Thursday, December 31, 2009

Books and Cooks Best Reads of 2009

How does a book wind up on my Best of the Year list? Here's what I wrote last year, and it still stands:

...a book that lands on my Best Reads list has that extra something that I find hard to define. These books have touched me, and have stayed with me, some for nearly a year now. They have surprised and impressed me. They are not necessarily what the critics would call the best books, but they are the books that have affected me most deeply.

The above stack is in no particular order with one exception.

Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life was my favorite book of 2009. I knew while I was reading it that it would be. The writing is sublime, and Molly has opened her heart for all of us to peer inside. I could go on and on about her lemon cake which I've made at least four times already and is my daughter's favorite cake.

Vicki Forman kept me spellbound with This Lovely Life, a memoir chronicling her life as the mother of a severely premature baby and then child. She broke my heart and gave me cause to cheer all at once. Simply stunning.

The Midwife by Jennifer Worth was an instant love affair for me, full of nearly unbelievable tales of her years as a midwife in the East End of London. For those who enjoy a graphic medical book, this one is gripping.

Ah, Too Many Cooks. I was nuts about Emily Franklin's memoir of how she feeds her family. Similar in format to A Homemade Life, this had a twist of its own, that of young children. A great read and brilliant recipes, too.

The World in Half is a book I wish I would see around more. Cristina Henriquez tells a quietly beautiful tale of a girl simultaneously losing her mother and searching for her father; instead she finds the most touching friendship I've ever read about.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan packs a punch. The story of a young black man returning home after serving his country is shocking and unputdownable. I'll be suggesting this to my bookclub for 2011.

Ellen Baker's Keeping the House was one of the first books I read this year and it's still with me. Loved this family saga set in Midwest, full of twists and secrets. It was a love affair for me from beginning to end. Would love to see more from this author.

How could you forget The Help by Kathryn Stockett? A totally satisfying read set in the South in the 1960s, I cannot wait to reread this one for bookclub next November.

Ruth Rendell's 1977 masterpiece A Judgement in Stone retains it's creepiness and sense of place 30 years after the fact. A divine story of suspense.

The Dream was my first book of Harry Bernstein's but his second - my mistake. A simply told memoir of a life and a family and a love that now seems extraordinary - to Mr Bernstein, it was just life.

Here's to 2010 and all the great books that are to come! Happy New Year!


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I like your standards. It's the ones that move us that matter.

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Tara, thanks for taking the time to share your top reads list with us. I've marked several that I want to get.

I hope you have a very lovely New Year! I know you have been stepping back a bit from the blogging and I fully support that. I am stepping back in to it, at least at my own pace. Stop by after the new year and see what I'm up to!

BabelBabe said...

off to request a bunch of books from the library. thanks!

I am just finishing Curtis Sittenfield's American Wife. Have you read it? I am surprised how engrossing it is and how very much i like it.

bermudaonion said...

I haven't read any of those books. I have The Help in my TBR pile and really want to get The Homemade Life, though. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Most of these books I've added to my TBR list because of your glowing reviews! Must tremember to get some of them when the library opens up again.

Danielle said...

I think a lot of my favorites wouldn't be chosen by any critics either, but I liked them and that's all that matters! So glad to see a Ruth Rendell there. I don't think I read a single Rendell/Vine book this year--I better go pull something out for 2010! Happy New Year and Happy Reading in 2010!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This is a great list! I really want to read Mudbound; I hope to get to it early in 2010.

Have a wonderful New Year!!!

Iliana said...

I completely agree, my favorites are so because of what they meant to me. Looks like you had a great reading year, Tara and I hope there'll be many more good books in the New Year. Happy, happy!

Leightongirl said...

Wow, thank you for including me on your best of 2009 list! What fantastic company...

Literary Feline said...

I think your criteria of books that make your best of list matches mine pretty well, Tara.

I really want to read The Midwife. Hopefully this year. Mudbound is also one I've had my eye on. I've read mixed reviews of it, but I'm still really curious about it. And The Help--of course I want to read that one!

I hope you have a very Happy New Year and may 2010 bring you many hours of good reading.

Anna said...

I've heard nothing but good things about The Help. I must get my hands on that book.

Happy new year!

Eva said...

I love all of your pictures! :D It adds something extra to your wrap ups. :)

Gentle Reader said...

Love your list! Some books I've wanted to read, and some that I will now put on my list--thank you :)
Happy 2010!

Tara said...

L. Diane Wolfe, so true, so true. Happy New Year!

Kay, I am going to come visit you soon and see what is up!

BabelBabe, oh good! Yes, I have read American Wife. My review is somewhere in my 2008 reading list. I really, really liked it, despite my lack of interest in the actual person the book is based on, Laura Bush. I think Sittenfeld is an excellent writer, she really gets into the truth of people, what they really feel. Glad you like it, too!

Kathy, really? Happy new year!

Jennysbooks, I'm glad you found some good reading ideas there!

Danielle, isn't that funny? Good thing we aren't critics, or perhaps we should be? Hmm. I think I read 2 Rendell/Vine books, I have a stack and read them sparingly. Happy 2010!

Rhapsodyinbooks, Mudbound is great! I hope you like it. Happy New year!

Iliana, we are on the same page! Happy New Year to you too!

Vicki, it is my absolute pleasure and honor! Your book is amazing.

Literary Feline, that's interesting, what you said about Mudbound - I haven't really looked for more reviews of it! Happy New Year to you!

Anna, it's fantastic. Happy New year!

Eva, It was super fun to be able to include those! Glad youliked them.

GentleREader, thank you, and so glad you found some good stuff there. Happy new year!

Anonymous said...

I'm so desperate to read Too Many Cooks. I KNEW I was forgetting something at the bookstore yesterday!! Love your year-end-reviews and photos. The post below with all your books read is awesome:) I had such fun trying to read all the titles in the stacks, lol.

Karen said...

I haven't read any of the books on your best of list for 2009 so I will have to look out for them!

Melissa said...

The World in Half made my Best of 09 list too! I also just finished A Homemade Life and really enjoyed it. The Help was very good too. This Lovely Life and The Midwife are (somewhere) in my TBR.

Tara said...

overflowingbookshelf, you have little ones, yes? Then you will love Too Many Cooks! Such a fun read. I love peeking through people's stacks too, which is why it was fun including the photos!

Karen, sounds good!

Melissa, really! I'm so glad to hear that. It sounds like we have some similar tastes!

Staci said...

Homemade life made my list too!!

Tara said...

Staci, wasn't it great!

Les said...

First off, I love the photo of all your favorites, simply because I have several of those books in my TBR stacks. That bodes well for me, I think. :) I did read The Midwife and The Help and thought they were both very good. Actually, The Help was excellent. It quite possibly is the best book I read last year. Now I'm listening to it on audio, which is fantastic! Great readers.

I can't wait to read A Homemade Life, Too Many Cooks, Mudbound, and Keeping the House. I should get to all of those in the coming month. I haven't heard of This Lovely Life (well, besides your mention of it) and I may have to get a copy. I do so love memoirs.

Thanks for the wonderful list. Happy reading to you!

Vintage Reading said...

I loved the Jennifer Donnelly, too. I think it was published as A Gathering Light in the UK. Coming of Age novels are one of my favourite genres.

Tara said...

Les, thank you. We do have similar tastes don't we! I hope you enjoy all these books - I bet you will!

Vintage Reading, not sure why they change titles like this sometimes. I do enjoy this genre.

melanie said...

This is a great list! I'm excited to read Mudbound this year. And you've introduced me to new titles - I'm especially interested in the Ruth Rendell book, Too Many Cooks, and This Lovely Life. thanks!

Tara said...

Mel, so good to 'see' you! Mudbound was amazing, as were the others. Glad you found some new books on my list!