With the Christmas rush behind us, we're now able to sit back and reflect on 2009. It was a fine year for books and, despite trends toward gadgetry, a good year for bookstores. Here at Turnrow, we're feeling as robust as ever.
An informal poll among staff members identified two top favorites of the year: The Missing by Tim Gautreaux and Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon. We were lucky to have hosted both writers at the store this year, and their books were so popular that we've sold out of signed copies.
The Missing may be the great underdog book of '09, a novel that didn't earn its due nationally but has been a favorite among customers who took our recommendation. Tim Gautreaux has crafted one of the finest works of Southern literature in many years, a genuine river tale filled with intrigue, atmosphere and memorable characters. Read our impressions of the book, and all about Mr. Gautreaux's visit, from a March entry.
Await Your Reply was one of the most unusual and rewarding novels of the year, another book we enjoyed hand-selling. It met with the approval of both mystery and literary readers due to its deceptively simple triptych of storylines that kept readers guessing until the very end. Before his visit in August, Chaon told us how he crafted this novel, which has made regular appearances on other top reading lists of the year.
There were plenty of other fine books in 2009, and scrolling through the year's blog entries will remind you of others, but the staff felt like singling out some of their most memorable reading experiences of the year.
After the Chaon novel, Tad chose James Ellroy's Blood's a Rover, a manic tale of mobsters, cops and politicians in the 1960s, complete with electric prose and reimagined history. While we haven't all gotten around to tackling this gigantic tome, we did enjoy the NPR interview with Ellroy, which is still worth a listen.
Ben introduced us to two of his favorites of 2009 — Skip Horack's debut collection, The Southern Cross, another staff favorite and one of the best readings of the year; and The Great Perhaps, the latest by Chicago writer Joe Meno.
Jamie was glad he gave Paul Auster another chance and was knocked out by Invisible. A couple of other favorite reading experiences were being pleasantly surprised by Luis Alberto Urrea's Into the Beautiful North and discovering Wells Tower's debut collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, a kind of spiritual kin to two of his favorites, Barry Hannah and Raymond Carver.
Kelly and LeAnne read widely in the food genre this year. Kelly's favorites were Eating, a memoir by Random House editor Jason Epstein, and Molly Wizenberg's infectious memoir of family and eating, A Homemade Life, while LeAnne enjoyed David Chang's Momofuko and Not Becoming My Mother, a decidedly non-food book from Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl, who visited us this summer.
Some other staff favorites and honorable mentions:
In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Ford County by John Grisham, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen, A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick, One Foot Wrong by Sofie Laguna, Lowboy by John Wray, and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers.
There are many others we could mention, but instead we'll look ahead to the stack of fine advanced reading copies awaiting us for 2010.