dystopian young adult fiction at its finest. The book is sheer popcorn entertainment from page one. It will be a hard movie to make because, well, kids kill other kids in this book, but it would be amazing to watch this book unfurl on the big screen.

Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson (short story collection, 240 pages, author blog here)

Why you should read it: Usually when I read short story collections, there is a mix of good stories, bad stories, and mediocre stories. Two of Wilson’s stories don’t hit the mark for me. The rest are brilliant. Two haven’t left my mind since I read the book: one about a grandmother-for-hire service and the other about a group of post-college kids who decide to start digging tunnels in the ground (think Adventureland with shovels). If you love heartbreakingly moving short stories, you must read this book.

Remarkably, the first three books on that list are book ones in trilogies. I read the second book of the Acacia and Hunger Games trilogies in 2009 as well; they’re fantastic, but they suffer from Second Book Syndrome: although they’re riveting, they end up feeling like the second waiting room at the doctor’s office. The one that brings you so close to actually seeing the doctor, but not quite. Those second books will be stronger after the book threes come out.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2010 4:47 pm

    I have been wanting to read “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo.” I’m glad to hear that you recommend it! Now, if only I can get through the five books I’ve already purchased and started that are in my nightstand/on my bookshelf. I’d love to clone myself just so one of me could read and watch movies!

  2. January 3, 2010 4:49 pm

    Ha ha…an entertainment clone? I like it. Perhaps those time-management skills you’re working on will help 🙂

    (To other readers: I haven’t chimed in yet, but there’s a great discussion going on over at Lauren’s blog today: http://mylifeincomplete.com/2010/01/03/today-i-am-struggling-mli-discussion-goal-setting-and-time-management/)

  3. Tolles permalink
    January 3, 2010 6:25 pm

    So what are the other books?

    • January 3, 2010 7:54 pm

      The full list:

      The Tales of Beedle the Bard
      The Monsters of Templeton
      The Corpse Walker
      Stroke of Genius
      The Hunger Games
      Acacia
      Permission Marketing
      The Twenty-Seventh City
      Fragile Things (Neil Gaiman)
      Tunneling to the Center of the Earth (Kevin Wilson)
      The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More (Roald Dahl)
      Gilead by Marilyn Robinson
      Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life by Roald Dahl
      Night by Elie Wiesel
      Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough
      Chasing the Dime by Michael Connely
      The Umbrella Man by Roald Dahl
      Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
      Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
      A Confederacy of Dunces
      The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
      The Lost Symbol
      The Other Lands by David Anthony Durham
      The Cloud Atlas
      The Tipping Point
      The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

  4. Colleen permalink
    January 4, 2010 3:46 pm

    Thanks for the book list, Jamey! I’m always looking for new books to read. A few books that I really enjoyed include:

    “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver

    “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert

    “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

    • January 4, 2010 4:48 pm

      Thanks, Colleen. We read the last two of those books in book club, and I also heard great things about the first book on the list.

  5. January 6, 2010 5:58 pm

    Hey Jamie! Thanks for the mention. You’re kind – and I’m very glad you enjoyed the book!

    Best for the New Year,

    David.

    • January 6, 2010 6:09 pm

      Thanks, David. I’m honored you’d check out my blog. Best of luck in writing Book 3.

      Note to all other authors: Authors like David–those who have Google Alerts set up for mentions on blogs and such–make the difference between a person buying a book the day it comes out and waiting for it to be available at the library (or the paperback).

      If you haven’t read Acacia and The Other Lands, go get them today. Every person I’ve recommended them to has loved them.

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