Best Books of 2009

Best Art & Culture Books 2009

Best Fiction of 2009

Best non-fiction 2009

Best Children's Books of 2009

Best Cookbooks of 2009

Best Crime Fiction of 2009


Best Crime Fiction of 2009




This is the year that was. A watershed year, we might look back and say. The year the economy faltered, the electronic book finally emerged from both nightmares and dreams and the publishing industry shuffled away madly in a benighted attempt to keep doing things in the same way they’d always been done. Meanwhile Google continued to try to take over the world.

For all of that, 2009 was a fantastic year in books. Was it possible publishers pulled out all the stops in getting all the big players to the table? It often felt that way. And so, in a year that held a new book from codemeister Dan Brown, more beautifully wrought dystopia from Margaret Atwood, a glorious toe-breaker from Stephen King and endless vampiric entries from Stephanie Meyer and all her earthly minions, it was impossible that the eyes of consumers not spend some of their already taxed grey matter thinking about books and the people who make them. So while the publishing industry sometimes scuttled about acting as though the sky was falling, readers kept thinking about books. And talking about them. And reading. I’m not entirely sure anything else matters.

For readers, then, it was one of the best years in memory. So many wonderful books from authors who always draw crowds. So many really great debuts. So many great new works of fiction and arresting works of non-fiction. So many beautiful books that made us think about art and culture. So many gorgeous new cookbooks and books for children. So many great new mysteries.

The fact that it was such a fantastic reading year seemed to make it even more difficult to hone all of this wonderfulness down to just a handful of our favorite books for 2009. This is the 120 or so that made the cut. And while it seems like a large number, considering the many thousands of books published in the English language over the last 12 months, the number we need to bring it down to is distressingly small.

How did we arrive at just this particular handful? There is nothing scientific in the way we compile the January Magazine best of the year feature. Nothing high tech or mysterious. These are, quite simply, the books that we liked best. Every year we ask all of our current contributors to give us the title of up to five of the books they liked best through their reading year and a little bit about their choices. Human nature being what it is, some writers can’t possibly hone it down to just five. Others can’t think of more than one or two worthy of comment. Either way, we end up with this delightful selection of books that our seasoned readers enjoyed above all others. Our choices reflect what our writers and editors liked best of the books they read and enjoyed throughout the year. They don’t need to qualify their choices or explain them to anyone. There is no board or panel. No quotas from certain publishers, no authors that must be included. These are, quite simply, the books that our well read eyes and hearts liked best, listed in alphabetical order within the loose category in which they fall.

From where I’m standing, it looks as though the next 12 months will hold plenty of challenges for those closely involved with the book industry. And, truly, in some ways, that’s okay. After all, who says all change is bad? One thing I know to be true: new technologies wax and wane. And over the horizon? Always the hot new thing. But the complete immersion -- that full body experience -- that is reading simply can not be duplicated any other way. We might read in a traditional printed book or an e-reader or -- heck, if the need arises -- on the head of a grain of rice. In the end, the how matters a great deal less than the fact that reading itself is the thing. I want my stories, though. I want that immersion. For me and millions like me, nothing can take its place.

On that note, happy reading. Because there is so much, right here, to celebrate, after all. | January 2010

Click below for the list you'd like to see:

children's booksfictionnon-fiction art & culturecookbooks • crime fiction from A-G, by title • crime fiction from H-Z