Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things - 2009

My first year of blogging has also been a fantastic year for reading. Although my totals don't even approach what many bloggers are able to read, I have enjoyed this year's books more than ever. Some of that can be attributed to more thoughtful book selection on my part, but most of the credit goes to other book bloggers. This year, exactly half the books I read were a direct result of your recommendations. Thank you!

Top 5 Books of 2009:

The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield - review here
Therese Raquin by Emile Zola - review here
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri - review here
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout - review here; my bookclub reaction here
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett - review here

Honorable Mention:

Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple - review here
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin - review here
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - review here
That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo - review here
The Hour I First Believed - by Wally Lamb - review here
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto - review here
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim - review here
North River by Pete Hamill - review here

Favorite Graphic Novel/Memoir:

Ethel & Ernest
by Raymond Briggs
(review here)

Favorite Non-fiction:

Downtown: My Manhattan
by Pete Hamill
(review here)

Favorite Audiobook:

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
(review here)


2009 will be remembered as the year I rediscovered short stories. It's probably accurate to say that the last short story I read was in high school and, even then, I didn't particularly appreciate them. This year, I reviewed 35 short stories here and read quite a few more.

Overall Favorite Story
"The Dress" by Louise Erdrich
(review here)

Favorite Ghost Story
"The Old Nurse's Story" by Elizabeth Gaskell
(my review here; read the story here)

Favorite Holiday Story
"A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote
(my review here)

Most Powerful Story
"Chicxulub" by T.C. Boyle
(my review here; read the story here)

Funniest Story
"I Dated Jane Austen" by T.C. Boyle
(my review here; read the story here)

Honorable Mention
"The Swimmer" by John Cheever
"When Everyone Was Pregnant" by John Updike
"A Jury of Her Peers" by Susan Glaspell
"Double Birthday" by Willa Cather


In 2009, I read 27 new-to-me authors. Most were recommended by bloggers; several I hadn't even heard of at this time last year. I'll definitely be reading more of these favorites.

Favorite Author Discoveries - 2009

Louise Erdrich
Emile Zola
Colm Toibin
Dorothy Canfield (Fisher)
Alan Bennett
Dorothy Whipple
Banana Yoshimoto
Pete Hamill

A Reflections and Resolutions post is coming later this week.


  1. Great list! Someday, somehow, I'm going to read Olive! And I have Unaccustomed Earth on my TBR Challenge list for 2010. I read The Help on my Kindle, but have heard that the audio is amazing. I've even considered doing a re-read and listening to it. It is such a wonderful book!

  2. Excellent list. I've read a few of the ones on your list such as Someone at a Distance, The Home-Maker and the Woman in White and they're all excellent. I'm so interested in the Olive book too. Heard so much about it lately.

    I just posted my list.

  3. Great list! The quality of the books I've read has increased since I began blogging too. I hope that it continues in 2010. I'll have to try to get hold of Therese Raquin by Emile Zola, as that is the only one on your list that I don't own yet!

  4. Some great picks there Joanne. I also loved Olive Kitteridge and Unaccustomed Earth(2008) and the Help (2009).

    Happy Reading in 2010.

  5. Brilliant list! This is my first year of blogging too and I totally agree with you that though I've not matched the number of books that other bloggers read, I've thoroughly enjoyed this reading year :)

    UnAccustomed Earth is on my TBR list, as is Lahiri's Pulitzer winning Interpreter of Maladies. Glad to know you liked it! :)

  6. It is fun to look over everyone's favorite reads, especially if I see the same books on the lists that I have not read.

  7. I'm with you...this year has been better for me (in terms of reading) because of the book blogging community. And when I think of how I discovered it so unexpectedly!

    There I was, blithely adding all these "ning" sites and laboring over my one blog...then I joined Book Blogs! Everything changed from there.

    I love this blogging community and all of you have earned my awe and respect. Happy New Year!

  8. I didn't even think to make a list of favorite short stories. You've many excellent ones on your own.

    I love the winter lake picutre by the way.

    Happy New Year.

  9. Seeing everyone's favorite list and "year in review" has been so entertaining! Congratulations on accomplishing so much great reading! (I have to put The Help at the top of my piority reading for 2010.)

  10. LOVELY post!

    I would like to start adding short stories to my reading mix in 2010. I think I may try to participate in short story Mondays - at least on a semi-regular basis. I simply must read I Dated Jane Austen :)

    I can also blame, or rather, thank bloggers for recommending so many of my 2009 books this year. My literary life has definitely been enhanced since I began blogging.

  11. Great list JoAnn. I'm just starting The Help and I just finished Olive. I'll have a review posting tomorrow. I liked it but it wasn't one of my favorites. You've got quite a few on your list that I have yet to read. As I always say there is just not enough time to read all the books I want to.

  12. I enjoyed your break down of what you read this year.

    Alexander McCall Smith, Lost Art of Gratitude is #6 in the series.

    Also if you enjoyed Tea for the Traditionally built. You may go to BBC Radio 4 and listen to the book, in two episodes. It will only be there for 7 days. The link is on my blog

    Lil Bit Brit


    Lil Bit Brit Lit


  13. Great list. I'm adding your top 5 to my tbr list right away!

  14. You have read some great books this year. Some I have read, some I'm thinking about for next year.
    Happy New Year!

  15. It's great to see your list from this year - I'm still doing lots of thinking about mine - but I think Olive Kitteridge will be there.

  16. I loved The Uncommon Reader too :) I haven't read your other favourites, but they're on my mental list. Happy New Year, JoAnn!

  17. There are so many different kinds of 'favourite' aren't there. I've enjoyed reading what you had to say about all of them. Thanks to you I fell in love with Ethel and Ernest and actually sighed when I saw it on your post.

  18. Sandy - Since you're an audio fan, I think you'd appreciate the audio Olive K (I read and listened to it). But there are so many great quotes, you'll want the book, too!

    Mrs. B. - I see several books on your list that I loved, too! I highly recommend Olive Kitteridge.

    Jackie - Hope you come across a copy of Therese Raquin. I'm now on the lookout for anything written by Zola!

    Diane - I think our taste in books is similar.

    Kals - I think it is the enjoyment that is most important anyway...the numbers don't really mean all that much. Hope you enjoy Lahiri, too!

    Nise' - I agree! I just love looking over all these lists.

    Laurel-Rain Snow - I think blogging has had a positive influence on all our glad you've joined the "community".

    C.B. James - The short stories were actually an afterthought but, there were so many that I loved this year, they just had to be included. I'd love to read lists from other short story readers (hint, hint!)

    Joanne - Thanks! I don't think The Help will disappoint whether you choose to read or listen.

  19. Molly - Short stories were the biggest surprise for me this year. Would love to to see a few Short Story Monday posts at My Cozy Book Nook in 2010!

    Dar - Reaction to Olive was a little mixed at my bookclub, but nobody really disliked it. Only one or two were as enthusiastic as I was...

    Christy - Thanks! I'll be over to check the Alexander McCall Smith links...

    Linda - Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

    Bookmagic - Thanks...and Happy New Year!!

    Karen - Can't wait to see your list!

    Nymeth - Happy New Year to you, too... and thanks for being such an inspiration!

    Darlene - Wasn't Ethel & Ernest just wonderful? It was truly one of my most memorable reads of the year.

  20. It doesn't seem like it's only been one year since you began blogging! You've accomplished so much in your blog, friendships and books read. It seems that The Help is on everyone's list of favorites, and I can see why. I'm glad you read Kitchen, and I can't wait to read Dorothy Whipple myself. I'm also rereading The Woman in White this year for Bookshelves of Doom Big Read V. I remember loving it about twenty years ago when I first read it.

    Anyway, Happy New Year! All blessings on you!

  21. What a great list! I was wondering where I would see Olive K on your list...definitely a great read I enjoyed thanks to your recommendation (as well as the Gaskell ghost story along with Chopin's Story of an Hour). I will definitely be looking at your list while I ponder my future reads of 2010! Happy reading in the new year!

  22. Love the way you broke this down, and that you included your favorite short stories! (gotta love TC Boyle).Haven't read any of your top fives, though. Will fix that. Thank you--and Happy New Year!

  23. Great list! I also enjoyed Ethel and Ernest so much! And I'd like to get to The Home-Maker this year. Happy New Year!

  24. Great wrap up! I can't believe you've only been blogging a year. I haven't read anything on your list :( I have't read short stories since college but am going to be signing up for a ss challenge (you'll see it in tomorrow's post). Hope your 2010 is a great one :)

  25. You have had a great first year blogging! With so many memorable books too. Especially Olive Kitteridge and Unaccustomed Earth. Here is to a new year with an equal or greater number of irresistible book. Happy new year to you and yours!

  26. Bellezza - Thank you... it certainly has been an exciting year! You're in for a treat with Dorothy Whipple. Happy New Year.

    Book Psmith - Your blog has been a source of inspiration to me, as well. I finally picked up Alan Bennett thanks to you! Happy reading in 2010.

    DS - Isn't T.C. Boyle the best?! Will definitely be reading more in 2010. Happy New Year.

    Tara - I think it was on Nan's blog that I first saw Ethel & Ernest, and I still can't believe a graphic novel made me cry! Happy 2010.

    Stacybuckeye - Sometimes it does seem like a lot longer than a year that I've been blogging! Good luck with the short stories (I just saw your post) and have fun with the challenge!

    Frances - Thank you! I'm so glad I decided to give blogging a try! There was never any doubt Olive K and Unaccustomed Earth would end up on my list... even though I read them early in the year. Happy reading in 2010!

  27. Great List-The Uncommon Reader is nearer to top of my TBR list-I read a lot of Zola many years ago and would like to reread him-I really enjoyed Kitchen (true of all Yoshimoto's work for me) and am in fact ten pages now into The Woman in White-by the way I love your header picture-

  28. I loved a few of your favorite things. The Uncommon Reader is a favorite of 2008 for me...I laughed so much while picturing the Queen trying to get her hands on something to read. You had a wonderful 2009!

  29. Mel U - The Uncommon Reader was just a delight to read! Do you remember any particular Zola titles that stood out? I can't find many recommendations and there are so many books to choose from! Glad you like the photo - we are definitely in the midst of winter now!

    Staci - I loved everything about The Uncommon Reader! It's definitely a book to reread.

  30. Really, you've only been here a year??? I think I've been subscribed to your blog almost from its inception! I always seem to be adding books to my wish list that you recommend. In fact, after reading your post today I added Therese Raquin by Emile Zola.

    Like you, I love short stories, and I've copied your list of bests from the year. I discovered Louise Erdrich's novel writing in 2009 and I'd love to read one of her shorts. Other than her, all your newly discovered favorite authors are new to me (*busily making notes!*)

    Great post - thanks for all the "new" recommendations!

  31. Wendy - It's actually been 14 months now - I started in early November of 2008. The time has really flown by! Zola is amazing, but I don't think many people read him. Hope you enjoy Therese Raquin. It's an amazing psychological portrayal.

    The Red Convertible is a collection of Erdrich's stories. Some are old, some new, and some are stories that were developed into novels. Not sure if any are available on-line.

  32. Joann: Thanks for the name of Erdrich's collection - I'll keep an eye out for it :)


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