The unforgettables: 2009

Last Friday, on WOSU 820 AM NPR News All Sides Weekend, we shared the unforgettable books we read in 2009. Because I mentioned most but not all of my unforgettables, I thought I’d offer the complete list here on TLC. But first, what makes these books unforgettable? Lyric prose. Unsettling themes. Hypnotic storytelling. Unique voices and characters. Pure escape. And combinations thereof. More simply put, when thinking back on the reading year, they are the ones that come to mind, like a memorable event.

Michael Herr’s Dispatches (Herr was a war correspondent during the Vietnam War; this is his incredible report on that experience published in 1977.)
John Fowles’ The Collector (TLC post)
Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front (TLC post)
Philip Roth’s Good-bye Columbus (Roth’s first work of fiction published in 1959)
Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road (TLC post)

Literary fiction
Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin (winner of the 2009 National Book Award in fiction)
A. S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book (finalist for the 2009 Man Booker Prize; TLC post)
Yoko Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and the Professor (TLC post)
David Vann’s Legend of a Suicide (A novella and five stories set primarily in Alaska; the narrator struggles to understand his father’s suicide.)

Empty calories
Josh Bazell’s Beat the Reaper (Bazell’s debut consumed a Saturday afternoon, but I couldn’t for the life of me, a few days later, summarize the plot other than to say the Mafia is involved; a total entertainer.)
Isabel Gilles’ Happens Every Day (A typical divorce memoir told with a Siren-like voice.  TLC post)

Important books (both are novels)
Nini Holmqvist’s The Unit (TLC post)
Xiaoda Xiao’s The Cave Man (TLC post)

Michael Greenberg’s Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer’s Life (TLC post)

W. S. Merwin’s The Shadow of Sirius (2009 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; TLC post)

2 thoughts on “The unforgettables: 2009

  1. Remarque’s book was THE book of the year for me in 2009. I read a few other books about WWI, fiction and non-, but none has stayed with me the way “All Quiet” has. Sold many over the years in the bookshop, but with no connection. Now when somebody brings it to the counter, they’re lucky to get away in 5 minutes once I start talking about the book.


    1. “All Quiet on the Western Front” probably will rank as an all-time unforgettable, as my reading years unfold. It does indeed stay with you.


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