Since 2009 is rapidly coming to a close, here's a brief list of the books that stood out to me this year. Most of them weren't published in 2009; they are simply the ones that I discovered for the first time in 2009. Be warned: this is an incomplete list, as until I joined Goodreads, I was hopelessly bad at keeping track of the books I read. Anyway, here we go (in no particular order)...
The White Bone: A Novel, by Barbara Gowdy.
A family of elephants fight for survival in a threatened habitat. The depth of the elephant world that Gowdy created is astonishing. These elephants have their own habits, naming systems, family systems, religion, and superstition - and it all makes sense. I bought the narration (by elephants, of course), and I totally bought the elephant culture. Warning: this is a terribly depressing book. But it's so, so captivating.
The Likeness, by Tana French.
Once upon a time in the UK, Detective Cassie Maddox worked undercover to expose a drug dealer in the universities. Now, a girl has been found murdered - someone with Cassie's face, using her undercover identity - and it's up to Cassie to step into the likeness' shoes to uncover the killer. The Likeness is the second book by Tana French, who first broke into the mystery scene with In the Woods. I'm not sure where to start with this book. French's writing really creeps me out with its creepy greatness. (In a great way.) She has this unbelievable knack for effortlessly pulling the reader into a story and into the characters' heads - I finished this book in one sitting. I also enjoyed the fact that it had a (relatively) happy ending, which was lacking in In the Woods. (If you don't already know, I'm a sucker for (believable) happy endings.)
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
This is one of those books that is so emotionally taxing you're not sure if you ever want to read it again - but it was beautiful because of this fact. I can't believe it took me so long to get around to this book.
A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin.
Murder and intrigue in a fight for a throne. Throughout the first few chapters, it's hard to keep characters straight, as there are at least fifteen "major" characters that you must know. Once I got into it, though, it was hard not to be blown away by the incredible complexity of the plot. I was completely sucked into this book. Also notable is the fact that though this is a fantasy book, there is almost no magic whatsoever present. (In the first book of the series, at least...)
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.
By now, everyone's heard about this book, so I was expecting to be disappointed when I finally sat down to read it. Needless to say, I was not. The Hunger Games is a fast paced YA fantasy adventure story that I thoroughly enjoyed, although I don't recommend it for the faint of heart, as there is a surplus of blood and violence throughout.
Fables: Legends in Exile, by Bill Willingham.
Those who know me know without a doubt that I am forever in love with fairy tales. So when I heard from a good friend about a graphic novel series about (surprise!) fairy tales, I couldn't resist. The story goes that there are a bunch of fairy tale characters from various worlds who have been chased by "the Adversary" into exile on Earth. Here, they formed a community known as Fabletown, and tried to live unremarkable lives amongst the "mundanes" (us). Fairy tale crossover interactions and relationships ensue, as well as the looming threat of the Adversary, who may be descending upon Earth. The first book, Legends in Exile, is not my favorite, but it's still quite good, and the series only goes up from there.
Is it terribly depressing that there were only six books worthy of this post? If I included the other Fable books, I would have more... On the other hand, it's fair to say that I've been reading a greater variety of books, which was one of my goals for 2009.
Well, see you next year! May the Excellent Book Fairy be with you!