Best of 2009: The Ultimate List
Posted by: Neil Hollands
Zoinks! I might be just a little bit crazy (but in a good way).
I’ve been toiling since late November to build my annual aggregated compilation of last year’s best books. It’s not just the best according to one source, or even according to ten sources. So far, it’s the best according to 74 different authoritative sources, and over 1200 books published in the U.S. in 2009 have been mentioned.
I’ve counted the votes, sorted them by genre, and put them in a downloadable, sortable Excel spreadsheet that has tabs for general fiction; mystery and thriller fiction; speculative fiction; historical fiction; romance fiction; young adult fiction; poetry; graphic works; nonfiction; biographies and memoirs; and how-to, art, and cookbooks. The sources compiled to date are listed and linked to on the last tab of the spreadsheet. Get the spreadsheet and read more about it at my other blog home, Williamsburg Regional Library’s Blogging for a Good Book.
Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is the top vote getter, with mentions on 29 different lists so far. In fiction, Alice Munro’s Too Much Happiness: Stories received 20 votes to date. This was followed by Suzanne Collins YA SF/adventure sequel Catching Fire (18), A. S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book (17), Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs (17), and Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood (16). One vote further back are The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Love and Summer, by William Trevor.
In nonfiction, the top vote getter so far is Stitches: A Memoir, the graphic memoir by David Small, with 22 votes. This is followed by Dave Eggers’ tale of Hurricane Katrina victim Zeitoun (14 votes to date), David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers (13), Dave Cullen’s Columbine (12), David Grann’s The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon (12), Blake Bailey’s biography Cheever: A Life (12). One vote behind are Mary Karr’s Lit: A Memoir, Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains, and Richard Holmes’ Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science. Any of these vote leaders would make a fine choice for your book group.
I’m not done with the aggregation yet, but the job is near enough completion that I’m ready to go to press. In the coming weeks, I’ll write individual posts about the results in each of the tabulated categories. I’ll also post an update when the aggregation is finished, or you can check back for the latest updates in the vote count once a week at Blogging for a Good Book.