Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: The Year in Review

The Year in Review
Well, that's a wrap!  2009 was a fantastic reading year for me, especially when compared to 2008 and 2007.  It was also a fantastic blogging year for me.  As you can tell from my right-hand column of archives, I've done a lot more writing on here than ever before.  Than ever before combined, even.

My life overall in 2009 has been up in the air, and I end this year very much at loose ends with regards to my future.  I hope things work out the way I want them to, but it's nice to know that regardless of what happens, I will always have books!  I've also really enjoyed getting to know so many people on the blogosphere this year.  My Google Reader is full of blogs to read and follow that I didn't know existed a year ago, and I've become good friends with so many people that I wonder how I added books to my TBR pile before meeting you all!

Thank you so much for all the friendship, the book recommendations, and the conversations.  I look forward to many more in 2010!

And here, without further ado, is my 2010 Year of Books in Review!  Note:  I try to spread the wealth in these lists!  There are some authors or books that could show up in more than one category but don't due to my wanting to add to all your TBR piles :-)

Best Book Read in 2009

Wish Her Safe at Home
Wish Her Safe at Home, by Stephen Benatar

Honestly, if I could get a copy of this book for everyone who has ever turned the last page of a book, taken a deep breath and thought, "Wow, this author is one bleep of a writer," then I would do so.  I was blown away by this book.  It is written so spectacularly, and you are so deeply inside the protagonist's poor insane head.  I loved this book.

The Best of the Rest (in no particular order):
Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel - I was firmly in the "This book is awesome" camp on this Booker winner.  I know a lot of people found it dull and difficult to follow.  But I am a Mantel fan to the end, even when she cruelly ruins the "happily ever after" ending of my favorite fairy tale

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman -Gaiman made my list of "new to me" authors last year, and this year cemented himself there.  I also loved Stardust by him this year, but in a different way.  I loved how he made London's past come to life in this book, through the use of Tube stations.

Bridge of Birds, by Barry Hughart - Abolutely hilarious.  And a very good story, too.  I have never been a huge fan of the East in fantasy fiction, but now I am.  I wish Hughart's books weren't so difficult to find.

Affinity, by Sarah Waters - I know, I know, everyone thinks Fingersmith is better.  But I read Affinity first and it just hit me as more of a bombshell.  In my opinion, Fingersmith was a bit too heavy on the foreshadowing in the first part.  Affinity struck just the right tone for me.

The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro - Ishiguro can do more with five words than most authors can do with fifty.  This book exemplifies his ability to do this.

The Enchantress of FlorenceThe Enchantress of Florence, by Salman Rushdie - Is this book a defense of  women?  Is it anti-women?  How much faith can you put in a story?  I don't know all the answers, but really enjoyed mulling over them while reading this book.

The Book of the Unknown:  Tales of the Thirty-Six, by Jonathan Keats - Short stories based on Jewish mythology (I didn't even know that such a thing as Jewish mythology existed before this book), all of which have an underlying message of "Do Good --> Good things will happen to you."  I believe in that.

Best newly discovered authors (ones never read prior to 2009):
Sarah Waters
Michael J. Sullivan
Walter Satterthwait

The Thief

Best book found via blog comment:

Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series - And the fourth in the series comes out in 2010! Hurrah!

Female character I'd most like for my new BFF:
Sarah Tolerance, Madeline Howard's Sarah Tolerance mysteries - I'm very sad this series hasn't continued on, and I really hope Howard does something to bring Sarah out of retirement, because she is fabulous.

Female character I most cheered for:
Susan Rose, The Wet Nurse's Tale
She's so real and easy to empathize with.

Male character I am crushing on:
Number Ten Ox, Bridge of Birds
He is sooooo dreamy.  I must find the other books in this series!

Male Character I Want to Hug:
Glokta, The Blade Itself
Red Seas Under Red SkiesIf a heroic soldier who went through agonizing, crippling torture doesn't deserve a hug, I dont know who does. 

Most Fascinating Character:
Jean Tannen, Red Seas Under Red Skies
Still waters run deep.

Favorite Couple:
As always, Marcus Didius Falco & Helena Justina in Lindsay Davis's mystery series
These two knock my socks off.  So fabulous, all the time.  Even in the not-so-hot books.

Favorite Bromance:
Jean Tannen & Locke Lamora, Red Seas Under Red Skies
Royce & Hadrian, The Riyria Revelations

Books that changed my approach to life:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (I am now a farmers' market junkie and even ordered a heritage turkey for Christmas!)
The King's English, by Betsy Burton (I hope to make more purchases at independent bookstores going forward)

Most inspirational book:
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba - If a 13-year-old can bring electricity and irrigation to his village by building a windmill while dumpster-diving, then... well, I should probably be doing something besides putzing around the Internet.

The Girl with Glass Feet
Most inventive storyline:
The Girl with Glass Feet, by Ali Shaw - A woman slowly turning into a glass sculpture while falling in love with a man who is emotionally unavailable?  Tragic love story x a million.  But so beautiful to read.

New genres tried in 2009:
Graphic Novel


Most surprising novel in a good way:
Wish Her Safe at Home, by Stephen Benatar - See my gushing above.

Most surprising novel in a bad way:
Baking Cakes in Kigali, by Gail Perkin - I just expected this to be much more inventive and fun than it was.

Bridge of Birds
Books that made me laugh out loud and snort embarrassingly:
Bridge of Birds, by Barry Hughart - If my comments above haven't made you want to read this book, I have failed miserably as a book-buying enabler.  I snorted while reading this book.  And I think you will, too.

Escapade, by Walter Satterthwait - A truly sarcastic employee describing the overly-egotistical Harry Houdini while fending off the advances of several women at an English house party?  Excellent.

Footsteps in the Dark
Footsteps in the Dark, by Georgette Heyer - I think you probably all know that I am a lifelong Heyer fan.  She is so spot on in her sarcasm and irony.  This book is hilarious.  I am giggling just thinking about it.  Witty banter?  Check.  Characters oblivious to insults?  Check.  Bumbling police inspectors?  Check.  Snide asides?  Check.  Fabulous.  This is one of my favorite Heyer novels.

Soulless, by Gail Carriger - This one sometimes made me laugh in a "Wow, that is very cheesy" sort of way, but always with the impression that the author knew she was writing some very silly stuff.  Hopefully, that is.

Most difficult to read but ultimately rewarding book:
What is the What, by Dave Eggers
The Blue Notebook, by James Levine

Total Books Read:  77 - A RECORD YEAR for me!!

Trends for 2009 and Hopes for 2010:  
Once again, I was quite heavy on the fantasy and historical fiction this year, comprising together almost 2/3 of the books I read this year.  However, the non-fantasy and non-historical fiction books I read this year were varied across genres, from cozy mystery to thriller to non-fiction.  I'm quite happy about that!  I didn't read any classics this year, which upsets me.  I am already starting Gogol's Dead Souls, though, and so am on the way to remedying that.  Also, a good many of the books listed above have been on my shelf for months or sometimes even years.  And I never read them!  So I hope to spend 2010 enjoying books off my own shelves and finding a balance (a girl can dream, right?) between new books and old.  I also hope to read more graphic novels!  I want to give science fiction a try in 2010 and read some more non-fiction.


  1. I'm enjoying your list. I thought I was the only blogger who read The Book of The Unknown this year! It was a great read though I don't know if it was one of this year's absolute favorites.It's definitely a book I'm going to re-read.

    Happy New Year!

  2. Interesting list. I've just added Wish her Safe at Home to my wishlist because of your review and you make me want to read Wolf Hall in spite of the division this book has caused among book bloggers. Remains of the Day is on my all-time faves list.

  3. Mantel was really good, and oh yes I sure laughed silly reading Soulless too ;)

    Making my own little post today, but first I gotta see what I enjoyed

  4. Anonymous12/31/2009

    What an impressively eclectic list. I love it! I'm definitely going to read Affinity next year. You have convinced me to add Wish her Safe at Home to my wish list, and I loooove that you have a Bromance category! Happy new year and I look forward to reading more of your reviews in 2010.

  5. I promise you I WILL read Wish Her Safe at Home. It sounds like a fascinating book. Actually, all of your choices do! Thank you for bringing some great books to my attention, and Happy New Year, Aarti!

  6. Awesome post Aarti! I am so coming back to it as a reference as to what to read next in 2010!

    I will now have to read Wish Her Safe at Home first:)
    I also definitely agree with you about Heyer being hysterical and really spot on with her sarcasm and irony.

    Happy New year!

  7. Good to meet you this year!

    Sorry you didn't enjoying Baking Cakes. That was one of my favorites of the year.

  8. Great list! I too was affected by Animal Vegetable Miracle. It made my best list as well.

    Congrats on breaking your own record!

  9. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle made me want to change the way I eat too. I've been doing a lot more seasonal foods, which was fun in the fall but more of a challenge now that it's winter.

    I feel the same sort of up in the airness for the end of this year and the beginning of next year, but things have a way of working out when we're not paying attention. Good luck, and I'm glad to have found your blog this year!

  10. Great list. I am interested in reading The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I loved Never Let Me Go by him. I'm glad 2009 has been such a great blogging year for you! Happy New Year!

  11. I am so glad you've had such a good year both with blogging and books, Aarti. The book blogging community really is something special, isn't it?

    I enjoyed reading your wrap up post for the year. You've definitely added to my wish list!

    I am looking forward to reading Wolf Hall one of these days. And the more I hear about Affinity, the more I want to read it. I really must read a Sarah Waters novel this year.

    Good luck with your reading goals this next year, Aarti. I hope you have a wonderful New Year.

  12. Anonymous12/31/2009

    What a great list. I just read The King's really does make you support the indies!

  13. Wish Her Safe At Home has completely missed my radar. I feel I now need to read this. I shall add it to my list.

    What a great list. I hope next year brings you lots of good times and that all your loose ends get tied up.

    Have a great New Year.

  14. Great list! I love that you have so many different kinds of books on here. Makes me want to expand my reading horizons more.

  15. What a great list Aarti! A lot of these books have made it onto my shelves due to your excellent reviews of them, and I really look forward to reading all of them! I am also reading Dead Souls right now and finding it really amusing and interesting. I will be interested in hearing what you think of it. It's really a lot more accessible than I thought it would be. If I don't get a chance to speak to you in the next few days, I wish you a very Happy New Year!!

  16. Vasilly- I didn't know anyone else who had read it, either! I don't know why, but the mysticism bent really caught my attention.

    Mrs. B- I think as I continue reading more of his work, Ishiguro will be one of my favorite authors.

    Blodeuedd- Yes, I remember your reactions to both books. Clearly we both have excellent taste :-)

    chasingbawa- I hope you like Affinity and Wish Her Safe at Home! Both excellent.

    Nymeth- YAY, I think you'd really enjoy Wish Her Safe at Home.

    lilly- Yes, Heyer is so excellent on irony. Love her sense of humor.

    Amanda- I really enjoyed meeting you this year, too :-)

    Chris- Yes, that book made me realize how yummy food is when you expand a bit.

    Kim- I'm all about seasonal food, too. Though don't do it as much in the winter. However, I do try to be more observant about my eating habits now.

    julie- I hope you enjoy The Remains of the Day.

    Literary Feline- And good luck to you, too! I hope you read and enjoy Wolf Hall, even though some people just didn't enjoy it much.

    softdrink- Yes, and so many excellent book suggestions in there, too!

    Vivienne- Yes, I think the book missed a lot of people's radar, but it should (in my opinion) get a lot more credit!

    Katy- I think I expanded my reading horizons more this year, which makes me happy. It was nice to stretch a bit.

    Zibilee- Happy new year to you, too! I agree that Dead Souls is hilarious and very accessible. We'll definitely chat about it!

  17. I like your categories of different 'best' books. I didn't read nearly so many, but there were definitely some that stood out. I agree about the Ishiguro!

  18. I am so glad that Neverwhere was on your favorites list-- we share that in common. ;p

    I'm so glad I read through your lists because I found some new additions to my TBR namely The Girl with Glass Feet.

    Happy New Year!

  19. This is such an impressive list of books! I only hope that I can create such a varied and entertaining list of reading material for 2010.
    I have really enjoyed your reviews and look forward to more in the New Year!

  20. I love your lists. I have not read any of these yet, though many of them have been on my radar for a while. Happy New Year!

  21. Sounds like an excellent reading year! Here's to another next year!

  22. I love your list. I think we have very similar taste in books! I'm going to look for your top pick in e-form but I'm going to get it one way or another- if you liked it that much I know I will too!

  23. Your list is so wonderfully unique! Congratulations on having such a great reading year!

  24. OK - you've persuaded me! I've just bought a copy of Wish Her Safe at Home. I look forward to finding out if it is as good as you say it is!

  25. I love your list and the categories to boot! Don't worry, you have not failed as a book-buying enabler. I'll be looking for Bridge of Birds next time I pop in a bookstore. Have a great year ahead!

  26. Awesome, awesome list. I have been meaning to read Bridge of Birds for years now, but I keep forgetting about it. Must stop that.

    If you liked Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, consider trying Margaret Webb's Apples to Oysters. It has a distinctly Canadian focus, but a lot of what she talks about is universal to farmers everywhere. Plus she includes recipes! (I reviewed it if you're curious to know more.)

    Happy new year! May you find many more books to love in the coming months.

  27. Anonymous1/01/2010

    I discovered Sarah Waters this year as well, with Fingersmith. Haven't read Affinity yet, but it's quite high on my list at the moment.

    Also, want to read Remains Of The Day, as I've heard some incredible things about it. I've read a couple of Ishiguros (Never Let Me Go and When We Were Orphans) and loved them.

    Happy 2010 reading:)

  28. Anonymous1/01/2010

    Hmm, the above comment was from me. Not sure how it ended up as Anonymous. Oh well...

  29. I'll be sure to get a copy of Stephen Benatar's Wish Her Safe at Home. Happy New Year.
    Here is to all your dreams coming true in 2010.
    Every happiness friend.
    Warmest regards,

  30. Anonymous1/01/2010

    I'm with you! Balance is something I am shooting for in 2010.

    Happy New Year!

  31. You've definitely added new books to my wishlist and moved a few up to the top. Fun post!

  32. Aarti,

    You are right that you will always have books, but you shall also always have your book blogging friends as long as you'd like us! :D

    I love your list. I love how it is as eclectic as my own lists are. Books now on my radar thanks to you: Bridge of Birds, Wish Her Safe at Home, and The Girl with Glass Feet.

  33. Great year-end summary! I still have to do mine, but "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" definitely will be included as one of my fave books, too.

    And now I have a few more books I want to read, thanks to you!

  34. I'd never heard of WISH HER SAFE AT HOME before, but it sounds amazing! It's definitely going on my wishlist.

    Congrats on having such a great year! I hope 2010 is just as good for you.

  35. I don't think I've read any of the books on your list, but I'll have to check them out.

    Wishing you all the best in 2010!

    Diary of an Eccentric

  36. Jean Tannen! I do love him. And the bromance between him and Locke. :) Oh Jean, I do love him!

  37. Your comment on always having books, no matter what else happens in life, really resonated with me. :) It's been so fun getting to know you this year Aarti!

    And of your favourite books, I've read and LOVED most of them, so I totally want to read Wish Her Safe at Home now!

  38. Everyone is so organized about their lists! I am impressed!

  39. You have convinced me, I just added Wish Her Safe at Home to my TBR.

  40. Awesome list! I love reading favorites list because I feel I missed so many reviews the first time around! Happy New Year (a bit belated).

  41. I really enjoyed your categories - of course, added some books to my list. Thanks. =)

    I remember you gushing about Wish Her Safe At Home the first time around, but didn't write it down then - I'm glad you raved about it again. It sounds fascinating.


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