The Top Ten List of the Best Books I’ve Read in 2009

This has been another very good year of reading for me in which I made a conscious effort to read a wide variety of novels and collections of stories by many different authors. My reading has been influenced by the many fine book sites which I monitor as well as various book reviews.
Here goes.

‘Every Man Dies Alone’ (‘Alone in Berlin’) by Hans Fallada – an utterly convincing depiction of the nightmare of the Nazi reign for average ordinary Berliners.

‘The Spare Room’ by Helen Garner – a book about the minor aggravations and the huge rewards of a really good friend during the toughest times in our lives.

‘The Secret Scripture’ by Sebastian Barry – A very traditional, but new, and powerful novel from and about Ireland.

‘Generosity’ by Richard Powers – an intelligent passionate novel about gene research and our quest for happiness.

‘Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It’ by Maile Meloy – Modern cutting edge stories about life in the United States today.

‘Snow’ by Orhan Pamuk – an involving novel of the situation in modern Turkey with the main character being Orhan Pamuk himself.

‘My Cousin Rachel’ by Daphne du Maurier – A strong mystery-romance from this classic suspense writer.

‘How the Light Gets In’ by M. J. Hyland – the story of a female high school exchange student from Australia living in the home of Chicago suburbanites.

‘The Post-Office Girl’ by Stefan Zweig – A shattering story of a young woman in Austria during the 1920s.

‘What I Loved’ by Siri Hustvedt – A novel about two couples operating in the New York art world.

    Happy Holidays, EveryOne !

15 responses to this post.

  1. […] the original post:  The Top Ten List of the Best Books I Read in 2009 « Tony's Book World By admin | category: top list | tags: books, business, conscious-effort, good-year, […]


  2. Dear Sir,

    Thank you. I really enjoy lists like this from people whose taste I have come to know through their shared writing. This is more meaningful to me than a NYT or an LT or Guardian list.




    • Steven,
      Thanks. I’ve always prepared one of these best-of-year lists at the end of the year informally. What was really fun was in the middle and late Eighties, I caught up on many of the classics which I hadn’t read before, and my end of year lists would contain books like “War and Peace”, “Middlemarch”, “Vanity Fair”, and Shakespeare plays interspersed with more contemporary books. How do you compare “Hamlet” or “War and Peace” with John Updike or Evelyn Waugh or Anne Tyler?


  3. I’ve only read 3 of the books on your list and I thought all 3 were excellent. The post-office girl was on my best list last year. Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel is also brilliant. And wasn’t that Siri Hustveldt book excellent? Did you know she’s married to Paul Auster?


    • Hi, Thanks for stopping by! Yes I did know about the Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt connection. Actually I’m more familiar with Siri Hustvedt’s work than Paul Auster’s. I have read “The Blindfold” and “What I Loved” by Hustvedt, both of which were excellent. “What I Loved” was so readable, I finished that 300+ page novel in about 4 days around last New Year’s. I do remember reading “Moon Palace” by Auster several years ago, and that was excellent too.


  4. Tony,

    That’s kind of what my 2009 list is going to look like. I am probably going to give recent releases their own category because none of them can really compete with all-time greats like Pnin, The Fall, The Stranger. Of course, some of my favorites are re-reads too, so that gives me a good excuse to get some newer material into my best of 2009 list.

    As for your list, you have a great mix. Every Man Dies Alone is a definite must-read for me. The title alone is awesome, then, with your review seconded by several other blogs I respect, I just have to read it. Du Marnier is on my TBR for 2010, as is Pamuk. I really like your list.

    The only problem with bloggers whose taste I admire is that they keep the TBR pile growing. It would not be hard for me to book all my 2010 reading right now. But thanks (Nothomb, for instance).



    • Hi Kerry,
      I’ll be very interested in seeing your list, because you seem to have some of the same tastes in literature as I do. It’s a good idea to separate out the recent releases from the classics, because it is somewhat like comparing apples to oranges. Shakespeare against Siri Hustvedt? Siri Hustvedt is a really fine writer, but no one today can fairly compete with Shakespeare.
      My TBR pile isn’t too big, because I keep refining it down to only what I really, really want to read.


      • “My TBR pile isn’t too big, because I keep refining it down to only what I really, really want to read.”

        Wise, wise man.

        (And, of course, I meant: Daphne du Maurier.)


  5. Great list Tony. I have read 4 on your list – Garner, Barry, Pamuk and Du Maurier – but only one of them this year, Pamuk’s Snow and it is also on my top ten.

    I did write a blog post on Barry late last or was it early this year on my bookgroup’s little blog. I thought it was a beautifully written book let down a little by its denouement. I have created my own Top Ten for one of my internet bookgroups – will blog it eventually!


    • Hi, I remember there was a lot of discussion in the blogs about Barry’s denouement in “The Secret Scripture”. I don’t remember feeling let down by the ending at the time. I also read “A Long, Long Way” which also was superb. Barry is a very traditional writer, but he certainly holds your interest. I’ll read whatever he writes. I’m looking forward to seeing your top list on your blog.


      • Yes, I have A long long way in my TBR pile. I would certainly read him again as his writing is beautiful, and the characterisation of Roseanne (?) was excellent. But, I did feel let down by the ending…I thought he should have followed EM Forster’s advice and stopped when he had nothing more to say. (At least I think that’s basically what Forster said!)


  6. […] Tony’s Book World – Top Ten Best Books He Read in 2009 […]


  7. Excellent list, Tony. I’m looking for a contemporary U.S. book to add to my reading in the near future and both the Hyland and Meloy qualify (outside of Russo, most of the 2009 U.S. fiction I have read has been disappointing). The Hyland appeals because I like Australians looking at North America; the Meloy seems to be more literary. Care to help with a choice between the two? Thanks.


    • KevinfromCanada,
      Thanks for stopping by. The Meloy and the Hyland are quite different books. The Meloy is a book of excellent short stories that really is a quite easy read. I notice that it was one of N.Y. Times’ top 5 fiction books for the year. The Hyland is a novel written by an Australian, an outsider’s view of the United States. I found out about this book from Kimbofo. I see Hyland as a natural born writer, and will be watching for her future novels. Sorry I can’t help you choose between the two. I’ve already been looking for an Echenoz from your list.


  8. […] fiction works on the New Yorks Times 2009 Top 10 list and a Los Angeles Times Best Books of 2009. Tony's Book World included it in his year-end top 10. Meloy is also no stranger to prizes, even though this is only […]


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