Friday, September 16, 2011

Best reads of 2009

Not based on when they were released, the following are the best spec-fic books (save one) I read in 2009, regardless of publishing date.

The Earthsea Cycle - Ursula Le Guin
More than wizards and spells, Le Guin’s wisdom comes shining through in these six stories, making the series fantasy for the young and old.  So much depth and value, I wrote my Master's thesis on these books. (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, and The Other Wind)

Solaris - Stanislaw Lem
Literary speculative fiction so deliciously mysterious as to cause one hours of pondering.  Science fantasy simply does not get better.

A World Apart Gustav Herling
A Polish man’s account of his time in a WWII-era Russian work camp, this is the real life version of A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Moving story of a father and son attempting to survive in a post-apocalyptic world at odds.  Simple, powerful, profound.

The Sprawl Series - William Gibson
Profoundly affecting the genre since, rarely do books come along that have such an impact.  Everything dark, dystopian, and techy about the near future, Gibson's Sprawl is to be savored, including Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, and the short story collection Burning Chrome.

Wolf Totem: A Novel - Jiang Rong
While not beautifully written, this novel based on the author’s experience living with Mongolian horse herders opens the reader’s eyes to not only the culture of the semi-nomadic people, but wider environmental concerns of globalization.  Should be required reading for Mongolian studies.

The Quiet American – Graham Greene
In his life, Greene found his way around the world, visiting a wide variety of countries and cultures.  In this book, he takes a look at political interests in Vietnam prior to the war that was to occur there.  Short, sweet, and somewhat prophetic.

The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula Le Guin
The issue of gender is tackled in this sci-fi novel like no other author ever has or ever will without copying Le Guin’s brilliant idea.  Nothing cheesy about it, one can be proud to read of the aliens in The Left Hand of Darkness and ponder our own gender conceptions.

Describing the history of Warsaw during WWII and the failed rebellion the native Poles staged against the occupying Germans, this is Davies in his element.  Well informed yet easy to read.

His Dark Materials... - Phillip Pullman
The sort-of anti-Chronicles of Narnia, Pullman aimed to put the fantasy genre on its head and succeeded.  Original imagination, relative social commentary, and nice storytelling, the series is worth it. (Northern Lights (UK)/The Golden Compass (US), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.)

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke
A delicious mix of subtle magic, faery, and allusive culture, Susanna Clarke's debut novel took the world by storm upon it release for good reason.  Few fantasy releases in recent times have such literary quality.

The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo - Lin Yutang
Lin Yutang was not to know the word he chose to describe the brilliant Chinese poet would be twisted in the latter half of the 20th century to have a meaning he did not intend.  It detracts in no way from this biography, however, Lin combining beautifully the poetry and life of Su Shi, considered by most the greatest poet of the Song Dynasty.

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