Visions of Paradise

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Favorite Books of 2009

I read 28 books and 13 prozines this year, probably a meager number compared to many fans, but a number which should increase next year when I have much more available reading time. By far, the best book I read this past year was the first one, Elmer Kelton’s The Time It Never Rained, a tale of Texan ranchers in the mid-20th century struggling to survive long droughts. I have long considered Kelton the finest writer of 19th century westerns, primarily concerned with people struggling under trying circumstances, but this novel raised him even higher in my estimation. He has won 7 Spur Awards for best western novels of the year, far more than any other writers, a kudo which he definitely deserves.

Other novels which impressed me this past year were Stephen Lawhead’s historical saga Byzantium, and Jack McDevitt’s Omega, the best novel I’ve read so far in his Academy series.

I was also impressed by three single-author collections, not too surprisingly since they were all career retrospectives by three of my favorite writers: Robert Silverberg’s Phases of the Moon, Poul Anderson’s Going For Infinity and Samuel R. Delany’s Distant Stars.

My favorite nonfiction book of the year by far was Bill Buford’s Heat, the story of a journalist who spends a year alternating between working in the kitchen of Mario Batali’s NYC restaurant Babbo and studying cooking in Italy. Perhaps you have to be a fan of cooking, or of Italy, or of Mario Batali, to enjoy this book as much as I did, but I absolutely loved it.


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