ABC’s Favorite Books of 2009, part A

BookstackAh yes, it’s December, the time of looking over the past year and deciding what was great, what was so-so, and what could be done better next year.  In what is now very much a tradition, the ABC staff has been rootling through the books they read over the past year to decide what were the proper gems and what were the baubles.  Over the next few days and weeks Hayley and I will be posting their favorites.  Which reminds me: we would love to know what your 5 favorite reads of the past year were (they don’t have to be books published in 2009).  Please send them to blog@abc.nl, and please include your mailing address so we can send you an ABC gift voucher as our thank you.

To start us off I present the choices of Hester, Nyjolene and Karin.  Who reveals their past as a textile teacher in their choice of favorites?  Who didn’t finish their books this year?  And who is drowning in oracle cards?

Click on more to find out!

Hester

NUMBER ONE:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
It’s 1962 in Jackson, Missippi, where black women are trusted to raise white children, but not to polish the household silver… Three ordinary women (two are black, one’s white) are about to take ONE extraordinary step… For all you readers who liked The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. GREAT multi-layered story you won’t easily forget. PLUS: cheap 10 euro edition coming out end 2009/beginning 2010.

THE REST…IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
Being schooled as a textile teacher, I picked up this book as soon as it came in. And how right I was to do so.   According to the New York Times “Every now and then, a novel comes along that invites you into an imagined world and holds you there, captive, until it comes to an end. The Lace Reader is just such an invitation…This richly atmospheric story is a tale of mothers and daughters and sisters; of how we seek ­ and find ­ answers in unexpected places; of the dangers of fundamentalism. As the lace reader searches for the meaning within the delicate pattern, so these characters struggle to make sense of their lives.[…]”

What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
This isn’t a story that will appeal to everyone; it took me a few years to pick this book up, but WHAT a satisfying read it was.  In my opinion, this book mostly describes a very believable male friendship: Leo Hertzberg falls for a painting and he and the painter, Bill Weschler, become friends for life. Themes are: being an outsider versus being very much involved in other people’s lives, loss, and the artistic process (how a painting grows).  Impressive melancholic atmosphere.

Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones
If you liked Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, you’ll like this sweeping coming-of-age-drama set in 14th-century Barcelona even better!
Arnau is a very sympathetic main character, involved in the building of a magnificent church to overlook Barcelona’s harbour. Arnau’s journey from slave to nobleman is the story of a struggle between good and evil that will turn Church against State and brother against brother. Grrrrreat. Arnau stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
Mrs. Sonja Barend (a famous and still looking-great tv-personality in NL) made my day when she bought this book with me. She had to buy it because her husband was reading her copy! Of course I couldn’t delay reading it and thought this a very loving and educating World War II- novel in letters. Sadly, the author died before she did the last editing but her niece was willing to do it for her.

The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane (Nonfiction)
Wonderful, inspiring and very poetic account of the author’s lonesome travels through Great Britain’s many desolate places.

Taal is zeg maar echt mijn ding by Paulien Cornelisse (“Language is like, really my thing” – sssssh, translation by me, as I’m not allowed Dutch books really!) (Nonfiction)
Internally roaring with laughter I read on, keeping my trap shut for fear anything hip though linguistically intolerable might escape!

LAST BUT NOT LEAST:

PopCo by Scarlett Thomas

Nominated for my personal booby prize. Scarlett Thomas is a very original writer, her books look very, very yummy and she will probably get people to read her books who usually are more interested in numbers than letters, but… I hope she will find herself an editor who edits out a bit more and gives us more satisfying endings! Really! Can’t help it! And keep up the good work!

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Nyjolene

1. Notes from the Universe, More Notes from the Universe, and Even More Notes from the Universe by Mike Dooley
2. Ask Your Guides by Sonia Choquette
3. The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham by Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks
4. The House of Night series by P. C. Cast and her daughter Kristin Cast (Marked, Betrayed, Chosen, Untamed, Hunted, and Tempted are the books out so far)
5. Lots of Oracle Card Decks

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Karin

Where Underpants Come From: From Checkout to Cotton Field – Travels through New China by Joe Bennett
I visited China in 2008 and some of the stuff in this book is just soooo hilariously recognizable. Brilliant!

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
She did it again….

The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan & Barbara Pease
A classic. An ABC Evergreen and and eye opener…

Genesis by Bernard Beckett
This New Zealand author makes you wonder what it means to be human. Are you?  This book really was a nice surprise.

This also was the year in which I started many a book that I didn’t finish… not because the books were so badly written but because for the first time in my life I just could not find the peace of mind to sit down and read….  I hope 2010 will be a better reading year; it is one of my New Year ‘s resolutions!

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