Year End Book Report: The best books I read in 2009
I don’t read books like I watch movies. Most of the books I read in a year didn’t come out that year. I will rarely read a brand new book the year it is released. Part of that is because I don’t like reading hardback books. I prefer sitting down with a nice paperback. It just feels right. Are there exceptions? Of course there are. Harry Potter. Dan Brown. Larry Bird. All of these will get me to buy a hardback book and read it the moment it is released. As a matter of fact, two of those three authors released hardback books this year that I got and read (Dan Brown and Larry Bird). Did they make my favorites list? Wait and see.
I’ve never really done a book list for this blog and that’s mainly because I’ve never kept a good, consistent log of what I read in a given year. This past year, however, I did start keeping a detailed log of books I read. I kept a log in previous years, but it includes only about half the books I read and very little detail about the book. In Jan 2009 I started keeping track of more data and I did it with consistency (which is key). I keep it in a spreadsheet on Google. Well, it started in a book journal called Book Lust (which Steph gave me for Xmas 2008), but then, when I completed the journal on New Year’s Eve I moved it to Google Spreadsheet.
The first tab on the left is all the data for every year in the spreadsheet. Then the tabs moving to the right are each year broken out by itself. 2009 has the most data, 2008 is fairly complete, but 2007 is almost bare.
Perusing my book log I see I finished 52 books last year. That’s a book a week. Not bad. It’s almost exactly the number of 2009 movies I saw last year (53). Eerie. Anyway, like I said, most of the books I read were not released in 2009. The only books actually released in 2009 that I read were Star Wars: Death Troopers, The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown and When the Game Was Ours by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
So, without further ado, here are my five favorite books I read in 2009 (in no particular order).
When the Game Was Ours by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson – Okay, I know I just said these books were in no particular order, but I lied. Every book but this one is in no particular order. This book was my favorite book I read last year, and I didn’t even get it until Christmas day and then I read it in 3 days. Fantastic, fantastic book. A great look back at one of the greatest times in NBA history, the razzle, dazzle 1980s, by two of the game’s greatest stars, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. I can’t even begin to describe how great this book is. If you are a fan of basketball, especially back in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s, then you owe it to yourself to READ THIS BOOK. Hell, I’ve followed Larry Bird since the ’80s, I read his autobiography, Drive (TWICE!), as well has his book on coaching, Bird Watching, and I STILL came out with information I’ve never known before. Larry and Magic discuss in frank detail what it was like to be them and playing each other. AWESOME.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians (Books 1 -5) by Rick Riordan – I’m counting these as one. I read Books 1-4 in 2009. I started Book 5 on Jan 1, 2010. But, the series, I think, should be judged as a whole. This is one fantastic series. For those lamenting the ending of Harry Potter, this is a great series to read to fill that gap. Of the five books, four of them easily belong on this list. EASILY. Book 2, while good, is not great. Almost a little boring. But Books 3-5 are so unbelievably fantastic that I can easily give Book 2 a pass. I hear Riordan may be retiring Percy Jackson after Book 5, but the world he’s created with the Greek/Roman gods and demigods will continue on in another series. I can’t wait to start those too because the world Riordan created is fascinating and fun. If you love Harry Potter and/or Greek/Roman mythology, you will LOVE this series. I can’t wait for the movie of Book 1 in February.
Cirque Du Freak (Books 1 – 5) by Darren Shan – Again, I’m judging this series as a whole. I read books 1 – 5 (of 12) in 2009 and was very surprised how much I really enjoyed Shan’s world of monsters and vampires. What could easily have been just another young adult vampire story is actually evolving into a very engrossing story. Of the first five books, only Book 3 is a bit lackluster, but Books 4 – 5 are so action packed and interesting that I forgive Book 2’s mediocrity. I still haven’t seen the movie version, The Vampire’s Assistant, so I don’t know how that turned out, but I will definitely continue reading these books in 2010.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney – I picked this book up on a lark from Paperbackswap.com. It arrived and I read it in a few hours on the afternoon of my birthday, May 9. This book had me laughing out loud. It’s a story told in cartoons about the main character Greg and his misadventures with his parents and friends. It is surprisingly HILARIOUS. My wife actually came out to check on me while she was getting ready to go out to dinner that night because I was making such a racket with my boisterous laughing. I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. I highly recommend it. Just a note, there are two or three more of these books, but they aren’t as good as the first one. I guess I was expecting a lot more when I read the second book as when I read the first. This is a really funny, sweet book.
Illegal Alien by Robert J Sawyer – In Jan 2009, I read Flash Forward by this same author, Robert J Sawyer. It was a very good hard sci-fi tale about scientists running the Large Hadron Collider that cause the entire world to “flash forward” into their bodies 30 years into the future for 2 minutes. It was a very well written tale that became the basis for a TV series. In fact, if I hadn’t read the other two Sawyer books I read last year, Flash Forward would have been on this list. As I said, I was impressed enough to get another book by Sawyer. I picked this book because it’s about mankind’s first contact with aliens. During the global PR trip, one of the aliens’ chaperons turns up murdered. The aliens are put on trial and the book goes from a hard alien sci-fi tale into a courtroom drama. It’s Robert Heinlein meets John Grisham. I thought I would like this book, but I wound up loving it. What a really great book. Great sci-fi, great courtroom scenes. LOVED IT. This Sawyer guy is gonna go places.
Those are my five favorite books I read this year. Now, because I like to do this to confuse you, how about my Honorable Mentions?
Star Wars: Death Star by Steve Perry and Michael Reeves – I am a huge Star Wars fan. I collected Star Wars merchandise from 1995 through mid-2005. I still try to keep up on Star Wars collecting news. I also read a ton of the early Star Wars novels all through college and in the several years after college. Then, I just stopped. Much of the Star Wars expanded universe became redundant. There are only so many stories of long lost Imperial super weapons and secret “strongest Force user ever” stories you can take before you’ve had enough. So, for my return to Star Wars novels, I chose this on a recommendation by my friend, Dr Mike. It’s set in the years before and during A New Hope. The story follows a group of people working for the Empire, how they arrived on the Death Star and what happens to them during the events of the first Star Wars movie. I love that the events of A New Hope happen in the background of this book. You mainly hear about it through second hand accounts of other characters. This was a very good Star Wars book that got me excited about reading Star Wars books again. I did read 3 or 4 more Star Wars books in 2009, but none of them matched the cleverness and excitement of this book.
The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman – I love time travel stories. More often than not, I’ll give a book a chance if it uses time travel as a plot device. I got this book off Paperbackswap.com based on the name alone (well, and reading a few reviews on Amazon.com). This was a really good sci-fi adventure featuring an MIT grad student that is fiddling around with a tachyon emitter device and mistakenly invents a time machine (actually, more like a box that can transport anything touching it through time). The gimmick is that the box can only move forward in time, and each time you press the box’s button, it takes you exponentially further into the future. The book is like a more serious version of the TV show Sliders (of which Seasons 1 and 2 are awesome). Seeing the world evolve as the main character travels through time and picks up a few characters in his travels is a blast. Where he ends up is not where I thought he would end up. This was a really fun, time travel story that is very smartly told. I’ll be looking up other books by Haldeman after this. Like Sawyer, Haldeman may be going places.
The End of an Era by Robert J Sawyer – Ahh, Mr Sawyer makes another appearance on this list. Yes, two of the three books I read of his this past year made it on the list. This is also a time travel story. I got this book around the same time as Illegal Alien because I enjoyed Flash Forward so much. Two scientists man the first vehicle to travel back in time to find out why the dinosaurs died out en mass. What they find is crazy, yet awesome. They discover the Earth’s gravity is at least 1/3 lighter than in their present time and all the dinosaurs seem to be controlled by a blue gooey life form that flows in and out of their nasal cavities and speaks through telepathic messages. It really does sound ridiculous when I describe it, but I read through the entire book during my flight back from Napa Valley, CA in April 2009. It is an awesome, fun, action packed read. I blew right through this book. I highly recommend it.
Well, there are my favorite reads of the year. I was able to read a lot of good books in 2009. I hope the trend continues. I did notice, thanks to my handy dandy Book Log, that my choices for reading in December tend to suck. Maybe it’s because I try to shoehorn in these “holiday themed” stories and they never work out as well as I’d like. Maybe I should stop that. Maybe not.
Anyway, keep your eye on my I Just Read and I Am Reading sidebars to the right over there and you may see 2010’s favorite book. As of right now, if it was eligible, Percy Jackson Book 5 would get it, but I can’t count it because I included it here.
Happy reading everyone.