Much like the gun-jumpers who insist on decorating for Christmas in early November, a few Web sites have already put out their Best Books of 2009 lists. No doubt we'll soon be inundated with such lists, but I thought I'd point out these two, in order to ease us all into the "Best of..." season.
Publishers Weekly released its list a few weeks ago, and has distinguished itself for picking books in its Top 10 that almost NO ONE has read and for including a grand total of zero women authors. PW claims that's just how things shook out, and the no women thing is just a coincidence, but many book bloggers were incensed — no Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, nor A.S. Byatt, who all published noteworthy novels this year.
PW split its list into several categories, including Comics and Mass Market, which I think is sort of like giving an all-conference high school basketball player the same recognition as the NBA MVP. But, whatever... I've added several of the novels from the fiction list to my 'to be read' pile, and I did read and greatly enjoy several of the novels on the list. I'd recommend these to anyone looking for a great read: Sag Harbor, by Colson Whitehead; The Believers, by Zoe Heller; and Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese.
Amazon's Best Books of 2009 list is a bit more traditional — it mashes all genres into a straightforward ranking of 100 books. Its #1 is Let The Great World Spin, by Colum McCann, which is the far-and-away favorite to win the National Book Award for Fiction when the winner is announced next week. Just to highlight one book in particular on the list: Zeitoun (#54) by Dave Eggers, is an absolute must-read. It tells the story of a Syrian immigrant who paddles around helping people after the levees broke in post-Katrina New Orleans. Producer and director Jonathan Demme, of 'The Silence of the Lambs' fame, has purchased the rights and is planning to make the story into an animated feature, which I think is a fantastic idea!
Of the books on amazon's list I've read, my only quibble is with #83, American Rust, by Philipp Meyer. This novel about a teenager who runs away from a dying Pennsylvania steel town just didn't do it for me — too many point-of-view shifts and the somewhat amateur writing were both huge turn-offs.
One final note: Neither of these lists include my favorite book of this year: Arthur Philips' brilliant, lyrical, not-put-downable The Song is You. I couldn't recommend this one more highly.
Any thoughts on these lists? Have you read any of the novels that made these lists that are must-reads? Anything left off the lists you feel is a glaring omission?