Sunday, June 21, 2009

The 2009 List: TOP PICKS

There were multiple enthusiastic recommendations for all this year's "Top Picks," listed immediately below. If you go to the left side of this page, you can navigate to the other sections of the 2009 beach books list -- new and old fiction and non-fiction. You can also access the beach books lists from previous years. Thanks to all of you who offer suggestions. Happy reading!

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbury.

"Reading it now and while it took me a while to get into it, I am completely caught in its spell now. Set in Paris, it is about a combination of intriguing and surprising people who all live in a well-to-do apartment building in Paris. It’s a major life themes kind of book with lots of humor and kindness to offset some of the heavy stuff. " Same contributor, about a day later: "Okay I confess that I just read then end of the Hedgehog and it was really wonderful. One of the best books ever. Practically sobbing, but not in a miserably sad way. It was just beautiful and is one of those books that gathers steam."

"A wonderful story about a child living in a crazy French apartment building and considering killing herself. I did love this book. Apparently child psychiatrists make it mandatory reading for their patients."

The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

"Initially I thought it would be one more (deserved) stab at racism in the South, but this is different. A very different voice and very real. Great book for discussion. Easy to read, good beach book."

"This book, set in the 60s in the South, against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, explores those timeless bonds between women --regardless of race, of age, or of position in life." And another:

"This is my favorite book of the year and it should definitely qualify as a beach book. It is a page- turner for sure. I told a friend about it and she told me that she stayed up until three in the morning to finish it (she has small kids so this is no small sacrifice) … It’s just so engrossing, I wish I could start it over again. Walked by a woman the other day who was reading it sitting on a bench – she said she cannot put it down."

I am on vacation with a friend who bought the book last night and was immediately engaged, saying it had changed her vacation. Now she “really has a book.” You know that feeling.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

"Delightful light summer reading. Great version on audio book if you have a long drive to your vacation spot. Our little ones didn't mind listenting to this -- they found the British accents endearing."

(Ed: I flew through this book and enjoyed the history, but it's an epistolary novel, and I did feel that the letters were written in the same overly ingenuous style. But I think I might be the lone crank on the subject, so don't let me stop you.)

Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Stout

"My favorite fiction book this year. So many facets of one life with perspectives from many. Half way through the book I looked at the questions in the back and one asked if I liked the main character Olive at which point I thought ‘No, absolutely not!" but by the end of the book I really did like and appreciate her.’
"Great writing. It weaves subtle, sad, and at times shocking life stories in a Maine town."
"Top of the list" of books enjoyed in the previous year.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. Yes, I'm serious! A lot of you are reading this and assuring me that I can easily get beyond my doubts. (You know … doubting that I can enjoy a teen vampire book?) Truly, though… The series seems to have gone viral from teens to their curious moms to the big world beyond. Some of your comments:

"My No. 1 beach read ... I can't think of anything more perfect to get absorbed in while ignoring the kids at the beach and engaging your 10th grade babysitter in the whole Edward vs. Jacob debate."

"I am so enjoying these books."

"If you like Jane Austen, you will like these."

"If you have been hesitant because of that "vampire thing," jump right in. There's so much more than that, including an amazing love story, you almost forget the vampire thing. And this was a great series to share with my 12 year old daughter (Note: Definitely pre-read the first part of the fourth book in the series before handing over to a daughter!)”
" CRACK! Pure crack. I was a huge doubter ... and now I am hooked. I wish I had saved them for the beach .. They would have been perfect, mindless, a one-sitting- book-a-day reads."

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