Best Books of 2009

Book Babe Ellen Heltzel, author of "Between the Covers," joined us today with her picks for the most memorable books of 2009.

Here's Ellen's list:

“The Age of Wonder,” by Richard Holmes (Pantheon) – History tends to credit the Age of Reason for advancing the cause of science. Holmes makes a terrific argument that the 18th century, the Romantic Age, was also critical to scientific progress, emphasizing the imagination.

“Methland,” by Nick Reding (Bloomsbury). The 24/7 media break stories, but books often make them by creating coherent narratives like this one. Reding shows us an Iowa community devastated by a methamphetamine wave that is only a symptom of a larger disease affecting small-town America. 

“Fool’s Gold,” by Gillian Tett (Free Press). If you’ve tried to make sense of what happened to bring the economy to its knees in 2008, Tett explains beautifully. Hers is among a raft of excellent books about finance that came out in 2009.

“The Girl Who Played With Fire,” by Stieg Larrson (Knopf) – Swedish journalist Larrson died before he saw his mysteries become run-away bestsellers in the U.S.  But he’s definitely the new kid on the block in this popular genre. This is the second in a three-book series featuring a crusading journalist who cracks crime and perversity wherever he finds it.

“Fahrenheit 451,” by Ray Bradbury (Hill and Wang). Actually, the book was first published in 1953. But this is the authorized graphic novel version, proof that graphic novels are not just for kids.

“Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work,” by Matthew B. Crawford (The Penguin Press).  Making and fixing things with your hands – when did that last get the attention it deserved? Crawford, a mechanic with his doctorate in philosophy, is the perfect guy to explain the beauty and wisdom of manual labor and counter our high-tech, brains-not-braun culture.

“Too Much Happiness,” by Alice Munro (Knopf). Munro is one of the few fiction writers who has built her career entirely out of short stories. This new book shows how she could pull it off. Jonathan Franzen said she may be the best fiction writer working in North America, and I’ll second that.

For more information about Ellen Helzel, check out her Book Babes website.    

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