My top books of 2009

There’s still a couple of weeks left, but I was adding books to my Goodreads list and thought I’d pull out this year’s 5-star books. It’s interesting to go back and see what I thought was incredibly good over the course of the year….

In alphabetical order, with some notes about what’s stuck with me since reading:

  • The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart
    Read right at the beginning of the year, and I still agree with my 5-star assessment. This book is incredibly important in understanding the social and political landscape of the US now.
  • The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care
    I think the clearest thing I’ve read on health care ever. If nothing else, helpful in providing a framework for understanding proposals. Don’t have time to read the book? He also did a Frontline special.
  • The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want
    Embarrassed to say that the lessons I got from this one have faded over the course of the year. I should probably go buy a copy.
  • The Invention of Air
    This one pairs nicely with The Age of Wonder, which I just finished — same period of history, similar focus on the cross-over of science and other endeavors (politics in one, poetry in the other). If you only have time to read one, though, go with this one. Shorter, more direct connections to the present, and fabulous writing style.
  • The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia
    The particulars didn’t stick much — had to reread my review to remember why I was so enthusiastic — but while I was reading it, the book got right inside my head.
  • Nine Gates (Breaking the Wall, #2)
    Sequel to the one listed below. I really enjoyed the narrative voice and the integration of magic. Also, these were the last novels I read before vanishing into NaNoWriMo, and the author’s techniques were very helpful as I got started, especially the descriptions of magic in practice. Am anxious to get book #3.
  • Sea of Poppies: A Novel
    Big and sprawling; my review calls it “strangely compelling.” 🙂 I’m wondering if the complex POV work in this one subconsciously affected my writing last month.
  • Thirteen Orphans (Breaking the Wall, #1)
    Ditto to my earlier thoughts.
  • This Is Not a Game: A Novel
    Walter Jon Williams continues to be awesome. Seriously, I actually had a hard time putting this one down…a few lunches went over their usual time because I wanted to read “just one more little bit.”

Some 4-star special interest honorable mentions…

  • The Weather of the Pacific Northwest. Gorgeous and fascinating reading, and the tidbits that stuck have turned out to be useful in my day to day life. If you’re a local, definitely check it out.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. For the writers in the crowd. Lots of good advice and encouragement, even if you’re not trying to write for NaNo.
  • Kneadlessly Simple: Fabulous, Fuss-Free, No-Knead Breads. I only managed to make one recipe out of this book before it had to go back to the library, but that one was fantastic. Took a few attempts to work out decent timing, but after that, very easy and very tasty.

One final thought: virtually all of my reading in 2009 was courtesy of the library. (I bought Dreams from My Father at the Austin airport.) If you’re in Oly, consider joining the Friends of the Olympia Library. It’s only $5! (Why yes, I am the secretary. Why do you ask? ;)) If you’re not already taking advantage of the great services of your local library, wherever it may be…well, you should.