Archive for the ‘Best Books 2009’ Category

NYT BR Top Ten — Women Rule!

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

The New York Times Book Review has selected the Top Ten Book of 2009 from their Top 100 notable titles.

Unlike PW‘s Top Ten, which included no women authors, 60% of the books on this list are by women, also besting the Amazon Editor’s Top Ten, which included only two women.

Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel, Jeannette Walls, Scribner, 10/6/09

A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore, Knopf, 9/1/09

The Good Soldiers, David Finkel, Sarah Crichton/FSG, 9/15/09

Lit, Mary Karr, Harper, 11/3/00

A Short History of Women, Kate Walbert, Scribner, 6/16/09

Chronic City, Jonathan Lethem, Doubleday, 10/13/09

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, Richard Holmes, Pantheon, 7/14/09

Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World, Liaquat Ahamed, Penguin Press, 1/22/09

Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, Maile Meloy, Riverhead/Penguin, 7/9/09

Raymond Carver: A Writer’s Life, Carol Sklenicka, Scribner, 11/24/09

TR in a Different Light

Monday, November 30th, 2009

On NYT reviewer Janet Maslin’s list of the top ten books of 2009 is The Imperial Cruise, a title about Theodore Roosevelt that PW called “stridently disapproving.” In her review, Maslin calls it an “incendiary new book” that “may at times be overly eager to connect historical dots, but … also produces graphic, shocking evidence of the attitudes that [it] describes.”

The incendiary part is borne out by USA Today‘s review which takes issue with most of the book’s assertions.

Bradley, author of the bestselling Flags of Our Fathers, looked into what led  the US to the war in the Pacific. His research brought him to Roosevelt and a secret treaty with Japan. The book, titled The Imperial Cruise is about a secret diplomatic mission that resulted in that agreement.

The book is rising on Amazon, now at #102. Libraries, however, are showing modest holds.

The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War
James Bradley
Retail Price: $29.99
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company – (2009-11-24)
ISBN / EAN: 0316008958 / 9780316008952

Hachette Audio; 9781600243950; $39.98
Large Print; Little, Brown; 9780316024617; Hdbk; $31.99

Best Books — The Daily NYT and The NYT BR

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

The NY Times Book Review editors just released their selections of the 100 Notable Books of 2009 (they will appear in print in the Dec. 6 print issue). Meanwhile, their colleagues, the three critics for the daily NYT each named their top ten.

The NYT reviewers see the year in publishing as having been,

…a bit of an off year, and the must-read milestones have been rare. There are fewer towering histories and biographies than usual. There’s more attention to a subject of newly urgent interest: finance.

Despite the “urgent interest” in finance, the only title on the subject that appears on any of the three reviewers’ lists is Liaquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance. In fact, only two other titles have appeared on any of the lists so far; Carmen Reinhart’s This Time is Different and Justin Fox’s The Myth of the Rational Market.

Other critics do not agree that this has been an off year for biographies; the National Book Award winner for nonfiction was T.J. Sitles’s First Tycoon. Twenty six biographies have appeared on the best lists that have appeared so far, with Blake Bailey’s Cheever appearing on three of them (for a spreadsheet of the 396 titles on lists to date, click on our Bests — All Adult Titles — Spreadsheet).

NYT Book Review‘s editors see a “heartening development,” in the year’s books,

…the resurgence of the short story — and of the short-story writer. Twelve collections made our fiction list, and four biographies of short-story masters are on the nonfiction list.

Fittingly, the cover of the Book Review features Alice Munro’s short stories, Too Much Happiness.

Other lists have been weighted less towards short stories, but consensus is developing for Wells Tower’s Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, which appears on both the Book Review‘s list and three others so far (for a list of all the titles that have been on three lists or more, check our Bests — Titles Selected by Three or More — Spreadsheet.)

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
Wells Tower
Retail Price: $24.00
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux – (2009-03-17)
ISBN / EAN: 0374292191 / 9780374292195

Since PW opened the conversation about the number of women on bests lists (in an odd way, by announcing there are NO women in their Top Ten), we checked to see how many women authors appeared on the new lists (for a list of all the women writers who have appeared on all the lists to date, click on our Bests — Women Authors).

Out of 100 on the NYT BR list, 32 are by women, or 32%. Of the total 30 titles chosen by the daily NYT reviewers, just 8 are by women, or 27%.

Below is an analysis of the percentage of women appearing on lists that have been published so far, from highest to lowest.

  • Library Journal Genre Fiction — 33 titles — 67% women
  • PW Best Childrens Books — 30 titles — 63.33% women
  • National Book Award Finalists — 20 titles — 45% women — None of the winners are women
  • Library Journal Best How-to — 23 titles — 39% women
  • Atlantic Books of the Year — Top Five and Runners Up — 25 in total — 36% women
  • Library Journal Best Books — 31 titles — 35% women
  • NYT BR Notables — 100 titles — 32% women
  • Amazon Top Ten Picture Books, Top Ten Middle Readers and Top Ten Teen — 30% women
  • PW Best Books — 100 titles — 30% women — None of the Top Ten are women
  • NYT Editors –Garner, Kakutani, Maslin — 30 titles total — 27% women
  • Amazon Top 100 Editors Picks — 25% women; without YA and children’s titles, 20% women

Of the 28 titles that were picked by 3 or more of the above, seven are by women (25%):

  • Byatt, A.S., Children’s Book — AZ #88, Atlantic Top Five, LJ Best Books
  • Mantel, Hilary, Wolf Hall — AZ #3, Atlantic Runner Up, LJ Best Books, NYT BR Notable
  • Moore, Lorrie,  Gate at the Stairs — AZ #12, NYT BR Notable, NYT Kakutani
  • Munro, Alice,  Too Much Happiness — AZ #30, Atlantic Runners Up, NYT BR Notable
  • Phillips, Jayne Anne, Lark and TermitePW,  NBA Fiction Finalist, LJ Best Books, NYT BR Notable, NYT Kakutani
  • Reichl, Ruth, Gourmet Today — AZ #11, PW, LJ How-To
  • Walbert, Kate,  Short History of Women — AZ #45, LJ Best Books, NYT BR Notable

There should be more national best book lists coming, from the Washington Post and the L.A. Times (we’re hoping their reduced book sections will not prevent them from choosing the year’s bests), as well as Time, People, Entertainment Weekly, the Wall Street Journal, Horn Book and SLJ.

NPR’s Best Cookbooks

Friday, November 27th, 2009

NPR kicks off their listing of the best books of the year, appropriately for the season, with their picks of the 10 best cookbooks.

All the titles are owned by most libraries. NPR couldn’t resist this mouth watering cover and neither can we:

Rose’s Heavenly Cakes
Rose Levy Beranbaum
Retail Price: $39.95
Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: Wiley – (2009-09-22)
ISBN / EAN: 0471781738 / 9780471781738

‘Tis the Season

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Sunday’s NYT features their “Holiday Gift Guide,” which includes a “Books” section (Art and Architecture, Books About Antiques, Gift Books and, for the first time Graphic Novels — another indicator that the genre is now mainstream). Selected New Cookbooks are in the “Dining & Home” section.

In the “Electronics” section, personal tech columnist David Pogue looks at eBooks. He also discusses them with fellow NYT columnist David Carr (also author of  Night of the Gun) at NYPL’s 42nd street library (Carr knows that you can borrow eBooks from the library!)

[Note: Pogue refers to the Sony PRS700, which had a backlight. The new PRS600 does not have the backlight. We’re not sure why he didn’t mention Barnes & Noble’s Nook; perhaps because it is sold out until after the holidays.]

More Best Books

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Library Journal has just released its Best Books list. As we’ve come to expect, there are few overlaps with the other lists that have appeared to date.

But, perhaps with a business a diverse as book publishing, we should be more interested in differences than similarities. In the list intro, LJ‘s Book Review editor, Barbara Hoffert says the editors were looking for “unique voices” as well as “highlighting what might otherwise be lost.” No wonder many of the titles are not familiar.

LJ notes that sister publication, PW caught flak for their Top Ten list, because it includes no female authors. Of LJ‘s 31 Best Books, 11 are by women, or about one third of the list. Although that’s much better then PW‘s Top 10, it’s similar to PW‘s Top 100 which includes 30 women.

This year, LJ added Street Lit to their selection of best titles in the genres.

It’s a genre that appears to be going mainstream. PUSH, originally published over 13 years ago, is now #1 on the NYT Pbk. Trade Fiction list after 11 weeks, due buzz around the movie. A street lit title that has not benefited from media attention, The Cartel 2, by Ashley JaQuavis, has been on the extended list for two weeks, which may be the first time a book published by a small, street-lit focused publisher (Urban Books) has appeared on the NYT list. Two of Urban Book’s titles appear on LJ‘s list.

An even surer sign that street lit is getting notice from main street; the Wall Street Journal‘s Op/Ed page recently railed against the genre (‘Precious’ Little of Value in Ghetto Lit) and mentioned that, horrors, libraries are stocking the genre; “Even libraries now stock gangster-lit novels, because they bring new readers in the door.”

Barbara Genco, Collection Management Editor for Library Journal, and her Pratt LIS students put together a useful guide to street lit resources for the recent BEA, available here.

We’ve updated the Bests — Titles Selected by Three or More — Spreadsheet.

Atlantic’s Best Books

Monday, November 16th, 2009

The Atlantic magazine’s literary editor wades into the fraught waters of best books lists, selecting the Top Five, plus 20 runners up.

As we have come to expect, there is little agreement with other list. Of the 25 titles, just four also appear on Amazon’s Top 100 and one on PW‘s Top 100. None appeared on either of the other pub’s top ten and none are National Book Award finalists.

Below are the titles that appear on more than one list:

Byatt, A.S., The Childrens Book — Amazon #88 and Atlantic Top Five

Davis, Lydia, Collected Stories — Amazon #56 and Atlantic Runner Up

Mantel, Wolf Hall — Amazon #3 and Atlantic Runner Up

Munro, Alice, Too Much Happiness — Amazon #30 and Atlantic Runner Up

[Ed, Note: Earlier, Gordon Wood’s Empire of Liberty was on this list. We are not sure how his name slipped in, but while his book was chosen for two best books lists, he is definitely not a woman.]

The  Atlantic list is heavily weighted towards nonfiction, particularly history and biography;  just six fiction titles are on the list of 25.

As to the women authors; two of the top five are women, and 9 of the total 25, which works out to 36% of the list, a higher ratio than the other lists.

Again this year, we are posting links to all the major best books lists (at right), as well as compiling the selections into one spreadsheet;  Bests — All Adult Titles — Spreadsheet.

We’re only linking to the major national list, but the Largehearted Boy is compiling links to EVERY best books list (as well as all the best music lists). He claims to be a Web developer, but we’re guessing he was a librarian in another life.

Women Missing from Best Books Lists

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Publishers Weekly set off a storm of protest last week when they released their selection of the Top Ten Books of the Year and pointed out that all the titles are by men (adding insult to injury, the editors said they didn’t see this as a reason to question their own judgment; that changing the list would be a matter of bowing to “political correctness”).

The newly-formed group WILLA (Women in Letters and Literary Arts) issued a press release amusingly titled, Why Were No Women Invited to Publishers Weekly’s Weenie Roast? and created a wiki for people to post their favorite ’09 books by women, a list that is growing by the minute. GalleyCat reports that the group is also growing, having added 1,000 new members since Wednesday.

Charlotte Abbott, who writes for EarlyWord as well as the blog Follow the Reader, is organzing a group to look into creating an American prize similar to the Orange Prizes in the UK, which are for women writers in English (Americans are eligible; Marilynne Robinson won the Fiction prize for her 2008 book, Home).

The outrage has focused on Publishers Weekly, because they had the temerity to announce their lack of female authors. However, Amazon’s Editor’s Top Ten includes only two women, one of whom is a YA author (PW does not included children’s and YA authors on their list). If, for comparison’s sake, we exclude the YA title, #11 on Amazon’s list is by a man, so only one female author appears on Amazon’s list of Top Ten adult titles.

Women do better with the National Book Awards; of the fifteen finalists in the adult categories, 6 are women.

Amazon and PW also issued Top 100 lists and we were curious to see how women fared on them. To that end, we’ve created a spreadsheet with all the titles (available on the right, under “Best Books ’09; List of the Lists — Spreadsheet) as well as one with just the titles by women (List of the Lists; Women Authors). As the lists show, women make out somewhat better on the full lists, but still represent just 30% or less of the titles:

Of PW‘s Top 100, 30 are by women (we included Half the Sky because the co-author is a woman) = 30%

Of Amazon’s 100 titles, 25 are by women = 25%

If you remove the childrens/YA titles from Amazon’s list to make it more comparable to PW‘s, the total is 94 titles, with 19 by women = 20.20%

Clearly, PW is not alone in underrepresenting women.

In childrens and YA, women fare much better, but it’s difficult to say how this compares with the proportion of women who publish childrens and YA titles;

Of the 30 titles on PW‘s childrens list, 19 are by women = 63.33%

Of the 30 on Amazon’s list, 15 are by women = 50%

There are, of course, many other issues to discuss with “best” lists. PW covers categories that are overlooked elsewhere, such as graphic format and mass market titles. They also give attention to the lesser known; one writer found the PW list refreshing (We can’t help but note that that writer is a “he”);

Publisher’s Weekly announces 10 best books of the year – ALL by men“, by Oliver Marre, The Telegraph

…the PW list is more interesting for its joyful disregard of the trendy highbrow authors of 2009 – be they  men or women. It shows an admirable indifference to the efforts of the Booker prize nominees like Byatt (whose Children’s Book was extraordinarily heavy going), the omnipresent Sarah Waters and her ghosts, even Hilary Mantel and her epic bestseller (I tried it twice but couldn’t get excited), Wolf Hall. With each of these exclusions, I cannot help agreeing.

Dueling Top Tens

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Amazon has just announced the final ten in their Top 100 Editors Picks countdown, close on the heels of PW‘s Top Ten released last week.

How do the two Top Ten lists compare? Unlike PW, Amazon manages to include books by women in their top ten. At #3 is this year’s Booker winner, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

At #5 is the forthcoming YA novel, Beautiful Creatures, which raises the count, since it is actually by two women, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (on Amazon, you can find a video of the authors discussing their writing process).

Beautiful Creatures
Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl
Retail Price: $17.99
Hardcover: 576 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – (2009-12-01)

Hachette Audio: MP3 CD; 12/1; 9781600248467; $29.98

Several libraries have not yet ordered Beautiful Creatures. Lisa Von Drasek, EarlyWord Kids, says, “it’s one of the best of the crowded field of supernatural romance out this year.” It also received a strong review in Booklist.

You can read an excerpt here.

Publishers Weekly‘s Best Children’s Books list is also in the current issue. Beautiful Creatures is not on that list, although another paranormal romance, Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater, made the cut.

The only title that appears on both Top Ten lists is the graphic format Stitches by David Small. It is also a National Book Award finalist, making it the only one to appear on all three lists. Only two other NBA titles appear on either of the lists; Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann is on Amazon’s Top Ten and In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin is on the PW Top Ten.

It looks like it’s that time is unpon us — we’ve set up a new Best Books ’09 links section, to the right, and will be adding to it as new lists appear.

PW’s Top Ten

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

PW has released their “first ever” list of the top ten books of the year (the list is also featured in USA Today’s “Book Buzz” column).

Not missing a beat, Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald asks why ALL the books are by men.

Really, PW? No women wrote great books in 2009? Not Margaret Atwood, not A.S. Byatt? Hmmmm. Makes me skeptical.

She acknowledges that, in a press release, PW had noted that the list is not “politically correct,” but said “the balance of our top 100 reflects a remarkable diversity.” That list will appear next week.

Below are the top ten — note that the list is in alpha order by title; the first title is not being annointed the #1 pick. To see the list with reviews, click here.

The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes (Pantheon)

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon (Ballantine)

Big Machine by Victor LaValle (Spiegel & Grau)

Cheever by Blake Bailey (Knopf)

A Fiery Peace in a Cold War by Neil Sheehan (Random)

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin (Norton)

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer (Pantheon)

Lost City of Z by David Grann (Doubleday)

Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford (Penguin Press)

Stitches by David Small (Norton)

Best Books of ’09

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Amazon has started its countdown of the best books of ’09, in ranked order, Casey Kasem style (with the small difference that Kasem was about popularity, not quality), from 100 to #1.

It’s hard to believe, but this is the tenth year for Amazon’s list. This year, they are doling out twenty choices per day, leading up to the big reveal of the Top Ten on Monday.

Here’s what they’ve given us so far; check Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog for upcoming lists.

100. The Interrogative Mood, Padgett Powell

99. The First Family: Terror, Extortion, Revenge, Murder, and the Birth of the American Mafia, Mike Dash

98. The Anthologist, Nicholson Baker

97. Imperial, William T. Vollmann

96. Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals, Christopher Payne

95. The American Painter Emma Dial, Samantha Peale

94. Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon

93. Nobody Move, Denis Johnson

92. The BLDGBLOG Book, Geoff Manaugh

91. American on Purpose, Craig Ferguson

90. D-Day, Antony Beevor

89. The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard, J.G. Ballard

88. The Children’s Book, A.S. Byatt

87. Half Broke Horses, Jeannette Walls

86. Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, Winifred Gallagher

85. Born to Run, Christopher McDougall

84. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly

83. American Rust, Phillipp Meyer

82. Never Smile at a Monkey, Steve Jenkins

81. The Jazz Loft Project, Sam Stephenson

80. Ad Hoc at Home, Thomas Keller

79. Toby Alone, Timothee de Fombelle

78. Robert Altman: The Oral Biography by Mitchell Zuckoff

77. Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger

76. The Myth of the Rational Market, Justin Fox

75. George Sprott: 1894-1975, Seth

74. Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby

73. Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath, Michael and Elizabeth Norman

72. The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Vol. 1, 1929-1940, Samuel Beckett

71. Green Metropolis, David Owen

70. Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City, Eric W. Sanderson

69. Columbine, Dave Cullen

68. A New Literary History of America, edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors

67. Asterios Polyp, David Mazzucchelli

66. Await Your Reply, Dan Chaon

65. The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, Douglas Brinkley

64. Lowboy, John Wray

63. Everything Matters!, Ron Currie Jr.

62. Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater

61. Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, Michael Ruhlman

Mid-Year Best Books

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Why wait until the end of the year, when everyone else is picking their “bests”?

Amazon announces their choices for “Best of the Year…So Far

Best So Far