I had a really difficult time narrowing this down to five because I read so many fabulous books this year. Although there were several adult books I loved and many nonfiction books I thought were fantastic and the fantasy books I read could have generated a list of their own, I listed these five books because they transcend their own genera and made themselves more than their labels.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I love the sardonic humor of Alexie's short stories for adults, so I've been wanting to read this book since its release. Why it's been sitting on my shelf for three years, I'll never know. Junior's story was funny and sad, powerful and simple, ironic and predictable all at once. Books--and this book in particular--have this way of making us want to do more and be better, to improve not only ourselves but also help those around us. After nearly a year-long lull, this book got me excited to read again.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games series is showing up on everyone's lists this year, but there's a reason for that. Dystopian books make us look at our own lives and see where the decisions we make as a society are leading us. This book takes it to another level and made me examine what makes us love, fight, survive. Kitniss Everdeen is a hero by chance, not by choice, which makes her unique. But even more, she exemplifies that no choices are easy to make, nor are they without their consequences.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
This book is beautify in every way. It is both a literary and literal work of art. The prose are magical and meaningful, and the art is simply astounding. I loved that it felt both timeless and contemporary, and it worked on a level enjoyable for both children and adults. This is the perfect read-aloud. Each night I didn't want to put it down, yet I wanted to draw out the reading process for as long as possible. I will come back to this book again and again in the years to come.
Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales by Nelson Mandela
While I love the illustrated version of this book, it's the audio production that puts it on this list. Though it's read by some of the words best actors to raise money for an important cause, the folklore is what shines. It gave me a flavor of Africa, yet the stories are truly universal. And the music...I listened to the music for days after finishing the stories.
Sugar Changed the World by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos
Maybe it's because I heard Aronson speak at a conference or maybe it's because I love the Creole stories I learned while living in Louisiana, but the history in this book spoke to me. The researcher within me also loved the primary sources that allow readers to follow along or even recreate the authors' journey of discovery. It's the perfect balance of words and pictures, history and folklore, data and conclusion. After the first few pages, you forget you're reading a history book.
As in years past, I feel as though I need to make a list titled "The Best Books I Didn't Read in 2010" because there were so many books I wasn't able to get to that I know I'll love when I finally do read them. I always welcome recommendations. Maybe next year your favorites will become my favorites as well.
Best Books of 2009
Best Books of 2008