Best Reads of 2009

One of my resolutions for 2010 is to blog more, so here's a look back at the books I read in 2009. The list I kept ended up somewhat erratic and incomplete, but here are my highlights, in no particular order:

  1. Ransom, by David Malouf. I relished the lyricism of the prose, but more especially the message about the pleasure and meaning of ordinariness; how empty the trappings and postures of status are compared with the richness of actual experience.  A good lesson.

  2. The Sin Eater, by Alice Thomas Ellis. I hadn't come across Ellis before, but I really enjoyed her witches' brew of wit, charm, cruelty, and sensuous attention to the symbolism of food.

  3. In Praise of Slow, by Carl Honore. Perhaps ironically, I had to read this one for work.  Worried that it might be in that irritatingly repetitive journalese that so many good but simple ideas seem doomed to adopt, I was pleased by the intelligence and exuberance of this book, and I love the idea of slow.

  4. The Limits of Power, by Andrew Bacevich. This is a compelling account of American foreign policy and national identity since World War II, written by a historian who happens to be an ex-colonel.

  5. The Irony of American History, by Reinhold Niebuhr. Bacevich led me to Niebuhr, whom everyone should read.  This is a stirring jeremiad incising not only American politics but the American soul. Political ars predicandi at its best. 

  6. Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. A return to some of the Hardys I read for English Honours revealed this one as the most engaging and deeply satisfying. I think Tess is the greater novel, but you can't beat this one for sheer charm.