Best Books of 2009...So Far - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Best Books of 2009...So Far


Comedian Steve Harvey is burning up the best-sellers' charts with his advice book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, which could also be the title of Thomas Beatie's memoir.

The TV series based on James Patterson's Women's Murder Club may have been cancelled, but his latest mystery, continuing the aforementioned club, is still flying off the book shelves. Conversely, John Updike's books aren't flying, but his 1984 novel will be adapted for the small screen this fall.

Unfortunately, I can't read a book without thinking about it in visual terms and of how it might play as a movie. I avoided cookbooks and political punditry, as well as celebrity memoirs like Elizabeth Edwards or Larry King's new book, no matter how tabloid-intriguing. Even though I've already been beaten to the punch on a couple, here are 15 books I'd like to see as movies:

Best Nonfiction... So Far...

CHEEVER: A LIFE by Blake Bailey - When Pulitzer Prize-winner John Cheever died, his private letters and journals revealed that he was bisexual, a fact famously mocked in an episode of Seinfeld. To tell the struggle with his sexuality and his subsequent alcoholism, Cheever's family enlisted the man who just completed a bio on Cheever's contemporary, Richard Yates. What Bailey creates is a very detailed study.

FLANNERY: A LIFE by Brad Gooch - The post-World War II, Southern writer, Flannery O'Connor, like Cheever, was a provocative short story writer. Publishers Weekly points out how Gooch doesn't suffiently probe her feelings about racism or her fatal disease, but in the 40 years since her death, this is the first biography done on O'Connor, and I think it's worth it.

I'M SORRY YOU FEEL THAT WAY by Diana Joseph - This is the author's refreshingly relatable memoir, as it interconnects with the men in her life, and it's probably one of the best self-introductions I've ever read. In a way that isn't sad or blaming, she talks about her uneasy relationship with her father who warned her basically not to be a slut. Her relationship with her son is likely the most poignant. Joseph's writing is fresh and entertaining.

I'M DOWN by Mishna Wolff - This hilarious story tells the true tale of a young white girl who was raised to believe that she was black. No further review needed. It's crazy funny as you read stereotype after stereotype skewered.

PICKING COTTON by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, and Erin Torneo - I first saw the documentary After Innocence about this very story four years ago. The writers of this book first met each other in a courtroom when one accused the other of rape. How did it happen and how is it that the two are now friends? 60 Minutes did a great explanation of how the problem of witness memory and reliance on it has lead to many wrongful convictions. This book seriously personalizes it.

THE HOUSING BOOM AND BUST by Thomas Sowell - The senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and noted, black conservative pens his 43rd book, detailing the housing market crisis and how those in government were instrumental to the collapse that sent tumultuous shockwaves through the economy.

DIGITAL BARBARISM by Mark Helprin - Based on a 2007 New York Times article, this has become one of the most hated books by those on the Internet. A month or so ago, I had a debate with a co-worker over copyright extension and I fell on the side of those who support it, and even though I understand the other side that a forever extension might be a little insane, I've spent most of the past five years championing more original and more creative works to be brought to the market. If copyright extensions forces people to come up with more original or creative works that are their own, I'm all for it.

Best Fiction... So Far...

THE SONG IS YOU by Arthur Philips - the main character Julian relates almost everything in his life to music. When Julian meets an amazing Irish singer, he becomes obsessed, but he holds back on meeting her, opting instead to use digital technology, emails and etc, to communicate with her. From the descriptions to the emotions, this book has been universally hailed.

BEAT THE REAPER by Josh Bazell - This book was optioned for Hollywood only three months after its publication. Its plot echoes filmmaker David Cronenberg's A History of Violence (2005). An ER doctor in New York is discovered to be a hitman for the mob.

WOODSBURNER by John Pipkin - It's Pipkin's debut novel and it's notable to me because it's about one of my favorite writers, Henry David Thoreau. Pipkin shows us an aspect of Thoreau we'd never seen and takes what we know of him and literally sets it ablaze in an amazing, fictionalized rendition as it relates to three other characters.

SAG HARBOR by Colson Whitehead - This is a coming-of-age story about a young African-American from a wealthy background in 1985. He's upper class. He goes to a prep school in Manhattan and is afforded a lot of opportunities. It's still a predominantly white world, but his sanctuary, and indeed the sanctuary of many wealthy, black people, is a village in the Hamptons on New York's Long Island, known as Sag Harbor. Taking on race, class and commercialism, this book illuminates a side of black society, even the mainstream rarely sees. Think the 1994 film The Inkwell.

THE WISH MAKER by Ali Sethi - This is the second book on my list that's a coming-of-age story about an aspect of an ethnic group not often seen. The Guardian newspaper did a story about it in Feburary and, on May 29, NPR did a story on the growing presence of Pakistani writers in America, spotlighting Daniyal Mueenuddin and Kamila Shamsie. Two that caught my attention in recent years were Mohammad Hanif and Mohsin Hamid. Sethi could be included in that group as the young writer brings to life his country during its third democratic era of the 1990s, as depicted through two cousins of different genders and their divergent experiences.

MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH by Charlie Huston - A man has the curious job of cleaning up crime scenes. If you've seen the recent Amy Adams film Sunshine Cleaning, it's like that but so much better written.

ADMISSION by Jean Hanff Korelitz - If you want to get into Princeton University, how do you do it? This book answers that by putting us into the shoes of an actual Princeton University admissions officer. A recruiting trip to New England opens up old wounds and secrets for our admissions officer.

EVERYTHING MATTERS! by Ron Currie, Jr. - He's not John the Apostle or Nostradamus, but the main character in this story, Junior Thibodeau, has a vision of the future and how the world is going to end. This humorous tale deconstructs what Junior does with this information and how it affects him.

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