Favourite Reads of 2009

As Christmas and year-end—indeed the end of the decade—fast approaches, I’ve decided to pick my three favourite books of 2009 and look ahead to what’s on my reading list for 2010.

Note: Any book I read during the year, regardless of the date of publication, can (and does) feature on the list.

So, in reverse chronological order:

3. No Time for Work by George Ryan
No Time for Work recounts the misadventures of George and his best friend Cecil Chuckleworth—two alcoholic teachers who are almost allergic to an honest day’s work and will try just about anything in order to prevent themselves from inadvertently doing what is expected from them by their superiors. Headmasters and school inspectors suffer horribly at the hands of the sharp-tongued Ryan and Chuckleworth, as do stuck-up members of the local golf club and numerous other characters who encounter the devious pair.

The fact that this self-published book has sold so many copies over the years (see my full review at http://lordoftherams.com/blog/?p=45) says a lot about its undeniable charm. Although one could argue that No Time For Work lacks a discernible plot and is constructed in an “unconventional” manner (similarities with my own book have not gone unnoticed by yours truly), I enjoyed this title from start to finish. Perhaps not suited to “serious readers” but I think anyone looking for a light-hearted laugh, will enjoy George Ryan’s novel.

2. Hitman by Bret Hart
Hitman charts the life of one of wrestling’s biggest stars, Bret Hart. During a career that spanned almost a quarter of a century, he became one of Canada’s most famous sons, toured the world, and endured tragic events that unfolded in front of the world’s media.

Quite simply, this is the most riveting autobiography I have ever read. I must admit that the wrestling autobiography sub-genre is amongst my favourites (what goes on behind the scenes in professional wrestling is infinitely more entertaining than the show that airs on TV) , but I do occasionally read other autobiographies and travel memoirs, more recently books by Bill Bryson, Steve Martin and Slash (Guns N’ Roses). None of those books, nor the ones that have gone before, came close to painting such a vivid, heart-warming, tragic and entertaining true-life tale as Bret Hart’s Hitman (see my full review at http://lordoftherams.com/blog/?p=17).

1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Set in post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona, The Shadow of the Wind concerns a young boy, Daniel whose father takes him to the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a huge library of rare, forgotten titles. After bringing home a book called The Shadow of the Wind, Daniel becomes caught up in an intriguing adventure when he sets out to find out more information about the book’s author Julián Carax.

This is the only book on this list that I haven’t already reviewed on my blog. Words can’t really do justice to what a remarkably enchanting and engrossing tale this is. Described by Entertainment Weekly as “a love letter to literature”, The Shadow of the Wind is that and so much more.

Not just my favourite book of 2009 but the new benchmark that other titles will be measured against.

By coincidence, my favourite reads of 2008 (A Quiet Belief in Angels by RJ Ellory) and 2009 (The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón) were both featured in the Richard and Judy Book Club—in 2008 and 2005 respectively. I’m not sure what that says about the quality of the books featured in the club over the years, but I for one am glad I have another couple of selected Richard and Judy titles sitting on my ‘to-read’ pile for 2010—namely No Time for Goodbye (Linwood Barclay) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini).

Honourable Mentions for 2009:

  • The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
    I’m currently reading the Booker Prize shortlisted and Costa Award winning The Secret Scripture by Irish author Sebastian Barry. The book (of which I have read over two-thirds thus far) is a beautifully written tale (albeit with heavy prose that may turn off the casual reader) charting the life of Roseanne McNulty, a 100-year old inmate at Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital. Told via ‘diary’ entries by both Roseanne and her Psychiatrist, Dr Grene, The Secret Scripture is a gripping read that that keeps the reader guessing as to what led up to Roseanne’s 50-year incarceration.
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
    Another Booker Prize shortlisted title, The Reluctant Fundamentalist take place during the course of a single evening in an outdoor Lahore cafe, where a bearded Pakistani man called Changez tells a nervous American stranger about his love affair with, and eventual abandonment of, America. Short (you will finish it in one or two sittings), riveting and beautifully told, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a really enjoyable read although I did feel a little short-changed by the ending (conversely, I think many others found the ending satisfying). Highly recommended.

If you’ve read any of the books above, feel free to share your views. My reading list for 2010 is already full with diverse and promising titles ranging from Spike Milligan’s Pukoon and William Golding’s classic Lord of the Flies to The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Hulk Hogan’s new autobiography, My Life Outside the Ring.

Happy Christmas to all.
Ronan

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