Monday, January 04, 2010

Top Ten 2009

Top Ten Reads of 2009

My list of favorite books read in 2009 (now revised to include the beginning of 2010) includes more than three dozen books (and not everything I read made that list). But I thought I would try to whittle the list down to the top ten that I read last year. So here it is in no particular order:

Hunger by Knut Hamsun.

This was a reread and one of the most unique imaginative fictional lives that I have encountered (better for me than his Mysteries).
2. The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil.
Also a rereading which reinforced the importance of this novel in my personal pantheon and ensured that I will return to Musil.
3. The History Boys by Alan Bennett.
This was my summer of experiencing this play in performance at The Timeline Theatre Company production (which ran for almost six months) and reading the play again was sheer delight!
4. The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller.
Miller loves Greece and this is brought home by his incomparable prose in this book which I was encouraged to read by a friend at a local used bookstore: thanks to Peter.
5. Stoner by John Williams.
This book should be better known as it is an almost perfect novel. Thanks to New York Book Review Classics it may receive the acclaim that it deserves.
6. Wilhelm Tell by Friedrich Schiller.
Another play, this one a classic of the Romantic era that includes the famous apple scene, but so much more.
7. Sodom & Gomorrah by Marcel Proust.
The fourth volume of his immensely readable In Search of Lost Time. I enjoyed this more as I savored the humor of Proust's human comedy.
8. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.
Darwin is also very readable and his arguments stand the test of time. One of the most lucid scientific treatises that I have encountered.
9. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood.
A short novel that is, like Stoner, almost perfect. Better than the movie, but both are very good.
10. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick.
I no longer read much science fiction, but this tale of alternate history is written for readers of all ages and transcends the genre.

I am reluctant to stop at ten best since I enjoyed many other books during the year, but this is enough of a retrospective for one cold January day. Let's all move on to the great reads of the new year!


Lisa said...

I'm so excited about this list! I just read STONER (I think, based on reading your piece about it earlier this year) and I couldn't agree more. SODOM & GOMORRAH is up next for me on this, my first reading of IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME. I've also got the titles in your #1 and #2 slot sitting here and I hope to get to them soon.

Thanks for never steering me wrong.

Happy New Year, James!

James said...

Thanks for your enthusiastic response! It was difficult to stop at ten, but I truly enjoyed these and I'm glad you share my response to some very good writing.