Friday, January 29, 2010

The Best Reads of 2009

Posted by lea at 11:35 AM
Due to overwhelming demand (one request left in the comments of this blog), I've decided to review my best reads of 2009.

Top 5 reads of 2009

Maus, by Art Spiegelman
A deeply affecting graphic novel about the Holocaust experience of the artist/author's father, and their rocky father-son relationship. The immigrant English is charming and the use of animal faces for characters really work, in the strangest and most touching way.

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
This is a difficult read in many ways, but so worth the effort. It's ridiculous and sublime, dark, funny and has the potential to send you mad.

Cooking with Fernet Branca, by James Hamilton-Paterson
This was an unexpected delight that I laughed my way through. Set in the beautiful Tuscan countryside, the novel focuses on two independently hilarious and wittily depicted characters: very English Gerald Samper and his Voynovian neighbour Marta. Well worth reading.

One Day, David Nicholls
One Day is a big book that spans two decades in a relationship between two people who will become your best friends by the time you finish the book. It's an unconventional love story that's in turns satisfying, funny, sad and wistful... much like real life.

Persuasion, Jane Austen
I had to sneak her in there somehow, and since it was still too soon for a re-read of Pride and Prejudice, I read Persuasion instead. It used to be my third favourite Austen novel after P&P and Emma, but it's quickly rising to take second place. It's a gorgeous story of lost love that is found again, and so deliciously satisfying in the end. I defy you not to fall in love with it.

Honorary Mentions

Best series: The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency series, by Alexander McCall-Smith
I've been reading this series for a few years now and it never gets old. The story of Precious Ramotswe, who opens up the first ladies' detective agency in Botswana, her assistant Mma Makutsi and fiancee-to-husband Mr JLB Matekoni is delightful in every way: tender, big-hearted and touching.

Best non-fiction: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain
Okay, I'm not a big reader of non-fiction so there wasn't a lot to choose from, but this book was an enjoyable read regardless of genre. Anthony Bourdain, a drug-addict-turned-successful-chef, reveals the underbelly of fine dining, and in doing so gives real insight and appreciation for the craft that takes place before the perfectly turned plate lands on our table.

Biggest disappointment: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
This Pulitzer Prize winner was a dud in my books, and certainly didn't live up to the wonderful title. There were pages-long footnotes, quotes in Spanish that weren't translated for our benefit, and the characters were not particularly endearing - particularly the title's namesake.

Best movie: District 9
Since I reviewed movies as well throughout 2009, I thought I might throw this one in here. District 9 was a brilliant movie with great visual effects, impeccable acting (especially by first-time actor Sharlto Copley in the lead role), moving character development and a fantastic storyline. It's almost too much to ask of one movie these days, but Neill Blomkamp manages to deliver it all in his directorial debut.


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