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Archive for the ‘The List’ Category

After five years of ordering the music here at WRL, I’m still amazed by the diversity in music fans. I buy all kinds of music, some of it weird and wonderful, some of it, despite critical raves, just weird, and our users give it a try. Very little of the CD collection doesn’t circulate. It’s so popular that you’ll only see about a third of it on the shelves at any given time.

Still, there are a few CDs that I see sitting in the bins more often than I’d like. Today’s issue of The List will highlight some gems in the rock category. I’ll be back with more of my favorites from other parts of the collection in later posts.

Badly Drawn Boy–The Hour of Bewilderbeast: Damon Gough’s melodic 2000 folk-pop debut remains a bright but earthy joy

Big Star–#1 Record/Radio City: We just lost Alex Chilton, but one of his groups, Big Star, will forever be the greatest power pop band that never found a following. At least not until after they had packed it in. Try “The Ballad of El Goodo,” or “Thirteen,” or “Watch the Sunrise,” or “O My Soul,” or, oh… Just try it.

Elvis Costello: So many great albums to choose from! We’re adding even more of his music soon thanks to a great recent donation. I just can’t pass by the chance to add This Year’s Model, Imperial Bedroom, Get Happy!, Armed Forces, My Aim Is True, King of America, or Live at Hollywood High, even if it does mean the bins are a little stuffed.

Eels: Virginia-born E (his real name is Mark Oliver Everett) writes music that’s smart and ironic but still amiable and melodic. You might recognize him from the Shrek soundtracks, but try Meet the Eels for an introduction.

Bruce Hornsby–Levitate: Let’s put in a plug for the local guy. Levitate is my favorite album from Williamsburg’s own in years. If you haven’t tried him in a while, check out this, or any of his other great albums.

Love–The Best of Love: Arthur Lee’s psychedelic act from the late 60s still doesn’t sound quite like anything else. Most of this best-of collection comes from their masterpiece, Forever Changes.

New Order: Angular and driving, New Order takes me straight back to college days. I like to think of it as the montage music for the best parts of the movie of my life. Start with Substance or Power, Corruption and Lies, but don’t neglect a late entry, Waiting for the Sirens’ Call.

Joan Osborne: What a voice! Everybody’s heard “One of Us” off of Relish, but even though I like it, that song’s not really typical. She usually picks material with more of a blues or soul edge. Try Breakfast in Bed or her performances in the concert at the end of the DVD Standing in the Shadows of Motown.

Parliament/Funkadelic: You still can’t beat George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker and company when you want to put the boogie in your butt. Try Gold by Parliament or The Funkadelic Collection.

Sam Phillips–The Disappearing Act, 1987-1998: The ironic title of this greatest hits collection says it all about Phillips career–after a quick start as a CCM artist, she never found a consistent audience. But her music  is playful but smart Beatles-influenced poppy goodness.

The Pogues: Why do people listen to second-class contemporary acts like Flogging Molly when they already have these godfathers of Irish-folk-meets-punk? Sure Shane MacGowan sounds thoroughly trashed on most of the vocals, but that’s half the fun. If I Should Fall from Grace with God; Rum, Sodomy & the Lash, or The Ultimate Collection all sound like the rowdy wake I wish people would have when I die.

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One of the most interesting takes on the crime novel is when the author sets the story in a tightly-controlled state. Here, the tension created when a crime is committed in a supposedly crime-less utopia adds to the fascination of the investigation. In totalitarian regimes, there is always a tendency to try to keep crimes hidden behind the curtain so as not to mar the national appearance. This tendency often puts the police in an awkward position, do they seek the truth or an easy answer?  Here are some of the best crime novels in totalitarian countries.

Other favorites? Add them in the comments below!

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Mythical creatures are very popular in fiction — you can’t walk past a bookshelf without seeing a vampire or werewolf sneering back at you from a cover.  If you look a wee bit closer, you’ll find faeries there as well — and that’s the topic of this week’s list.  Don’t think these YA books are just showing angsty versions of Tinker Bell, there’s quite a variety of fae fiction here from dark to witty.  Dip in and see what you think.

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Being something of an Anglophile, I couldn’t resist making a list of great (library circulating) British miscellanea. The list includes books, music, movies, and people that help make England more interesting. I have omitted what some may think of as obvious choices like James Bond (my Bond of choice is Scottish) and the Rolling Stones (you can’t like them if you like The Beatles…it’s a rule) so feel free to comment below and add to my list!

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My daily commute is all about the North and South poles lately, as I work my way through audiobooks about Captain Sir John Franklin, explorer (and casualty) of the Arctic north, and Robert Falcon Scott, who is about to meet his end in the Antarctic. My personal polar obsession started years ago with an Annie Dillard essay, but there are diaries, accounts, and novels enough to fuel it for many years to come. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed:

Other favorites? Add them in the comments below!

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For the whole iceberg–the spreadsheet containing every one of the 140 sources compiled into a list with votes for nearly 1700 different best books of 2009–check yesterday’s post. Here’s just the tip of the iceberg, the top of that longer list–an honor roll of the 105 books that received the most votes.

Fiction
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel,  64 votes
A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore, 40 votes
Brooklyn: A Novel, Colm Toibin,  33 votes
Too Much Happiness: Stories, Alice Munro, 32 votes
The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood, 32 votes
The Children’s Book, A. S. Byatt, 31 votes
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, Wells Tower, 29 votes
The City and the City, China Miéville, 29 votes
Love and Summer, William Trevor, 28 votes
Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann, 26 votes
The Girl Who Played with Fire, Stieg Larsson, 26 votes
Catching Fire (YA), Suzanne Collins, 25 votes
The Anthologist, Nicholson Baker, 23 votes
The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters, 23 votes
Await Your Reply, Dan Chaon, 22 votes
Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon, 21 votes
The Magicians,  Lev Grossman, 21 votes
The Help, Kathryn Stockett, 21 votes
Lark and Termite, Jayne Anne Phillips, 21 votes
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, Daniel Mueenuddin, 20 votes
Little Bee, Chris Cleave, 19 votes
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, C. Alan Bradley, 18 votes
Asterios Polyp,  David Mazzucchelli, 18 votes
Under the Dome, Stephen King, 16 votes
The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi, 16 votes
Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, Geoff Dyer, 15 votes
Fire (YA), Kristin Cashore, 15 votes
Beat the Reaper, Josh Bazell, 14 votes
Boneshaker, Cherie Priest, 14 votes
Chronic City, Jonathan Lethem, 14 votes
Every Man Dies Alone, Hans Fallada, 14 votes
This Is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper, 13 votes
Drood, Dan Simmons, 13 votes
The Scarecrow, Michael Connelly,  13 votes
Homer and Langley, E. L. Doctorow, 13 votes
The Vagrants, Yiyun Li, 13 votes
The Forest of Hands and Teeth (YA), Carrie Ryan, 13 votes
Going Bovine (YA), Libba Bray, 13 votes
Wintergirls (YA), Laurie Halse Anderson, 13 votes
Generosity: An Enhancement, Richard Powers, 12 votes
Sag Harbor, Colson Whitehead, 12 votes
Spooner, Pete Dexter, 12 votes
Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese, 12 votes
The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver, 12 votes
Leviathan (YA), Scott Westerfeld, 12 votes
Marcelo in the Real World (YA), Francisco X. Stork, 12 votes
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, Lydia Davis, 11 votes
Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby, 11 votes
Lowboy, John Wray, 11 votes
My Father’s Tears: And Other Stories,  John Updike, 11 votes
Summertime, J. M. Coetzee, 11 votes
Tinkers,  Paul Harding, 11 votes
Cyberabad Days,  Ian McDonald, 11 votes
The Glass Room, Simon Mawer, 11 votes
The Kindly Ones, Jonathan Littell, 11 votes
All the Living,  C. E. Morgan, 10 votes
The Believers, Zoe Heller, 10 votes
The Financial Lives of the Poets, Jess Walter, 10 votes
American Rust,  Philipp Meyer, 10 votes
The Ghosts of Belfast, Stuart Neville, 10 votes
The Devil’s Alphabet, Daryl Gregory, 10 votes
Galileo’s Dream, Kim Stanley Robinson, 10 votes

Nonfiction
Zeitoun, Dave Eggers, 24 votes, 976.355 EGG
The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, Richard Holmes, 23 votes, 509.41 HOL
Lit: A Memoir, Mary Karr, 23  votes, B KARR, M.
Strength in What Remains, Tracy Kidder, 23  votes, 305.896 KID
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, David Grann, 21  votes, 918.11 GRA
Cheever: A Life, Blake Bailey, 21 votes, B CHEEVER, J.
Columbine, Dave Cullen, 19  votes, 371.782 CUL
The Good Soldiers, David Finkel, 18  votes, 956.7044 FIN
Logicomix: An Epic Search for the Truth, Apostolos Doxiadis et al., 15 votes, G 190 DOX
The Book of Genesis Illustrated, R. Crumb, ill., 13 votes, G 222.11 BOO
Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s  Forgotten Jungle City, Greg Grandin, 13  votes, 307.76 GRA
The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, T. J. Stiles, 13  votes, B VANDERBILT, C.
Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World, Liaquat Ahamed, 12  votes, 332.1092 AHA
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise during Disaster, Rebecca Solnit, 12  votes, 303.485 SOL
Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, Brad Gooch, 11 votes, B OCONNOR, F.
Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son, Michael Chabon, 11  votes, 913.54 CHA
Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer, 10  votes, 641.3 FOE
Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, Terry Teachout, 9 votes, 791.65 TEA
The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom, Graham Farmelo, 9  votes
The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors without Borders, Emmanuel Guibert, 8 votes
The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America, Timothy Egan, 8 votes , 973.911 EGA
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, Christopher McDougall, 8  votes, 796.42 MCD
Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, Zadie Smith, 8   votes, 824.914 SMI
Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression, Morris Dickstein, 8   votes
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, Gordon Wood, 8  votes, 973.4 WOO
A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon, Neil Sheehan, 8 votes, 355.0092 SHE
The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care, T. R. Reid, 8   votes, 362.1 REI
Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, Matthew B. Crawford, 8  votes, 331 CRA
Ayn Rand and the World She Made, Anne C. Heller, 8  votes, 818.52 RAN
The Music Room: A Memoir, William Fiennes, 8  votes
My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times, Harold Evans, 8 votes, 070.4092 EVA
Somewhere Towards the End: A Memoir, Diana Athill, 8 votes, 28.914 ATH
A View from the Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin, Chris Mullin, 8  votes
The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, Douglas G. Brinkley, 8   votes, B ROOSEVELT, T.
Family Britain, 1951-1957, David Kynaston, 7   votes
The Hindus: An Alternative History, Wendy Doniger, 7 votes
Imperial, William Vollmann, 7 votes
In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke’s War on the Great Panic, David Wessel, 7  votes, 332.11 WES
Methland: The Death and Life of an American  Small Town, Nick Reding, 7  votes, 362.299 RED
The Third Reich at War, Richard J. Evans, 7  votes, 940.5343 EVA
Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater, Frank Bruni, 7 votes, 362.196 BRU
Marx’s General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, Tristram Hunt, 7 votes, 335.4092 HUN
Open: An Autobiography, Andre Agassi, 7   votes, 796.342 AGA
Raymond Carver: A Writer’s Life, Carol Sklenicka, 7 votes, 813.54 CAR

Each work owned by Williamsburg Regional Library is linked to our catalog so our patrons can put it on reserve today!

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It’s done! After counting the votes from 140 different authoritative sources, the Best of 2009 Aggregated Megalist is complete, and it’s bigger and better than ever. This is THE final word on the best books published last year.

  • The full Megalist, which shows every source and every vote in a spreadsheet that you can sort as you need.

The final list includes nearly 1700 works published in the United States in 2009:

  • 221 works of general fiction
  • 210 mysteries and thrillers
  • 282 works of speculative fiction
  • 86 works of historical fiction
  • 98 romances
  • 130 young adult novels
  • 66 books of poetry
  • 88 graphic works
  • 434 works of narrative nonfiction
  • 253 biographies and memoirs
  • 205 how-to, cookbooks, and art books

My goal in compiling the Megalist is not to be reductive. I hope you’ll look through the big spreadsheet for all those gems that somebody out there loved—and that might be the best book of the year for you too. I hope you’ll think about the many reasons—quality, politics, publicity and bias for certain kinds of works over others—that certain works get mentioned again and again while others are lucky to be mentioned once. I hope you’ll continue to think about your own favorite books of the year, whether they received one vote or dozens. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the big, beautiful, diverse collection of books that gets published in any given year.

That said, I can’t help but point out a few of the big winners. The runaway overall winner was Hilary Mantel’s Tudor historical fiction Wolf Hall. It racked up 64 votes as a best book of the year, 24 more than the nearest competitor, Lorrie Moore’s novel A Gate at the Stairs, which received 40 votes.

The top nonfiction work was Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, the tale of one Syrian immigrant’s experience of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. It beat three other works by one slim vote: The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes, Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr, and Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder.

That’s just six books out of almost 1700. Download the lists above so you can explore further. I’ll be back tomorrow with one last post on this topic: a list of all of the books that received more than ten votes with links to our catalog.

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If you’re a moviemaker, a cheering audience is the ultimate validation. Is that why every uplifting, “feel good” movie has to have a scene in which the plucky underdog/person of integrity wins an ovation from everyone in the stadium/courtroom/classroom/assembly hall? In a recent flop, Pirate Radio, the heroes are on a foundering ship in the middle of the North Sea, but wouldn’t you know it, a cheering crowd miraculously appears on hundreds of small boats bobbing around in the water.

In their typical overblown form, with triumphant music thundering on the soundtrack, these scenes send me running for the exit or the “off” button. But there are many worthy movies that include a scene where the hero is applauded or cheered. Here are a few:

(Hat tip to the writers of the Onion A-V club, whose brilliant book of lists, Inventory, includes “6 Keanu Reeves Movies Somehow Not Ruined by Keanu Reeves.”)

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Some books are better the second time around. Plot details or character behaviors or Deep Thoughts that didn’t register the first time can sparkle during a second or third or fourth visit.

Other favorites? Add them in the comments below!

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Tallying of votes nears completion on the Best of 2009 aggregated megalist. You can download the full spreadsheet here. It now includes votes from 112 sources for 1,880 books published in the United States in 2009. This week’s additions include big sources like the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Salon, the blog Shelf Awareness, the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, The Scotsman, and School Library Journal.

Barring a major surge, the top overall vote-getter will be Hilary Mantel’s historical fiction Wolf Hall. The Booker Award winner has been named as a best book by 47 different sources, a 15 vote lead on the nearest competitor. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: 66 books have received 10 votes or more each, and hundreds of worthy titles are buried deeper in the lists. As the votes are compiled, it’s astonishing how many new titles continue to turn up this far into the aggregation. It just shows how difficult it is to summarize the book world and how many tastes there are among different readers, even those who work with and write about books professionally. I hope you’ll go beyond the summaries here and delve deeper into the spreadsheet.

Since the top vote getters haven’t changed since last week’s update, this week I’ll list some of the books in second place for their category:

General Fiction

Too Much Happiness: Stories by Alice Munro (27 votes)

Mysteries and Thrillers

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C. Alan Bradley (16 votes)

Speculative Fiction

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (17 votes)

Historical Fiction

Brooklyn: A Novel by Colm Toibin (28 votes)

Young Adult Fiction

Fire by Kristin Cashore, Going Bovine by Libba Bray, Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (12 votes each)

Poetry

Chronic by D. A. Powell and Museum of Accidents by Rachel Zucker  (4 votes each)

Graphic Works

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli (17 votes)

General Nonfiction

A new leader here: The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes (20 votes)

Biography and Memoir

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (20 votes)

How-To, Art, and Cookbooks

A leader here for the first time: Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller (6 votes)

Stop in next week for the latest vote count and more analysis of the results.

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Jericho, Troy, Minas Tirith: I have always had a bloody-minded fascination with stories of cities under siege. Historical fiction or fantasy, it doesn’t matter; detailed descriptions of siege engines are always a plus. Here are a few favorites:

  • The engineering of siege weapons is described in loving detail in K. J. Parker’s Devices and Desires, reviewed earlier here.
  • Mathematician and engineer Archimedes builds bigger and better catapults in The Sand-reckoner, by Gillian Bradshaw.
  • The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean, has no catapults, but I enjoyed it anyway. A woman endures the siege of Leningrad in the Hermitage museum, emptied of its paintings.
  • Two historical novels, set in the 15th century, describe experiences from opposite sides of the walls: in The Emperor’s Winding Sheet, by Jill Paton Walsh, a shipwrecked English youth witnesses the last days of Byzantine Constantinople before its fall to the Turks…
  • … and in The Siege, by Ismail Kadare, the Ottoman besiegers of an Albanian fortress take center stage.
  • And for the do-it-yourselfers, there’s always Catapult: Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon, by Jim Paul.

Other favorites? Add them in the comments below!

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In the continuing quest to find the final word on the best books of 2009, Blogging for a Good Book continues to aggregate votes from every authoritative list of 2009’s best that we can find. If it was published in the U.S. in 2009, it’s eligible.

Sources of votes that we’ve added in the last two weeks include NPR, Powell’s Books, Popular MechanicsLocus Magazine‘s Recommended Reading List, the Edgar Award Nominees, the Providence Journal, The Progressive, and the New Yorker. All of the sources we’ve consulted are listed (with links to the web pages that show the specific votes) on the last worksheet of the spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet for the best of 2009 has tabbed worksheets for general fiction, mysteries and thrillers, speculative fiction, historical fiction, romance fiction, young adult fiction, poetry, nonfiction, biographies and memoirs, and how-to and art books.  If you don’t find a cross-genre work in one worksheet, try one of the others: it may be categorized elsewhere. Each sheet is sorted first by vote count, then by title, but feel free to use the features in Excel to re-sort the list any way that you like.

The count is in the home stretch now, with only sources from the last few letters of the alphabet and a few late awards left to tally. We’ll continue to give you an update on the results each week. When all the counting is done, a complete summary of the results including a compiled list of the highest vote-winners across the board will be published.

For now, here are the top vote getters in each category:

General Fiction: A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore (25 votes)

Mysteries and Thrillers: The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (14 votes)

Speculative Fiction: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (19 votes)

Historical Fiction: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (37 votes, the top vote getter overall)

Romance Fiction: (4 books with 3 votes each)

Young Adult Fiction: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (21 votes)

Graphic works: Stitches: A Memoir by David Small (26 votes, the highest count for a nonfiction work)

Poetry: C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems (6 votes)

Nonfiction: The Good Soldiers by David Finkel and The Lost City of Z by David Grann (15 votes each)

Biography and Memoir: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (20 votes)

How-To, Cookbooks, and Art Books: (3 books with 4 votes each)

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I have always been interested in the natural world, and enjoyed writers who look at nature in interesting ways. Here are some of the authors who I think offer us insights into the world of which we are only a part. Many of these are older titles, but they still are among the best in nature writing.

Other favorites? Add them in the comments below!

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Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the TV series based on Henning Mankel’s Kurt Wallander brought many English-speaking readers to the vast world of mysteries set in other countries.  Pun definitely intended.  One subset of the international mystery universe deals with the police of various countries, which can often serve to give insight into different cultures and mores.  These stories can also provide history lessons and a snapshot of current conditions that won’t always make the tourist bureau pamphlets. So here’s a look at policework in places where procedures may be different, but the aim is still towards justice.

  • Karin Fossum – Norway’s Inspector Konrad Sejer (Don’t Look Back)
  • Leighton Gage – Brazilian Chief Inspector Mario Silva (Blood of the Wicked)
  • Peter Temple – Melbourne Homicide detective Joe Cashin (The Broken Shore)
  • Arnaldur Indridason – Reykjavik Police Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson (Jar City) (Cela gave her thoughts on Jar City here.)
  • Michael Genelin – Slovak Criminal Police Commander Jana Matinova (Siren of the Waters)
  • Brian McGilloway – Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin (Borderlands)
  • Petros Markaris – Athens Homicide Inspector Costas Haritos (Deadline in Athens)
  • L.A.  Garcia-Roza – Rio’s Inspector Espinoza (The Silence of the Rain)
  • Alicia Giminez Bartlett – Barcelona detective Petra Delicado (Dog Day)
  • Arimasa Osawa – Tokyo detective Samejima (Shinjuku Shark)
  • Jean-Claude Izzo – Marseilles beat cop Fabio Montale (Total Chaos) (Click here for Barry’s review)

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Here at Blogging for a Good Book, we don’t skimp. When it came to recapping last year’s best, we could have given you a list based on the small sampling of last year’s output that we actually read, but that didn’t just feel right. Instead, we broke out our handy spreadsheet and started counting votes from as many authoritative Best of 2009 lists as we could find. The result is available for download and sorting in Excel format. Here it is: a many-voiced look at the best of 2009.

The spreadsheet has tabs for general fiction; mystery and thriller fiction; speculative fiction; historical fiction; romance fiction; young adult fiction; poetry; graphic works; nonfiction; biographies and memoirs; and how-to, art, and cookbooks. We construe genres broadly, so if you don’t find a favorite in general fiction, then try one of the genre categories. Each list is sorted by number of votes, then alphabetically by title. While we count votes from several international sources, only works first published in the U.S. in 2009 were tabulated. In nonfiction, Dewey call numbers at WRL are listed for the books that our library currently owns. The last tab on the spreadsheet lists and links to sources used to compile the votes.

The aggregation is not yet finished as we add more sources and wait for a few more of the awards to be announced. Our thanks to Largehearted Boy, whose long list of online Best of 2009 lists made one step of building our big spreadsheet easier. Basically, we’re up to the letter N in his lists, so there are many more votes to come before we’re finished. To date though, the list aggregates 74 different best of 2009 lists, where 1262 different titles have received votes as the Best of 2009!

We’re far enough into the count to identify some early favorites:

Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is the top vote getter, with mentions on 29 different lists so far. In fiction, Alice Munro’s Too Much Happiness: Stories received 20 votes to date. This was followed by Suzanne Collins YA SF/adventure sequel Catching Fire (18), A. S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book (17), Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs (17), and Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood (16). One vote further back are The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Love and Summer, by William Trevor.

In nonfiction, the top vote getter so far is Stitches: A Memoir, the graphic memoir by David Small, with 22 votes. This is followed by Dave Eggers’ tale of Hurricane Katrina victim Zeitoun (14 votes to date),  David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers (13), Dave Cullen’s Columbine (12), David Grann’s The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon (12), Blake Bailey’s biography Cheever: A Life (12). One vote behind are Mary Karr’s Lit: A Memoir, Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains, and Richard Holmes’ Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science.

But these books are just the tip of the iceberg in this magnificent aggregated list.  Best-of lists will always favor certain kinds of works and books that have been publicized well, so sort down a little farther to find more gems. Please, check back: We’ll continue to update the spreadsheet once a week until we’ve counted as many votes from major best-of lists and awards as we can find!

To suggest a best-of list for consideration in the aggregation or to notify us of a mistake, post a comment below or send email to nholland@wrl.org. Enjoy!

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Brits love potato chips. They call them “crisps” and consume 10 billion bags (packets, in their lingo) of the things per year. They go in for crazy flavors: prawn cocktail, chicken tikka masala, Marmite, slow-roasted lamb with mint, Cajun squirrel, or Builders Breakfast, which are supposed to taste like eggs, buttered toast, bacon, and ketchup. This national habit must have something to do with pubs. My English friend Janet says, “A pint is too wet without a packet of crisps.”

Pandemic snacking on crisps generates appalling quantities of litter in the form of discarded crisp packets. I know this because nearly every British crime novel that I have read contains a scene of desolation or depressing banality featuring… empty crisp packets. Packets blowing in the wind, lying in the gutter, sitting crumpled in the pathetic debris of a murder victim’s apartment. I started noticing this 20 years ago, but it was no passing fad—the trope is just as popular today. Here are a few cases:

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I love it when long-buried skeletons turn up in mystery stories. How deliciously creepy! In all of these books, the unearthing of a skeleton uncovers an old crime or reopens a cold case, challenging investigators to go back in time to solve the crime.

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On the Side of Good you’ve got justice and honor and courage, which is nice and all, but on the Side of Evil you’ve got the really sexy characters. Dunno about you, but I know where my loyalties lie.

Other favorites? Add them in the comments below!

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