Literature: 2009 Best of Lists

It’s that time of the year: the time for looking back, the time for looking ahead. Inevitably, a lot of this nostalgia turns up in the form of lists. Not only is it nearing the end of the year, but it’s also nearing the end of a decade. And in this moment, I’m thinking about what, perhaps, was the best book I read last year. Since I’m picking just one here, I’m going to have to pick Wells Tower’s Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (FSG, March 2009). This short story collection is Tower’s first book, and I found myself so drawn into its characters that I thought about them long after I’d left them behind. Tower writes as if he’s inside the minds of these folks—teenaged girls, burnt-out-middle-aged men, and at least a few Viking-types named Gnut and Djarf and Haakon. I just read that Tower has a novel-in-progress, and I’m looking forward to seeing more from this writer.

Tower impressed a lot of people (besides me) this year with Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. The book was reviewed twice by The New York Times, and NYT critic Michiko Kakutani picked it as one of his “Top 10 Books of 2009.” About.com’s Contemporary Literature Guide, Mark Flanagan, picked it as one of the “Best Books of the Decade” and also as one of the “Top 10 Books of 2009,” which contains a link to my review. Two other books that I reviewed also appear on Flanagan’s list: James Levine’s The Blue Notebook and Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked.

The Lists:

About.com’s “Top 10 Books of 2009”http://contemporarylit.about.com/od/readinglists/tp/best-books-2009.htm

NYT critic Michiko Kakutani’s “Top 10 Books of 2009”
http://www.nytimes.com/gift-guide/holiday-2009/giftguide-kakutani/list.html

NYT: “The 10 Best Books of 2009”
http://www.nytimes.com/gift-guide/holiday-2009/10-best-gift-guide-sub/list.html

Photo credit: FSG.

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