Best books of 2009 (so far)

I’ve noticed lately a slew of Best of 2009 (so far) music lists (all of which I found on Largeheartedboy). I thought, you know maybe people want to know what the best books (that I’ve read) of 2009 thus far. Ominvoracious has a list of the best book so far, but I haven’t read any of them yet (though I’m in the midst of Sag Harbor and I’m loving it). I’m at about 34 books read so far for 2009 and here’s my list of favorites.

The Turtle Catcher by Nicole Helget


As I said in my review the first 26 pages of this novel are so intense that you’ll have an actual physical reaction to reading them. It’s amazing when an author can make you react physically to their writing. Absolutely amazing.

Thankfully, for our health, The Turtle Catcher lets up a little after that heart-racing introduction, but the story just gets stronger. Helget tells a story of a small-town Minnesota hermaphrodite, her German family, and the tragedies they face during the years leading up to and following WWI.

Local by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly


It might seem I’m being biased toward locals (literally, Ryan Kelly the artist on Local lives in Minnesota) with my first few picks, but what can I say, Minnesota’s got the goods when it comes to wonderful books. Local tells the story of Megan, a vagabond, as she travels all over the US and Canada looking for something. . . herself, love, home. The story follows her as she ages from seventeen to her thirties. If I didn’t know better I’d think the book was written by a woman, that’s how well Wood and Kelly capture some of the emotions of being young and rootless. [full review]

German for Travelers: A Novel in 95 Lessons by Norah Labiner


Labiner is an imaginative, slipperly, slinky storyteller. Her story about two cousins visiting Berlin in search of family secrets deftly travels back and forth in time, jumping from narrator to narrator and never once will you ask “what the fuck?” That’s because you’re in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing. I will be shocked (and delightfully surprised) if I find another book this year that’s as much fun to read as German for Travelers. The way Labiner’s prose slides around your brain and off your lips (yes, some of the lines just have to be read outloud) is hard to do, and I’m not sure if any other author I might happen upon in 2009 will be able to pull it off. [full review]

The Song is You by Arthur Phillips


Mmm, yeah, Arthur Phillips’ The Song is You. For some reason when I think about this book I get a hazy, half-lidded grin on my face as though I am recalling a really good time from long ago. I’m not sure why, because May wasn’t that long ago. For some reason the book has the air of a smoky, drunk club about it. A place where you could do something totally wrong and decadent, but don’t because at the last minute you come to your senses. It’s a great parallel to the story of Julian Donahue and Cait O’Dwyer who have a weird cat and mouse relationship through the whole book. This is a must read book for musicgeeks and musicgeek-wannabes. [full review]

Twin Study by Stacey Richter


For awhile there, I thought Maile Meloy’s Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It was going to knock Twin Study off the top of the “Best Short Story Collection I’ve Read This Year” chart. It’s been a close race, but I had to give the award to the Richter collection if only for its inventiveness. Between the cavepeople invading a suburb and batboy and his semen encrusted shed, Meloy’s straight-forward and sparse (yet wonderful) stories didn’t really have a chance. Of course, the list may change again once I finish Jean Thompson’s Do Not Deny Me. [full review]

So there you go, a few faves thus far. I’m sure the list is bound to change what with books by Douglas Coupland, John Irving, and Lorrie Moore coming out later this year.

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  1. Christa 12.Jul.09 at 5:48 pm

    I want to play! I want to play! Here are the best books I’ve read in 2009 so far: (not in order)
    A Good and Happy Child — Justin Evans: Chilling!
    How It Ended — Jay McInerney: Reads like a posthumous collection. In a good way.
    In the Miso Soup — Riu Murakami: Goosebumps. Top 10 lifetime read.
    The Gargoyle — Andrew Davidson: Burning flesh. Wee!
    The Song is You — Arthur Phillips: Beee-u-tiful.

  2. Jodi Chromey 12.Jul.09 at 9:08 pm

    Do you worry that now with 5 favorites already making the year-end list is going to be tough as hell? I do.

  3. Christa 12.Jul.09 at 9:20 pm

    Not at all. A few of those are totally bootable if the right books come along.

  4. Jodi Chromey 12.Jul.09 at 9:24 pm

    You are a cold, hard reader. When I kick a book off the list I feel like I’m breaking up with it.


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