Wednesday, December 9, 2009

These Are the Best

The New Yorker just published its list of The Best Books of 2009. Here it is:

Lords of Finance, by Liaquat Ahamed (Penguin Press; $32.95). Central bankers and the disaster of the gold standard.
Somewhere Towards the End, by Diana Athill (Norton; $24.95). Reflections on life as a nonagenarian.
Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters, by Louis Begley (Yale; $ 24). A compact treatment of a complex case.
Germany 1945, by Richard Bessel (Harper; $28.99). A powerful picture of a nation in defeat.
Hiding Man, by Tracy Daugherty (St. Martin’s; $35). The life and work of Donald Barthelme.
Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers (McSweeney’s; $24). Caught between Hurricane Katrina and the war on terror.
My Paper Chase, by Harold Evans (Little, Brown; $27.99). Memories of the newspaper trade.
Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer (Little, Brown; $25.99). A playful yet serious vegetarian manifesto.
Flannery, by Brad Gooch (Little, Brown; $30). The quiet life behind Flannery O’Connor’s fantastic fiction.
Dorothea Lange, by Linda Gordon (Norton; $35). From society photographer to photographer of society.
Fordlandia, by Greg Grandin (Metropolitan; $27.50). Henry Ford’s Amazonian folly.
Go Down Together, by Jeff Guinn (Simon & Schuster; $27). Behind the myth of Bonnie and Clyde.
Beg, Borrow, Steal, by Michael Greenberg (Other Press; $19.95). Notes on a freelancing life.
A Strange Eventful History, by Michael Holroyd (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $40). The linked lives of two nineteenth-century stage stars.
Marx’s General, by Tristram Hunt (Metropolitan; $32). Friedrich Engels, the industrialist who bankrolled “Das Kapital.”
Lit, by Mary Karr (Harper; $25.99). The author of “The Liars’ Club” finds God.
The Magician’s Book, by Laura Miller (Little, Brown; $25.99). Reading C. S. Lewis as a child and as an adult.
Trotsky, by Robert Service (Harvard; $35). Stalin’s rival is not to be romanticized.
A Paradise Built in Hell, by Rebecca Solnit (Viking; $27.95). Natural disasters and the power of community.
The First Tycoon, by T. J. Stiles (Knopf; $37.50). Cornelius Vanderbilt’s grand gambles.
The Death of Conservatism, by Sam Tanenhaus (Random House; $17). A movement’s maladies.
The Yankee Years, by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci (Doubleday; $26.95). A view from the bench.
The Parents We Mean to Be, by Richard Weissbourd (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $25). Why we should beware of overpraising our children.
The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright (Little, Brown; $ 25.99). The development of religion from the Stone Age to now.


The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese / Doubleday; $26.95). Revisiting the post-apocalyptic world of “Oryx and Crake.”
The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker (Simon & Schuster; $25). A crafty bagatelle on poetic themes.
The Way Through Doors, by Jesse Ball (Vintage; $13.95). A dizzyingly circuitous inversion of the Scheherazade legend.
The Collected Poems & Unfinished Poems, by C. P. Cavafy, translated from the Greek by Daniel Mendelsohn (Knopf; $35 & $30). Modern Greek’s great master.
The Immortals, by Amit Chaudhuri (Knopf; $25.95). Tradition and modernity in Bombay.
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis , (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $30). Small but perfectly formed fictions.
Sonata Mulattica, by Rita Dove (Norton; $24.95). A verse sequence about a biracial violinist who played with Beethoven.
Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, by Geoff Dyer (Pantheon; $24). A diptych of cosmopolitan emptiness and spiritual seeking.
Every Man Dies Alone, by Hans Fallada, translated from the German by Michael Hofmann (Melville House; $27). A neglected classic about a couple’s resistance to the Nazis.
Wanting, by Richard Flanagan (Atlantic Monthly; $24). From Tasmania to the Arctic with Sir John Franklin.
Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn (Shaye Areheart; $24). A sinister thriller about a girl who survives her family’s murder.
The Magicians, by Lev Grossman (Viking; $26.95). An artfully self-reflective fantasy novel.
Tinkers, by Paul Harding (Bellevue Literary Press; $14.95). The death of a patriarch in nineteenth-century Maine.
The Believers, by Zoë Heller (Harper; $25.99). Family secrets and rivalries in the aftermath of 9/11.
Censoring an Iranian Love Story, by Shahriar Mandanipour, translated from the Farsi by Sara Khalili (Knopf; $25). Passion and repression in the Islamic Republic.
The Vagrants, by Yiyun Li (Random House; $25). A novel of political upheaval in China.
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel (Henry Holt; $27). Tudor intrigue.
Upgraded to Serious, by Heather McHugh (Copper Canyon; $22). Poems of compassion and verbal intricacy.
Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger (Scribner; $ 26.99). A gothic yarn around a London cemetery.
Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín (Scribner; $25). Emigration, love, and homesickness.
Love and Summer, by William Trevor (Viking; $25.95). Irish provincial life in the nineteen-fifties.
Lowboy, by John Wray (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $25). A schizophrenic rides the subway.


Jonathan G. Reinhardt said...

I am somewhat distraught to see that I've heard of exactly four of the authors on the "best fiction" list -- Margaret Atwood, Zoe Heller, Audrey Nieffenegger, and Hilary Mantel.

Of those, I only knew Nieffenegger and Mantel had published this year, and, actually, I thought Nieffenegger's book was a critical hit and commercial flop, and vice versa for Mantel.

I was sort of surprised about the Nieffenegger, actually, because the intriguing thing about her debut novel, "Time-Traveler's Wife," is entirely the gimmick. The rest has some good passages, but I never found myself caring about the characters much. I suspected the same might be true about "Her Fearful Symmetry," in spite of its awesome title. But maybe I should give it a glance.

And I heard the Mantel was the male counterpart to "The Other Boleyn Girl," which one of my good friends -- a girl, mind you, who is smarter than I am -- called "harlequin-meets-Elizabeth-the-Movie-and-goes-pulp." Again, perhaps a matter of wanting to be entertained by Renaissance-set fiction (admittedly one of my favorite genres, particularly the two Dunnett series and Iain Pears)?

About the nonfiction, I note that this screams "We Are New York Elitists And Why Yes We Are Pretentious, So What," but that's okay. The New Yorker is what it is, and we love it anyway, right?

Stephanie said...

I know. It is depressing. I did hear an interview with Margaret Atwood on NPR the other day about her novel, and I really want to read it. When I'm going to have time for that, though, I'm not sure.