Taking Stock of 2009: Books

Instead of a straight-up best-of list, a slightly more eclectic look back at what I read in 2009. Best large Russian book, Tolstoy’s big one; best small Russian book (and most scurrilous of any nationality) Moscow to the End of the Line by Venedikt Erofeev. Best fantasy, parts two through four of the Princess of Roumania series. Most overrated, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Best SF, Brasyl by Ian McDonald. Best non-fiction, The Discovery of France by Graham Robb. Most off-putting but finished anyway, Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming. Best surprises, The Final Reflection by John M. Ford (along with his How Much for Just the Planet, the first two Star Trek novels I’ve read in a quarter century) and Bleachers by John Grisham. Best look behind the scenes of history (also best dissection of a fellow national leader), To the Castle and Back by Vaclav Havel.

Complete list (in order read) is below the fold. Links are to previous writing about the book or author on AFOE. See also 2006 and 2007.

Now and Forever – Ray Bradbury
Georgisches Reisetagebuch – Jonathan Littell
The Tourmaline – Paul Park
Bleachers – John Grisham
Goodbye to Berlin – Christopher Isherwood
The Emperor of Gondwanaland – Paul di Filippo
In EuropeGeert Mak
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency – Alexander M. Smith
The Spirit Wrestlers – Philip Marsden
The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
The White Tyger – Paul Park
The Tin Roof Blowdown – James Lee Burke
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
To the Castle and Back – Vaclav Havel
The Night Watch – Sergei Lukyanenko
The Merchants’ War – Charles Stross
The Engines of God – Jack McDevitt
White Eagle Red Star – Norman Davies
Gold and Iron – Fritz Stern
Deepsix – Jack McDevitt
Visionary in Residence – Bruce Sterling
Omega – Jack McDevitt
München Leuchtete – Thomas Mann
Stalin’s Children – Owen Matthews
King Lear – William Shakespeare
Georgia: In the Mountains of Poetry – Peter Nasmyth
Absurdistan – Gary Shteyngart
The Scar РChina Mi̩ville
How Much for Just the Planet – John M. Ford
Macbeth – William Shakespeare
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
The Final Reflection – John M. Ford
The Revolution Business – Charles Stross
Norse Code – Greg van Eekhart
The Discovery of France – Graham Robb
Henry V – William Shakespeare
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
Travels with Herodotus – Ryszard Kapuscinski
Victory of Eagles – Naomi Novik
Brasyl – Ian McDonald
Live and Let Die – Ian Fleming
The Hidden World – Paul Park
Reappraisals – Tony Judt
Moscow to the End of the Line – Venedikt Erofeev

2008, since I didn’t put up a list at the beginning of 2009
Dreams From My Father – Barack Obama (book of the year for me)
Ich dachte an die goldenen Zeiten – Bohumil Hrabal
The Princess Bride – William Goldman
Halting State – Charles Stross
Chindi – Jack McDevitt
Der Virtuose – Margriet de Moor
Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama
Iron Kingdom – Christopher Clarke
The Jennifer Morgue – Charles Stross
The Ghost of Freedom – Charles King
Casino Royale – Ian Fleming
The Clan Corporate – Charles Stross
Ali and Nino – Kurban Said
Playing for Pizza – John Grisham
The Children of H̼rin РJ.R.R. Tolkien
Black Garden – Thomas de Waal
Azerbaijan Diary – Thomas Goltz
Georgia Diary – Thomas Goltz
Nixonland – Rick Perlstein
The View from Stalin’s Head – Aaron Hamburger
The Turkish Gambit – Boris Akunin
Bread and Ashes – Tony Anderson
Shakespeare – Bill Bryson
New Europe – Michael Palin
The Tempest – William Shakespeare
The Girl from the Golden Horn – Kurban Said
City on Fire – Bill Munitaglio
The Lies of Locke Lamorra – Scott Lynch
The Android’s Dream – John Scalzi

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About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

6 thoughts on “Taking Stock of 2009: Books

  1. Is it really possible to read, and properly absorb, this many books (including King Lear and a Tolstoy bookstop) in one year while also having a job?

    I suppose it’s possible that the author is a genius, or simply that I’m a bit dim (or even that the author doesn’t have a job after all).

  2. Well, I am a bit underemployed and was in most of 2009 (alas). In 2008, I had a full-time job, but a long commute on the trains. Two hours a day on the U-bahn makes for a lot of pages.

    Whether I have “properly absorbed” them or not is surely open to debate. Shakespeare’s plays are performed in an evening; it doesn’t take much longer to read one. Lear was the first time through, but the other plays were re-reads, which bring new interest.

    Lots of light reading on the list, too. (And thanks for commenting! I usually think no one reads these lists…)

  3. I’m working on a novelization of “Go, Diego, Go.” I want to really explore the what motivates Diego to save animals and to provide a backstory for Rescue Pack.

  4. Everyone’s read ‘Macbeth‘ at one time or another in their lives, at school, college or outside. It is an intriguing play that throws light upon what happens when a particular trait in human nature is magnified. Ambition is one of the requisites of success. Trouble begins when this same ambition gets out of hand. Macbeth’s hunger for power, which is fuelled by his wife, brings about a series of murders that ultimately bring about his own death. If you want to understand this book better I would definitely recommend you try Shmoop.com.

  5. Pingback: Taking Stock of 2010: Books | afoe | A Fistful of Euros | European Opinion

  6. Pingback: Taking Stock of 2010: Books » The Frumious Consortium

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