The Quick 10: 10 of the Best Books of 2009

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I hate the end of Daylight Saving Time. It means it's dark by the time I get home at the end of the day, which makes it feel like the day is already over, which means I go home and get nothing done for the rest of the night. But there is a silver lining to this cloud: lots of loafing = lots more reading. For some reason I don't feel as guilty about sitting on the couch with a book as I do when there's daylight to burn. Luckily for me, Publishers Weekly just came out with their Top Books of 2009 list. Since I'm more apt to read fiction when I'm reading for fun, I'm going to list those "“ but if you want the whole list (including non-fiction, poetry and comics) you can check it out here. In no particular order, here are 10 of their favorite novels of 2009 thus far (their descriptions, not mine).

1. The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters. A finalist for the Man Booker Prize, this subtle, creepy haunted house story chronicles the decline of an aristocratic county family after WWII as seen through the less than reliable eyes of a bachelor doctor, whose mother once served as a maid at the family's manor.

venice2. Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer. Dyer creates an aging hipster grinding it out as a freelance journalist who pursues the girl instead of the story: covering the Biennale. Then, depending on your point of view, he either loses or finds himself when he's sent to Varanasi. Dyer has many books to recommend him, but all you need is angst-ridden Jeff: funny, frank and utterly charming, and if you haven't walked in his shoes, you'll wish you had.

3. The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly. Reporter Jack McEvoy decides to go out with a bang, after he's laid off from the L.A. Times, in a nail-biting thriller that charts the demise of print journalism and shows why Connelly is one of today's top crime authors.

4. The Fate of Katherine Carr by Thomas H. Cook. Edgar-winner Cook eloquently explores the often cathartic act of storytelling as George Gates, a former travel writer who after seven years still broods over his eight-year-old son's murder, looks into the unsolved disappearance of reclusive poet Katherine Carr 20 years earlier.

5. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. Flynn tops her impressive debut, Sharp Objects, with a second crime thriller, centered on the slaying of a mother and two daughters in their Kansas farmhouse witnessed by the youngest, surviving daughter. It builds to a truth so twisted even the most astute readers won't see it coming.

wooden6. The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam. Octogenarian Gardam bookends her much-lauded Old Filth with this witty and very British love story, taking on with aplomb loyalty, lust, ambition and longing as she excavates the holes in all of our hearts.
7. Ravens by George Dawes Green. Two con men hold a family hostage in rural Georgia in order to get half of their $318 million lottery winnings in this masterful, often comic novel of psychological suspense, Green's first since 1995's The Juror.

8. Tinkers by Paul Harding. George Crosby's deathbed reveries wander through memories of his own life as a boy and the lives of his father and grandfather, in this sumptuously written first novel that has been the darling of indie bookstores.

sloth9. The Cry of the Sloth by Sam Savage. The increasingly desperate letters dispatched by the editor of a middling literary magazine provide a glimpse into the soul of a minor writer ravaged by existential dread. As Savage slowly deflates the narrator's self-importance, he provides a caustic and supremely funny portrait of a man in decline.

10. The Last War by Ana Menendez. A deeply moving story of a photojournalist in Istanbul waiting to join her war correspondent husband in Iraq. Her reluctance, suspicions and flashbacks of their time spent in Afghanistan create a dark background for the brilliance of her descriptions and observations.

I lied "“ I did put one of these in a particular order: the first one is the one I'm adding to my Amazon shopping cart as we speak. Can any of you vouch for any of these? If you've recently read something you thought was amazing that isn't on the Publishers Weekly list, share in the comments "“ I'd love to add a few new books to my winter "must-read" list, and I bet some of our readers would too.

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November 6, 2009 - 10:41am
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