Top 10 Books of 2009

It is once again time for the Internet–that glorious collection of tubes–to overflow with “best of” lists. This year, I actually kept a list of every book I read, which caused an interesting problem when it came to picking just ten to include on this list. So, because I am the king of this little kingdom, I’ve decided to cheat. If I happened to write a review of a book during the year, it will not appear on this list and will, instead, appear as a link at the end of this post. It’s good to be king.

What follows is a list of the ten (remaining) books that I read this year and thoroughly enjoyed. And, like always, they were not necessarily published in 2009, I simply read them in 2009. So, in no particular order:

1. Hunt at the Well of Eternity, by Gabriel Hunt

I grew up on the Indiana Jones movies. I love ridiculous globe-trotting adventures of a pulpy nature. That’s what this series, from the good folks at Dorchester Publishing, is all about. If you’re adult enough to realize that sometimes a book can just be a rippin’ yarn without trying to teach you anything, then follow treasure hunter Gabriel Hunt as he straps on his Colt revolver and rescues damsels, punches thugs, and searches for the Fountain of Youth.

2. Dull Boy, by Sarah Cross

Dull Boy is the story of Avery Pirzwick, a typical teenager who just happens to have superpowers. As he learns to deal with his abilities, Avery is unwittingly drafted into a team of similarly gifted teens. Cross is obviously a hardcore comic fan and not just following along with the latest popular trend, and it shows in her writing. If you like YA fiction or superheroes, you should read this book. Stat.

3. The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, by Robert E. Howard

I really love Howard’s Conan stories, so I was looking forward to checking out one of his other characters. Solomon Kane, the Puritan swordsman, is a great character: equal parts Conan and The Man With No Name. The only problem I had with this collection was the lack of variety in the stories. Kane is a wanderer, but the bulk of the stories take place in either England or Africa.

4. City of Ashes, by Cassandra Clare

The second book in Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy (or, is it a tetralogy now?). Clary Fray–who continues to be one of my favorite characters in modern literature–is still trying to find her place in the world of the demon-slaying Shadowhunters. If the angsty teen love triangles aren’t for you, the Buffy-esque humor and action scenes will probably make up for it.

5. Turn Coat, by Jim Butcher

The latest book in Butcher’s Harry Dresden series. Get used to seeing these books on my end of year list, since a new one comes out every year and they continue to be awesome. This time around, Harry finds himself trying to save the reputation (and life) of someone who has made most of his adult life a living hell.

6. Death of a Doxy, by Rex Stout

Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe, and Archie Goodwin never disappoint.

7. Black and White, by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge

An interesting counterpoint to Cross’s Dull Boy, Black and White is set in the near future, where superheroes are trained, branded, and owned by corporations. Jet is the hero of New Chicago; Iridium is a wanted vigilante. But, these two rivals used to be best friends. Alternating between Jet’s POV and Iridium’s, the narrative bounces back and forth from the present to the past, when hero and villain were both students at an elite academy for superheroes-in-training.

8. The Last Oracle, by James Rollins

Another in Rollins’s Sigma Force novels. This entry finds the scientist-soldiers of Sigma facing a radical faction within the former Soviet Union that’s intent on bringing forth a new Russian Renaissance, even if it means irradiating the world’s leaders with the remaining fallout from Chernobyl. There are also gypsies, psychic twins, and a chimpanzee with a brain implant.

9. Heretic, by Bernard Cornwell

For my money, no one writes historical action scenes like Cornwell. The final book in his Grail Quest Trilogy is just as action-packed as the first two volumes. Heretic follows Thomas of Hookton on his reluctant quest for the Holy Grail, but does so in a thoroughly realistic manner. While Cornwell’s characters may believe that the Grail is real and possesses supernatural powers, he never once lets that hocus-pocus invade his historically accurate prose.

10. The Lightning Thief & The Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan

         

Riordan’s series about Percy Jackson is not a rip-off of Harry Potter (or, if it is, than the Harry Potter series is a rip-off of Oliver Twist). Percy isn’t a wizard, he’s a demigod. That’s right, Mavis, a demigod. He’s the son of Poseidon, the motherfucking god of the earth and sea. Percy (short for Perseus–yeah, he’s not sure why either) fights monsters, goes on quests, and trains at a summer camp called Camp Half-Blood. There’s a lot of fun world-building going on in this series to explain how gods and monsters from Greek myth are currently residing in the United States–Mount Olympus appearing atop the Empire State Building? Hades ruling beneath Los Angeles? Sure, why not. If anything, I’d say that these books are more like a middle grade version of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods than the story about the Boy Who Lived.

Very Honorable Mentions:

My Soul to Take, by Rachel Vincent

Magic Lost, Trouble Found, by Lisa Shearin

The Codex Alera series, by Jim Butcher

 

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5 responses to “Top 10 Books of 2009

  1. Oh, very cool list. I’d never heard of Dull Boy, and I think it’s going on my to read list right now.

  2. Yeah, Dull Boy really blew me away. Definitely one of the most pleasant surprises of 2009.

  3. Dude, you can disagree with me all you want, but I am telling you that there is NO WAY Percy Jackson would exist (except in Rick Riordan’s head) if Harry Potter didn’t exist first.

    Percy isn’t an orphan, so I’m not really getting the Oliver Twist vibe. I am, however, getting the following: ordinary boy finding out he is special, that he is the subject of a prophecy. Boy goes to special place full of magic, a hidden world in the middle of a large metropolis. Finds out myths are real. Has two best friends, a boy and a girl. The evilest bad guy of all time has targeted him. Every year he returns from the land of mortals and has to go on quests to defeat evil and obtain magical objects. There is a traitor amongst them. I could go on and on.

    And I’m not saying Riordan did this on purpose; they’re called archetypes for a reason (and I’m sure this is exactly the type of book publishers are looking for all the time now because it IS so successful), and I very much enjoyed reading the series (4 and 5 are the best, BTW), but there is no question in my mind that they are the descendants of HP, different subject matter or not.

    By the way, all of that was said in a good-natured way. I just want to make it clear that I’m not starting an argument because it’s really weird on the internet sometimes and people always think I’m yelling at them when I’m just talking or whatever. Okay, bye.

  4. No yelling. Just passion. Passion is good.

    I basically just said these two characters are archetypes and left it at that. You’re right: would these books ever have seen the light of day if publishers weren’t looking for the “next Harry Potter”? No, probably not.

    But, I hate the way people (whether media or civilians) are incapable of remembering anything past two or three years. The story of the poor or insignificant kid learning they have a great destiny is as old as civilization. Like you said, archetypes.

    Oh, and, I was comparing Harry to Oliver.

  5. My problem is — and this is why I wrote what I wrote on Goodreads — that for me, HP was this like, pinnacle of awesomeness. I have never felt about a book series the way I feel when I read HP (LOTR comes close). So, when I read a story that is so very similar to HP, I can’t help but compare them, in the sense that one made me feel way more awesome than the other.

    P.S. I kind of copied you with this entry, but not really. You’ll find out tomorrow.

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