Monday, December 14, 2009

Favourite Reads of 2009: Maylin's Picks. . .

How to choose? It's been a spectacular year for readers, particularly for fiction.

And of course as a book rep, I'm always reading out of sync. Three monumental and incredible books that were published in 2009 (but that I read in manuscript form in 2008) were The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt, Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada, translated by Michael Hofmann, and The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell, translated by Charlotte Mandell. Similarly, there are several books I've read this year, also in manuscript form, that would be contenders for favourite reads but they aren't being published until 2010: Ian McEwan's Solar, Yann Martel's Beatrice and Virgil, William Boyd's Ordinary Thunderstorms and a powerful little novel called The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi, translated by Polly Mclean.

My three favourite Canadian novels of 2009 (though two of them weren't read this year), were Douglas Coupland's Generation A, Jessica Grant's Come, Thou Tortoise and Dragan Todorovic's Diary of Interrupted Days.

And then I also managed to read two big classics for the first time - Moby Dick and The Tin Drum - but then those two would probably make many people's best-books-of-all-time lists.

So if I stick to all the other books I've read this year (excluding my NYRB challenges as I'll make a separate list of favourites when the project is completed) here are my top 10 favourite reads of 2009, alphabetical by title:

Censoring An Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour, translated by Sara Khalili
Provocative, funny, a great insight into daily life in Iran and a reminder of how lucky we are to live in a society without censorship.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbary, translated by Alison Anderson
A perfect little gem of a book.

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
Just terrific storytelling.

Filled with funny anecdotes of pedestrian eccentrics, along with profound meditations on why walking is so essential.

Love and Summer by William Trevor
His writing makes you feel gloriously alive, but with a heightened sense of empathy towards his characters and their heartbreaking choices.

Wise but not weary ruminations on getting old without regret.

Summertime by J.M. Coetzee
Audacious and thought-provoking.

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
Just a delightful read from beginning to end.

The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, trans. by Thomas Teal (I read the galley of this before I started my NYRB challenge, so it doesn't count for that, but this was an unforgettable, sinister little novel with a tension to match Zoe Heller's Notes on a Scandal).

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, translated by Marlaine Delargy
One of the scariest books I've read for a long time; I'd like to believe that a society such as the one depicted here would never exist in Canada but. . .

And here are 10 books that I have sitting on my bedside table demanding that I read them over the holidays (which might just skewer this list by New Year's Eve):

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker
The Blythes are Quoted by L.M. Montgomery
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow
The Incident Report by Martha Baillie
Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby
Snow Job by William Deverell
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel


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