ABC’s Biggest Books of 2009

2009 was the year that some of the biggest names in Bookland finally brought us their long-awaited new works: we got to read new books from Robert Jordan, Margaret Atwood, Roberto Bolano, Richard Dawkins, Esther and Jerry Hicks, Robert Crumb, Stieg Larsson, Dan Brown, Vladimir Nabokov, Audrey Niffenegger, and John Irving, and even another Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy book!  

Here they are: The 70 books that made our year.

What were your biggest books of 2009? Send your top five to Include your mailing address and we’ll send you a little thank-you gift if we use your list on the blog. You can also tweet us your favorites! 


Avedon Fashion 1944-2000 by Carol Squiers, Philippe Garner & Vince Aletti

This comprehensive volume offers a definitive survey, from Avedon’s groundbreaking early photographs for Harper’s Bazaar through his constantly inventive contributions to Vogue, Egoiste, and The New Yorker. Each carefully selected image represents an artistic collaboration with significant models, stylists, and designers.

The Sartorialist by Scott Schuman

Scott Schuman just wanted to take photographs of people on the street who looked great. His now famous blog was an attempt to showcase the wonderful and varied sartorial tastes of real people – not only those of the fashion industry. The book is a beautiful anthology of Scott’s favourite shots from around the world. They include photographs of well-known fashion figures as well as those shots of the anonymous passerby whose imagination and taste delight the viewer.

High Voltage Tattoo by Kat Von D.

The charismatic Kat Von D, the star of LA Ink, opens the door to the world of contemporary tattooing, the way only a true insider can. It includes Kat’s story, the work she finds inspirational, past and present; great tattoo artists, from a classic artist like Sailor Jerry to people she admires who are working around the world. It includes humorous visual thematic portfolios of Kat’s work, her portrait tattoos (for which she is famous); great work in typography, back pieces, memorials, body suits, and more.

The California Surf Project by Eric Soderquist & Chris Burkard

It’s the stuff of travellers’ dreams: a classic 1978 VW camper, surfboards in the back, two months and the entire length of Highway 1 to discover … It’s an iconic journey represented by iconic images, and as you turn the final pages of this book to find yourself arriving in Tijuana, you’ll have a new respect for the Californian nature as well as a soft spot for the two artists that have taken you there. The book includes a 30-minute film on the trip on DVD.

Naïve: Modernism and Folklore in Contemporary Graphic Design by R. Klanten & H. Hellige

A minimalist design vocabulary is currently being reinvented by a troop of young graphic designers who are rediscovering the stylistic elements reminiscent of classic graphic design such as silkscreen printing, classical typography, hand lettering, woodcutting and folk art and integrating them into their work. Naïve documents this extraordinary renaissance of Classic Modernism, from the 1940s to 1960s, in contemporary graphic design.

Gig Posters, Volume 1: Rock Show Art of the 21st Century by Clay Hayes

Highlights the best 700+ examples of the collection, including 101 perforated and ready-to-hang posters for bands like Radiohead, Wilco, Vampire Weekend, the Decemberists, the Shins, Arcade Fire, Sleater-Kinney, and more. With short bios of the artists, plus images of his or her other notable works. A spectacular compilation of rock show art and one hell of a cheap way to decorate a dorm room or apartment.

Remake it: Home: The Essential Guide to Resourceful Living by Peter Saville

Save money, save the planet and stay ahead in the style stakes: if theres something going spare, theres a use for it somewhere. With a wealth of tricks and tips, design examples from leading luminaries such as Jasper Morrison and Marcel Waanders, and step-by-step projects you can try around the house it provides design inspiration and practical know how in equal measure.

Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi

He is one of the most beloved athletes in history and one of the most gifted men ever to step onto a tennis court – but from early childhood Andre Agassi hated the game. Coaxed to swing a racket while still in the crib, forced to hit hundreds of balls a day while still in grade school, Agassi resented the constant pressure even as he drove himself to become a prodigy, an inner conflict that would define him. Now, in his beautiful, haunting autobiography, Agassi tells the story of a life framed by such conflicts.

Never Use White Type on a Black Background: And 50 Other Ridiculous Design Rules by Anneloes van Gaalen

The world of fashion and design is inundated with a seemingly endless list of rules. Rules tend to have a life of their own: over time their meaning changes or the rule is adopted by a whole new group of followers. This evolution is reflected in this book by the chronologically placed quotes that accompany each rule and that are courtesy of designers, architects, fashion designers, typographers and other creatives.

This Is Not a Book by Keri Smith

A curious, engaging, and creative rethinking of what a book can be, by Keri Smith of “Wreck this Journal” fame. In this uniquely skewed look at the purpose and function of “a book,” Keri Smith offers an illustrated guide that asks readers to creatively examine all the different ways This Is Not a Book can be used.

Basic Fashion Design: Construction by Anette Fischer

Construction is the foundation of fashion design. It takes great skill to take a two-dimensional drawing and turn it into a successful garment. Now fashion designers can learn those essential skills with a no-nonsense text and more than 200 color images. This book leads readers through the essential stages of creating a garment, from pattern cutting to construction and draping a mannequin to finishes.

The Tao of Wu by the RZA with Chris Norris

This hodgepodge of memoir, spiritual advice and poetry is a sincere attempt by the RZA, Wu Tang Clan founder and producer, to impart his accumulated life wisdom through the lens of hip-hop and idiosyncratic personal religion.

Rock Candy by Femke Hiemstra

An amazing book by a Dutch artist. Hiemstra’s work is a tribute to folk tales and surreal nightmares. It could not be better portrayed than how designer Jacob Covey of Fantagraphics has done it. This compact book, in style with Hiemstra’s art, depicts her imaginative work in a playful way. Sketches, examples and inspirations then give a look behind the scenes how Hiemstra’s childhood dreams and nightmares are established. An absolute must!

Moonwalk by Michael Jackson

The King of Pop’s one and only autobiography – his life, in his words. Reissued this year, with the original Foreword by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a new Introduction by Motown founder Berry Gordy, and an Afterword by Michael Jackson’s editor and publisher, Shaye Areheart.

Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life by Charley Harper & Todd Oldham

Charley Harper was an American original. For over six decades he painted colorful and graphic illustrations of nature, animals, insects and people alike until he passed away in 2007. Renowned designer Todd Oldham rediscovered Charley’s work in 2001, and collaborated closely with him in the ensuing years; combing through his extensive archive to edit and design this stunning monograph.

Sumo by Helmut Newton

The biggest, most lavish book production of the 20th century is back! SUMO was a titanic book in every respect: a 480-page tribute to the 20th century’s most influential, intriguing and controversial photographer, it broke records for weight, dimensions, and resale price. However, proud owners of the new edition won’t wrestle with their copy of SUMO. It comes with a unique stand for displaying the book at home.


NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

One of the most important books you will read this year. Bronson and Merryman move parenting out of the realm of folklore and into the realm of science – and reveal what decades of studies teach us about the complexities of raising, happy, healthy, self-motivated kids.

Parking Lot Rules & 75 Other Ideas for Raising Amazing Children by Tom Sturges

Tom Sturges has gotten the recipe for parenting just right: five parts love, three parts struggle, two parts humor and a dollop of wisdom. His suggestions for a wide variety of parenting problems are practical and funny.

The Inaugural Address 2009 by Barack Obama

Tying into the official theme for the 2009 inaugural ceremony, “A New Birth of Freedom” from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, this is a keepsake edition commemorating the inauguration of President Barack Obama with words of the two great thinkers and writers who have helped shape him politically, philosophically, and personally: Abraham Lincoln and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Superfusion: How China and America Become One Economy and Why the World’s Prosperity Depends Upon It by Zachary Karabell

In this provocative essay Karabell lucidly sketches out the tectonic shifts that now compel us to redefine how we relate to China. Karabell’s is an urgent call for Americans to shake off their torpor and complacency before it is too late and recognize how China has changed the global equation.

Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo

Economist and former World Bank consultant Moyo, a native of Zambia, prescribes a tough dose of medicine: stopping the tide of money that only promotes corruption in government and dependence in citizens. She advocates a smarter, though admittedly more difficult, policy of investment that has already worked to grow the economies of poor countries like Argentina and Brazil. Moyo writes with a general audience in mind, and doesn’t hesitate to slow down and explain the intricacies of, say, the bond market.

Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas Christakis & James Fowler

This wonderful book by Christakis and Fowler could well be one of the most important works of the decade. In a clear and engaging way, the authors apply their creative and provocative findings on social networks to understanding not only our social relationships but also the forces that shape our world. Full of fascinating stories and examples, this book is essential in understanding our very nature.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

What makes Eating Animals so unusual is vegetarian Foer’s empathy for human meat eaters, his willingness to let both factory farmers and food reform activists speak for themselves, and his talent for using humor to sweeten a sour argument.

Last Chance to See by Mark Carwardine & Stephen Fry

Join zoologist Mark Carwardine and Britain’s best-loved wit and raconteur, Stephen Fry, as they follow in their great friend Douglas Adams’ footsteps, in search of some of the rarest and most threatened animals on Earth.

Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict by Tsultrim Allione

In Feeding Your Demons Tsultrim Allione offers us a powerful and transformative practice, one that can heal the deepest wounds and reveal profound spiritual truths. What is so striking is how, through her own tremendous clarity and heart, Allione brings this practice alive and renders it truly accessible.

Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche & Eric Swanson

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, the Tibetan Buddhist master of mind-over-matter and co-author of the best-selling The Joy of Living…recommends Buddhism’s cheerful, non-alarmist, big-picture approach to life’s obstacles as a prescription for contemporary troubles.

13 Things That Don’t Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time by Michael Brooks

Science’s best-kept secret is this: even today, there are experimental results and reliable data that the most brilliant scientists can neither explain nor dismiss. In the past, similar “anomalies” have revolutionized our world, and so, if history is any precedent, we should look to today’s inexplicable results to forecast the future of science.

The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins

To call this book a defense of evolution utterly misses the point: The Greatest Show on Earth is a celebration of one of the best ideas humans have ever produced. Richard Dawkins combines an artist’s wonder at the virtuosity of nature with a scientist’s understanding of how it comes to be.

Frequency: The Power of Personal Vibration by Penney Peirce

Seeing ourselves as energy beings is the most important breakthrough of our times. In Frequency, Penney Peirce clarifies many of the energy principles that have previously been unacknowledged, but which we can now intentionally use to keep ourselves healthy and improve the realities we live in. A highly recommendable book that gives an in-depth perspective on the Law of Attraction you don’t find elsewhere!

Science: The Definitive Visual Guide by Dorling Kindersley Publishers

This is the complete illustrated science encyclopedia covering the history, key discoveries, inventions and people. This remarkable reference book reveals the story of scientific progress from the invention of the wheel to 21st-century climate solutions, including everything from ancient Greek geometry and quantum physics to the worldwide web.

Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod

When Hugh MacLeod was a struggling young copywriter, living in a YMCA, he started to doodle on the backs of business cards while sitting at a bar. Those cartoons eventually led to a popular blog – – and a reputation for pithy insight and humor, in both words and pictures. MacLeod has opinions on everything from marketing to the meaning of life, but one of his main subjects is creativity. This, his first book expands on his sharpest insights, wittiest cartoons, and most useful advice.

Show Me How: 501 Things You Should Know by Derek Fagerstrom, Lauren Smith and the Show Me team

The ultimate how to compendium brimming with hundreds of eclectic, electric, unexpected and surprisingly handy things you really should know how to do. Build an erupting volcano, speed-peel a hard boiled egg or apply traditional geisha make up. Each technique is accompanied by colorful and informative step-by-step illustrations to ensure that you grasp every method, as well as handy hints and interesting facts.

The Vortex: Where the Law of Attraction Assembles All Cooperative Relationships by Esther Hicks & Jerry Hicks

This latest Abraham-Hicks title focuses completely on Law of Attraction and Relationships! The Vortex will help you understand every relationship you are currently involved in as well as every relationship you have ever experienced. It uncovers a myriad of false premises that are at the heart of every uncomfortable relationship issue, and guides you to a clear understanding of the powerful creative Vortex that has already assembled the relationships that you have desired.

Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (and a Way to Get There from Here) by Bruce Lipton & Steve Bhaerman

We’ve all heard of people who’ve experienced a seemingly miraculous recovery from illness, but can the same thing happen for our whole world? According to pioneering biologist Bruce H. Lipton, it’s not only possible, but it is already happening. In collaboration with political philosopher Steve Bhaerman, Dr Lipton invites readers to explore a startling re-examination of evolution, the role of DNA, the relationship between mind and matter, and how our beliefs about nature shape us. As Dr Lipton and Steve Bhaerman explain, by changing our beliefs, we can trigger the spontaneous evolution of our species to create a brighter future.

The Vertigo Years: Change and Culture in the West, 1900-1914 by Philipp Blom

From the tremendous hope for a new century embodied in the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris to the shattering assassination of a Habsburg archduke in Sarajevo in 1914, historian Philipp Blom chronicles this extraordinary epoch year by year. Prime Ministers and peasants, anarchists and actresses, scientists and psychopaths intermingle on the stage of a new century in this portrait of an opulent, unstable age on the brink of disaster. Beautifully written and replete with deftly told anecdotes, The Vertigo Years brings the wonders, horrors, and fears of the early twentieth century vividly to life.

True Compass by Edward Kennedy

In this landmark autobiography, five years in the making, Senator Edward M. Kennedy tells his extraordinary personal story–of his legendary family, politics, and fifty years at the center of national events.

The Book of Genesis by Robert Crumb

Envisioning the first book of the bible like no one before him, R. Crumb, the legendary illustrator, reveals here the story of Genesis in a profoundly honest and deeply moving way. Originally thinking that we would do a take off of Adam and Eve, Crumb became so fascinated by the Bible’s language, “a text so great and so strange that it lends itself readily to graphic depictions,” that he decided instead to do a literal interpretation using the text word for word in a version primarily assembled from the translations of Robert Alter and the King James bible. Now, readers of every persuasion-Crumb fans, comic book lovers, and believers-can gain astonishing new insights from these harrowing, tragic, and even juicy stories.


Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

In very different ways, Oskar and Eli were both victims. Which is why, against the odds, they became friends. And how they came to depend on one another, for life itself. Oskar is a 12 year old boy living with his mother on a dreary housing estate at the city’s edge. Eli is the young girl who moves in next door. She is a 200 year old vampire.

Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child

New York City. Two in the morning. A subway car heading uptown. Jack Reacher, plus five other passengers. Four are okay. The fifth isn’t.

In the next few tense seconds Reacher will make a choice–and trigger an electrifying chain of events in this gritty, gripping masterwork of suspense by #1 New York Times bestseller Lee Child. In a novel that slams through one hairpin surprise after another, Lee Child unleashes a thriller that spans three decades and gnaws at the heart of America . . . and for Jack Reacher, a man who trusts no one and likes it that way, it’s a mystery with only one answer–the kind that comes when you finally get face-to-face and look your worst enemy in the eye.

Under The Dome by Stephen King

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when — or if — it will go away.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Of course, a list of the highlights of 2009 would not be complete without Dan Brown’s long-awaited new book. The Lost Symbol is a masterstroke of storytelling–a deadly race through a real-world labyrinth of codes, secrets, and unseen truths . . . all under the watchful eye of Brown’s most terrifying villain to date. Set within the hidden chambers, tunnels, and temples of Washington, D.C., The Lost Symbol accelerates through a startling landscape toward an unthinkable finale.

The Strain by Guillermo de Toro and Chuck Hogan

A heart-stopping thriller with a supernatural edge from world-famous director, whose films include Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy. A plane lands at JFK and mysteriously ‘goes dark’, stopping in the middle of the runway for no apparent reason, all lights off, all doors sealed. The pilots cannot be raised. When the hatch above the wing finally clicks open, it soon becomes clear that everyone on board is dead — although there is no sign of any trauma or struggle. Ephraim Goodweather and his team from the Center for Disease Control must work quickly to establish the cause of this strange ocurrence before panic spreads. The first thing they discover is that four of the victims are actually still alive. But that’s the only good news. And when all two hundred corpses disappear from various morgues around the city on the same night, things very rapidly get worse.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem that has been flying off the shleves this year.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

Lisbeth Salander—the heart of Larsson’s two previous novels—is under close supervision in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: when she’s well enough, she’ll stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will have to prove her innocence, and to identify the corrupt politicians who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse. And, on her own, she will plot her revenge—against the man who tried to kill her and the government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life. Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Lisbeth Salander is ready to fight back.


Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Another brilliantly original novel from the cult author of “Snowcrash and Cryptonomicon”.Since childhood, Raz has lived behind the walls of a 3,400-year-old monastery, a sanctuary for scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians. There, he and his cohorts are sealed off from the illiterate, irrational, unpredictable “saecular” world, an endless landscape of casinos and megastores that is plagued by recurring cycles of booms and busts, dark ages and renaissances, world wars and climate change. Until the day that a higher power, driven by fear, decides it is only these cloistered scholars who have the abilities to avert an impending catastrophe. And, one by one, Raz and his friends, mentors, and teachers are summoned forth without warning into the unknown.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

We’re sneaking this book from 2001 into our 2009 list because we’ve probably sold more copies of this first book in the Sookie Stackhouse Series this year than in the past eight years put together. New readers have come to these gems via the multi-award-winning HBO series True Blood which is now being broadcast in The Netherlands.

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Installment number 32 in the ridiculously popular, fantastically funny fantasy series. And this one’s about football! Soccer has come to the ancient city of Ankh-Morpork – not the old fashioned, grubby pushing and shoving, but the new, fast football with pointy hats for goalposts and balls that go going when you drop them. And now, the wizards of Unseen University must win a football match, without using magic.

Drood by Dan Simmons

Sealed for 125 years, a secret manuscript by Charles Dickens’ friend and some-time collaborator Wilkie Collins, reveals the dark secret that obsessed both men – a secret that not only ended their long friendship, but also brought each writer to the very brink of murder. On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, 53-year-old Charles Dickens – at the height of his powers and popularity – hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever.

Matter by Iain M. Banks

You can always expect the unexpected with an Iain M. Banks novel. So sit back and enjoy a tale with more than a twist or three. For a start, it’s a rattling good story: a man accused of something he didn’t do. Lots of action, lots of mind-boggling imaginative thought in this excellent piece of Sci-Fi.

Dust of Dreams by Steven Eriskon

The Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen” are drawing to a close in a distant place, beneath indifferent skies, as the last great army of the Malazan Empire seeks a final battle in the name of redemption. Final questions remain to be answered: can one’s deeds be heroic when no one is there to see it? Can that which is unwitnessed forever change the world? The answers await the Bonehunters, beyond the Wastelands.

And Another Thing… by Eoin Colfer

The Hitchiker’s Guide to The Galaxy Trilogy, volume six. Douglas Adams said before his death in 2001 that he felt there was yet another installment to be gotten out of his famous series. Now Eoin Colfer, author of the best-selling Artemis Fowl series, has taken him up on that idea. And Another Thing… starts where Mostly Harmless ends off, with Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Tricia “Trillian Astra” McMillan, and Random Dent standing in Club Beta on the alternate Earth which is about to be destroyed by the Grebulons under the influence of the Vogons.

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

To the disappointment of millions of fantasy fans, Robert Jordan died before he finished his epic Wheel of Time series. Using Jordan’s notes, Brandon Sanderson is bringing the series to a close, starting with this, the first of three installments.


Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

Feeling lost and alone in New York after 9/11, Dutch banker Hans stumbles upon
the vibrant New York subculture of cricket, where he revisits his lost childhood and, thanks to a friendship with a charismatic and charming Trinidadian named Chuck Ramkissoon, begins to reconnect with his life and his adopted country. President Obama loved this book!

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski,

A contemporary retelling of Hamlet of stark and striking brilliance set on a farm in remote northern Wisconsin.

The Original of Laura by Vladimir Nabokov

When Vladimir Nabokov died in 1977, he left instructions for his heirs to burn the 138 handwritten index cards that made up the rough draft of his final and unfinished novel, The Original of Laura. But Nabokov’s wife, Vera, could not bear to destroy her husband’s last work, and when she died, the fate of the manuscript fell to her son. Dmitri Nabokov, now seventy-five—the Russian novelist’s only surviving heir, and translator of many of his books—has wrestled for three decades with the decision of whether to honor his father’s wish or preserve for posterity the last piece of writing of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. His decision finally to allow publication of the fragmented narrative—dark yet playful, preoccupied with mortality—affords us one last experience of Nabokov’s magnificent creativity, the quintessence of his unparalleled body of work.

An Echo In The Bone by Diana Gabaldon

The enormously anticipated seventh volume, Gabaldon continues the extraordinary story of the eighteenth-century Scotsman Jamie Fraser and his twentieth-century time-traveling wife, Claire Randall.

The Other Hand by Chris Cleave

We don’t want to tell you too much about this book. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this: It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific. The story starts there, but the book doesn’t. And it’s what happens afterwards that is most important. This book is also published under the title Little Bee in the U.S.

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon

The latest from Thomas Pynchon. The big news: it’s a detective story. Private eye Doc Sportello comes, occasionally out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L A fog. It’s been awhile since Doc Sportello has seen his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly out of nowhere she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer.

The Vagrants by Yiyun Li

This is definitely an author to watch – she writes in a sparse style that is both raw and powerful. Her characters are varied and strong, interacting with one another in constantly interconnecting circles. Political oppression is a significant theme. It is set in the 1970s, era of the Democracy Wall movement which spurred China’s first student dissidents. The courage to question the official version of events, yet the consequences of doing so is the tragedy of Muddy River.

The Believers by Zoe Heller

When Audrey makes a devastating discovery about her husband, New York radical lawyer Joel Litvinoff, she is forced to re-examine everything she thought she knew about their forty-year marriage. Joel’s children will have to deal with this unsettling secret themselves, but meanwhile, they are trying to cope with their own dilemmas.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Julia and Valentina Poole are normal American teenagers – normal, at least, for identical ‘mirror’ twins who have no interest in anything outside their cozy suburban home. But everything changes when they receive notice that an aunt whom they didn’t know existed has died and left them her flat.

Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

In a story spanning five decades, Last Night in Twisted River-John Irving’s twelfth novel-depicts the recent half-century in the United States as “a living replica of Coos County, where lethal hatreds were generally permitted to run their course.” From the novel’s taut opening sentence-“The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long”-to its elegiac final chapter, Last Night in Twisted River is written with the historical authenticity and emotional authority of The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany. It is also as violent and disturbing a story as John Irving’s breakthrough bestseller, The World According to Garp.

Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David Martín, makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city’s underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner.

The Associate by John Grisham

Kyle McAvoy possesses an outstanding legal mind. Good-looking and affable, he has a glittering future. He also has a dark secret that could destroy his dreams, his career, even his life. One night that secret catches up with him. The men who accost Kyle have a compromising video they’ll use to ruin him–unless he does exactly what they say. What they offer Kyle is something any ambitious young lawyer would kill for: a job in Manhattan as an associate at the world’s largest law firm. If Kyle accepts, he’ll be on the fast track to partnership and a fortune. But there’s a catch. Kyle won’t be working for the firm but against it…

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

‘Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon in the morning,’ says Thomas More, ‘and when you come back that night he’ll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks’ tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money.’ England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulation. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage. 


Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

After his family is killed by a mysterious man, toddler Nobody Owens is subsequently adopted and raised by the occupants of an old graveyard in a story described by the author, master yarn-spinner Gaiman, as The Jungle Book in a graveyard. Winning bucketloads of awards and selling coffinfuls of copies, this might be the best fantasy book of the year.

The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong

Chloe is a typical teenager. Except for being a necromancer and her friends are werewolves and sorcerers. Following lasst year’s surprise hit, The Summoning, this installment has Chloe is on the run and raising hell in is a powerful and gripping story.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are is one of those truly rare books that can be enjoyed equally by a child and a grown-up. If you disagree, then it’s been too long since you’ve attended a wild rumpus. Max dons his wolf suit in pursuit of some mischief and gets sent to bed without supper. Fortuitously, a forest grows in his room, allowing his wild rampage to continue unimpaired. This wonderful book was first published 1963, but we just had to include it in this year’s list: it has soared in popularity this year again because of Spike Jonze’s recently released film.

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