Reasons to Read

There's lots of reasons to give books as gifts. They're cheap, light, small, pretty; the publishing industry needs help; Americans or [insert your people group] don't read enough, etc, etc.

Here's the thing: Books are awesome. Folks who know that want them for Christmas (etc). Folks who don't just haven't found the right book yet, and how are they going to find it unless you give it to them?

So, along with like every publishing industry blogger, I give you my favorite books of (the books that I read in) 2009. (Note: My content ratings are based on what I noticed/remember and are very subjective. Take them as you will.)

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Genre: Urban Fantasy
First published: 1996
Content: PG

Richard Mayhew struggles just to exist in his mundane London life. But when he tries to help a bleeding girl that everyone seems to ignore, he finds that he has ceased to exist entirely. He journeys to London Below, a near-magical place populated with people who have fallen through the cracks of society. Despite his strong lack of qualifications, he seems to be the only person willing to help this strange girl named Door.

This is the book that made me fall in love with Neil Gaiman. It's urban fantasy with Gaiman's flair for turning even the most mundane aspects of our world into something out of a fairy tale. As soon as I run out of new books to read, I'm going to read it again.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Genre: Science Fiction
First published: 1997
Content: R

In 2019, while the UN debates first contact with the newly-found inhabitants of Rakhat, Jesuits send an 8-person expedition to learn about them. Forty years later, Father Emilio Sandoz returns and tries to explain why he's the only survivor, and why he's lost faith in everything that once made him human.

This is not a light book, if you can't tell. But Oh. My. Gosh. Is it good. Super well-written, it deals with the big question: if God exists, why do terrible things happen? More over, can we still trust him? It's not an overtly Christian book either, by any means. If you let that turn you off, you'll be missing out.

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Genre: Mystery
First published: 1929
Content: PG

A beautiful redhead walks into Sam Spade's office, but what starts as a simple private investigation turns into double-murder, a frame job, and conspiracy. Sam is caught between the police and the villains, none of whom he can trust, and everybody's after this mysterious Maltese falcon. But where is it?

I'm not normally into detective stories, or classics for that matter, but this was a great book. I love the character of Sam. You never know if he's really the good guy or just saving his own butt. I admit the descriptions were sometimes a bit over-detailed for me, but I figure that's okay in a book where every clue might count.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Humor
First published: 1990
Content: PG-13

When the demon Crowley is told it's time to deliver the Antichrist, he's not as enthused as he should be. He's grown kind of attached to his lifestyle on Earth, and he's not looking forward to a war that, by all accounts, he's bound to lose anyway. Even so, it's not his fault the Antichrist got placed with the wrong family, or that nobody noticed until a few days before The End.

Gaiman and Pratchett are two of my favorite fantasy authors, and while their collaboration is not quite as funny as Pratchett alone, or quite as magical as Gaiman alone, it is something unique. Something still very funny and very good.

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
Genre: Thriller
First published: 2003
Content: PG-13

Odd Thomas is a young, fry cook content with everything in his life, with the possible exception of his strange gift: he sees the dead. It's not all bad -- Elvis in particular is fun to talk to -- and Odd does what he can to help them set things right before they move on. But sometimes... See, he also sees these things called bodachs that feed on pain and terror. When Odd's small town is suddenly filled with them, he knows something terrible is about to happen. He just hopes he can figure out what before it's too late.

Like detective stories, commercial fiction isn't usually my thing. But I've discovered Dean Koontz is a really, really good writer, and this one has enough fantasy to make my favorites list. The premise is a little Sixth Sense (okay, a lot), but Odd's character is so very likable that I never really noticed.

All right, your turn. What are your favorite books you read this year?


fairyhedgehog said...

I loved Neverwhere and Good Omens but hated The Sparrow.

One of my favourite reads this year was Anathem by Neal Stephenson. I also enjoyed rereading Valor's Trial by Tanya Huff.

Joshua McCune said...

I wonder how I'd like Good Omens -- I'm a big Gaiman fan, and an anti big fan of Pratchett.

Adam Heine said...

fairyhedgehog: Just goes to show how subjective this business is :-) Out of curiosity, what did you hate about it?

Bane: I've never met anyone who didn't like Good Omens, but I also never met anyone who didn't like Pratchett (until now :-). I guess it depends on what you don't like about his work.

Adam Heine said...

Also, fairy, that's the second recommendation I've gotten for Anathem, which significantly increases my chances of picking it up.

MattyDub said...

I'm reading Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun, which I'm enjoying as much as (more than?) his Book of the New Sun.
The Anathem recommendation seems to have worked well for me, so let me see if anyone else will join me in recommending Jonathan Norrell and Mr. Strange. Anyone?

Adam Heine said...

With any luck, Matty, that book will be arriving with Emmet tomorrow. So no recommendation needed :-)

fairyhedgehog said...

I seem to remember a lot of pain and cruelty in The Sparrow. I like something more upbeat. And that you had to read the sequel to get the whole story. I really hate that.

Adam Heine said...

Yeah, it is a dark book, and I now remember you saying you prefer everyone to be intact at the end :-)

I agree with you about books that don't really finish, but I didn't get that feeling from The Sparrow. How interesting. I wonder if reading the sequel would make me feel different.