Archive for the ‘Best Books 2009’ Category

Best Crime Fiction

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Despite the reduction in book review staffs and pages in the consumer media over the past few years, there is no dearth of best books lists, as you can see from the links at the right.

We’ve rounded up the major general lists, but there are dozens of other specialty lists, especially for mysteries. Fortunately, Janet Rudolph has rounded up the lists on her blog Mystery Fanfare.

THE HELP is THE Book of the Year

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Just yesterday, we noted that The Help had appeared on only two best books lists — People’s and Entertainment Weekly‘s.

Forget about that — today, USA Today names it THE  Book of the Year.

The book’s author, Kathryn Stockett was also interviewed by Michelle Norris on NPR‘s All Things Considered last night. Norris introduces the interview by saying that The Help is a book she “can’t seem to escape.” Women call her about it, email her and even approach her in the frozen food aisle to talk about it. The Help seems to compell “…white women to seek out conversation with black women about race and privilege.”

The Help rose from #2 on Amazon sales rankings to #1.


The Help
Kathryn Stockett
Retail Price: $24.95
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Putnam Adult – (2009-02-10)
ISBN / EAN: 0399155341 / 9780399155345

Penguin Audio; ISBN: 9780143144182 $39.95
Downloadable from OverDrive in both eBook and audio


Also available on the NPR Web site is a poignant essay by Norris about the 1974 edition of The Black Book, recently released in a 35th anniversary edition, and what it meant to her and her family when she was growing up.

The Black Book: 35th Anniversary Edition
Retail Price: $35.00
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Random House – (2009-11-10)
ISBN / EAN: 1400068487 / 9781400068487

THE HELP Gets Its Due

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

[UPDATE: We wrote this before USA Today named The Help THE book of the year]

Amazingly, given the enormous number of best books lists, one title hasn’t appeared on any of them, despite strong reviews and word of mouth; The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Both People and Entertainment Weekly have remedied the oversight. People lists The Help at #2 on its Top Ten Books list (after Open by Andre Agassi) and Entertainment Weekly lists it at #2 on their Best Fiction list (after NBA nominee, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders).

[The lists are not available online, link here for the titles on a downloable spreadsheet.]

Our friends over at The Book Reporter named The Help THE Book of the Year (if you want your voice heard, they invite you to nominate your favorite titles of the year).

Entertainment Weely selected ten fiction titles, but they managed to include two more that haven’t appeared on other lists:

#8 Fiction

Sing Them Home
Stephanie Kallos
Retail Price: $14.95
Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Grove Press – (2009-08-25)
ISBN / EAN: 0802144136 / 9780802144133

Blackstone Audio:

  • Cassette; 1433203350; $65.95
  • CD; 1433203367; $90.00

Audio downloadale from OverDrive

Entertainment Weekly‘s annotation doesn’t explain why they consider this one of the ten best fiction of the year —  “This fantastical story of three grieving siblings in windblown Nebraska might fly off into the heavens were it not for Kallos’ muscular prose.”

Kallos’ hometown newspaper, the Seattle Times makes a far better case for the book in their review.

PW gave it a starred review and called it an “enthralling second novel” (after the author’s debut Broken for You, which became a bestseller after it was selected for the Today Show Book Club).


#9 Fiction

A Monster’s Notes
Laurie Sheck
Retail Price: $30.00
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Knopf – (2009-06-23)
ISBN / EAN: 0307271056 / 9780307271051

Entertainment Weekly says, “Sheck’s novel, burrowing into the mind of the creature from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, is no monstrous mash of brainy bits and hot air, but an electrifying literary triumph.”

That’s not so convincing, either. When you look for other reviews, it doesn’t get much better. Ron Charles at the Washington Post began his with this observation,

The rallying cry against big publishers is that new artists can’t be nourished by an industry obsessed with bestsellers. But before grabbing our pitchforks and torching the House of Bertelsmann, consider the inexplicable appearance of A Monster’s Notes by a poet named Laurie Sheck. Gorgeously printed by New York’s premier publishing house, here is a baffling 500-page book about Frankenstein’s creation that defies description and shreds any expectations you might have for a novel.

Then he delivers the coup de grâce,

I’m sure somewhere there’s a reader smart enough (or dishonest enough) to enjoy this novel in all its rich allusiveness, but I spent the entire ordeal lurching along about 50 IQ points behind.

If Ron Charles had trouble with the book, there’s not much hope for the rest of us.

We should note that prepub reviews were generally better; Booklist starred it and the “famously grumpy” Kirkus called it “Utterly astonishing and not to be missed.”

Well, you can’t say the People list is totally focused on popular titles.

Best Children’s Books – Update

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

If you just can’t get enough of best children’s books lists, rejoice. Horn Book has named their top picks of the year, 27 in all. The Barnes & Noble Review enlisted Lisa Von Drasek to pick her favorite Picture Books and Liz Rosenberg for the Best Chapter Books. The dearly departed Kirkus managed to get their lists of the Best Children’s and YA Books out in the knick of time.

We’ve updated our spreadsheet of all the picks, so you can check holdings, test your book knowledge, and identify titles you might have missed. The list includes ISBN’s for your ordering pleasure.

So, which titles seem to be on everyone’s list? Jerry Pinkney’s beautiful The Lion the Mouse got the most nods, with seven picks. The only list it’s not on is the NYT BR Notable Children’s Books, but it is on the NYT BR‘s Best Illustrated.

The NBA Winner, Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose was on every list it was eligible for, six in total, except the NYT Notable.

Following it are Francisco X. Stork’s Marcelo in the Real World, tied with Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, which each got five picks (this time, BOTH are on the NYT Notable list). Two picture books also got five picks; Moonshot by Brian Floca and Yummy by Lucy Cousins.

Best Biz Books

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

None of the titles on Time magazine’s list of the five best business books of the year will be a surprise.

More useful from a library standpoint is 1-800-CEO-READ’s Best Business Book Awards of 2009, because it includes books on practical subjects people are looking for these days, like how to run a small business, management and salesmanship (here’s a title that speaks to our times — How to Sell When Nobody’s Buying).

800-CEO-READ was founded as the corporate sales division of  the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in Milwaukee. The retail stores were closed March 31, but CEO-READ continues to operate. They  run a monthly list of their top sellers and published The 100 Best Business Book of All Time this year.

Stephen King’s Top Ten

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Number one on Stephen King’s Top Ten Books of the year is Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, which has appeared on several other lists and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize this year.

King’s list appears in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly. Since King draws from the books he read during the year, it includes older titles, like Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road (#2), Salman Rushdie’s Midnights Children (#4) and last year’s literary superstar, 2666 by Roberto Bolano (#5).

At #6 is a title that hasn’t appeared on other lists, a book that King says is “The most suspenseful book I read all year,” Michael Robotham’s Shatter.

Kirkus said of the Australian author’s fourth thriller, “Robotham sharpens the conventional horrors with his unerring eye for psychological detail, his mastery of pace and his spooky villain, a manipulator as monstrous as Hannibal Lecter.”

Michael Robotham
Retail Price: $24.95
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Doubleday – (2009-03-17)
ISBN / EAN: 0385517912 / 9780385517911

Audio; Recorded Books

  • UNABR CD; 9781436174541; $123.75
  • UNABR Cass; 9781436192651; $64.75

Book downloadable from OverDrive.

Doubleday; 9780739498996
Audio CD: Recorded Books; 9781436174541Doubleday; 9780739498996


Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

David Sedaris is a master of the audio format, so it’s no wonder that he is also a fan.

On the New Yorker Book Bench blog last week, he writes about his favorite audios, a slim selection of four from all time, that achieve the perfect match of both material and narrator. Among his choices are the entire Harry Potter series, but the British version, featuring Stephen Fry a narrator, rather than the American favorite, Jim Dale. The idea of Elaine Stritch reading Dorothy Parker had us salivating, but, sadly, it is no longer available.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of tasty titles on these best audios of 2009 lists:


Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

NPR keeps adding new best books lists; the latest are MemoirsMysteries, and today’s Best Books for a Book Club, selected by NPR books correspondent, Lynn Neary.

We’re happy to see one of our favorites, A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick, on her list of five titles. The trade paperback will be coming in January, with a new and dramatically different cover.

A Reliable Wife
Robert Goolrick
Retail Price: $13.95
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books – (2010-01-26)
ISBN / EAN: 1565129776 / 9781565129771


A Reliable Wife
Robert Goolrick
Retail Price: $23.95
Hardcover: 291 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books – (2009-03-31)
ISBN / EAN: 1565125967 / 9781565125964

Audio: Recorded Books; Narrator; Mark Feuerstein

  • Unabridged CD; C5952; 8 CDs; $92.75
  • Unabridged Cassette; 99732; 8 Cassettes; $67.75

Large Type; Thorndike; Hdbk; $33.95

Nancy Pearl on Morning Edition

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

We’re not the only ones looking for under-the-radar gems from 2009; Nancy Pearl talked to NPR Morning Edition’s Steve Innskeep about her favorites, both adult and childrens titles.

She’s betting on When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead for the Newbery. Her enthusiasm raised the book from #211 on Amazon sales rankings to #170. It’s appeared on most of the childrens best books lists so far this year and our EarlyWord Kid, Lisa Von Drasek, picked it for her school’s Mock Newbery.

Covers and annotations are on the site.


When You Reach Me
Rebecca Stead
Retail Price: $15.99
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books – (2009-07-14)
ISBN / EAN: 0385737424 / 9780385737425

Library Binding; 978-0385906647; $18.99
Unabridged Audio; Listening Library; 978-0739380727; $28

NPR’s Best Young Adult Books

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

All five titles on NPR’s year-end shortlist are on other YA “best books” lists, which we have handily rounded up in our Bests — All Children’s Titles — Spreadsheet.

Take, for example, Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch, a collection of two novelettes and a novella about kissing, populated by goblins and demons. It was a National Book Award finalist, and also appeared on the PW kids list.  World Cat says 416 libraries have it. Those we checked have 20 or fewer copies, with comparable holds.

Lips Touch: Three Times
Laini Taylor
Retail Price: $17.99
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books – (2009-10-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0545055857 / 9780545055857

Reader’s Advisory: “Best Book” Sleepers

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Annual “best books” roundups always reflect a mix of love and duty, as any book reviewer or awards judge knows. On the theory that many of the lesser-known picks on these lists are actually the best-loved, we took another look at the year’s “Best Books,” trying to spot books with broad appeal that slipped under our radar this year, and perhaps yours, too. Some of these titles don’t have holds list, so you may actually find them on the new book shelves.

(Check out our list of Under-the-Radar Literary Picks too!)

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C. E. Mayo

Library Journal chose this historical novel about the short-lived career of Austrian archduke Maximilian as Mexico’s emperor in the 1860s for their best books longlist. It also got a fair amount of coverage from book bloggers –  including Bookslut and others – after Unbridled Books sent the author on a lively blog tour. According to World Cat, 239 libraries have the book. Those we checked had 4-6 copies with no reserves.

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
C. M. Mayo
Retail Price: $26.95
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Unbridled Books – (2009-05-05)
ISBN / EAN: 193296164X / 9781932961645

The Art Student’s War by Brad Leithauser

This paean to Detroit and one of its immigrant families in the decodes after WWII by a native son and author of five novels was a New York Times Notable Book and is available in 151 libraries in modest quantities with modest reserves. The full review in the Times called it

“One of the finest novels about Detroit’s history to come along in years. With its generous and cleareyed vision of the city’s grand past, it will particularly resonate with readers who remember the glory days of the American Rust Belt.”

The Art Student’s War
Brad Leithauser
Retail Price: $28.95
Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: Knopf – (2009-11-03)
ISBN / EAN: 0307271110 / 9780307271112

Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy

This story collection set in Montana about characters adept at creating misery for themselves was the only short story collection to appear on the New York Times Top 10 list for 2009, in a year the critics acknowledge was a superlative one for short stories. It’s in 558 libraries, says World Cat; those we checked had 20 or fewer copies, with up to twice as many reserves.

The full New York Times review praises Meloy’s wry humor and exceptional restraint,  while the Los Angeles Times review notes that “Meloy’s richest territory is the fork in the road at right and wrong, the moment when a person’s moral compass wavers.”

Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It
Maile Meloy
Retail Price: $25.95
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover – (2009-07-09)
ISBN / EAN: 159448869X / 9781594488696

Big Machine by Victor LaValle

A Publishers Weekly Top 10 pick, Victor LaValle’s second novel is about about faith and the monsters and mental sustenance it can create, particularly among America’s underclass. World Cat says 401 libraries have it, some with modest reserves.

The Washington Post places LaValle’s work in an “increasingly high-profile and important cohort of writers who reinvent outmoded literary conventions, particularly the ghettos of genre and ethnicity that long divided serious literature from popular fiction.”

Big Machine
Victor LaValle
Retail Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau – (2009-08-11)
ISBN / EAN: 0385527985 / 9780385527989

Lowboy by John Wray

This novel about a paranoid schizophrenic teenager who spends his days riding the New York City subways was on the editors’ Best Books longlist. More libraries have it than any other book on this list – 875 libraries, according to World Cat – yet reserves are low, despite solid coverage in highbrow print venues like the New York Times and New York magazine and hipster blogs like Largehearted Boy.

John Wray
Retail Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux – (2009-03-03)
ISBN / EAN: 0374194165 / 9780374194161

Readers Advisory: Under-the-Radar Literary Picks

Monday, December 7th, 2009

As we looked back through the lists of Best Books for 2009, we caught several literary picks that slipped under our radar, but look promising for readers advisory. Here they are.

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

Chosen as a “Best Book” by Amazon and the Atlantic (long list), this masterful and quirky story collection, which swings from the grandiosity of love to the dissolution of families, is available in 192 libraries, according to World Cat, and has substantial reserves as in libraries we checked.

Davis’s literary pedigree and accomplishments get their due from Susan Salter Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times. And the New Yorker recently chose Davis’s collection for its book club.

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
Lydia Davis
Retail Price: $30.00
Hardcover: 752 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux – (2009-09-29)
ISBN / EAN: 0374270600 / 9780374270605

The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam

Chosen for Publishers Weekly‘s Best Books long list, The Man in the Wooden Hat offers a wife’s point of view on a marriage that began in adultery and was unhappily childless before ending in resigned old age. (If this plot sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the sequel to Gardam’s Orange Prize finalist Old Filth, which was told from the husband’s point of view.) According to World Cat, 305 libraries have it. Libraries we checked show high reserves on modest orders.

The Man in a Wooden Hat was an Indiebound pick and Gardam was the subject of a Publishers Weekly profile and a thoughtful Barnes and Noble Review essay, but the top reviews are from the UK.

By the way, the publisher, Europa Editions, publishes European literary titles and had a huge success with Muriel Barbery’s Elegance of the Hedgehog.

The Man in the Wooden Hat
Jane Gardam
Retail Price: $15.00
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Europa Editions – (2009-10-27)
ISBN / EAN: 1933372893 / 9781933372891

Round-Up of the Best Cookbook Roundups

Monday, December 7th, 2009

We’ve been going a little crazy compiling all the best books lists (over 400 titles on our compilation of the best adult book lists —  Bests — All Adult Titles — Spreadsheet —  and over 100 for best children’s books lists — Bests — All Children’s Titles — Spreadsheet. If you want just the consensus titles, you can download our Bests — Titles Selected by Three or More — Spreadsheet.)

So, we’re happy to see Publishers Weekly do the heavy lifting for cookbooks: A Round-Up of the Round-Ups: Looking at the ‘Best Cookbooks of 2009’ Lists includes 6 “Bests” lists, ranging from blogs to NPR.

More Best Books

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Several new Best Books list have appeared.

In childrens:

We’ve put together all the children’s picks so far in one spreadsheet, complete with ISBN’s:

Bests — All Children’s Titles — Spreadsheet

New list of adult titles:

We’ve also compiled all the adult selections into another spreadsheet (sorry, no ISBN’s)

Bests — All Adult Titles — Spreadsheet

And, created a listing of the titles, both Adult and Children’s, that were selected by three or more sources (amazing how few there are!)

Bests — Titles Selected by Three or More — Spreadsheet

Best vs. Recommendable

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

We hope you’re not tired of best books lists yet, because there’s more coming. We love them for the opportunity to discover gems we’ve overlooked.

The lastest is not so much a best books list as a gift list. The advantage of gift suggestions is that they aren’t weighed down by considerations of literary merit — they’re about books people might actually enjoy.

NPR rounded up the top picks from three indy booksellers. We’re particularly taken with Daniel Goldin’s selections (his Boswell and Books is one of our favorite indy bookseller blogs) and are happy that he brings attention to one of our favorites of the year, Michelle Huneven’s Blame.

Michelle Huneven
Retail Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux – (2009-09-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0374114307 / 9780374114305

Unabridged audio from Blackstone
Large Type: Thorndike; Hdbk; 12/1/09; 9781410420930; $31.95
Downloadable audio from OverDrive