Books of '09
(Photo: Flickr/eflon)

(Photo: Flickr/eflon)

It’s the gift season. And the gift of a book is not just of a satisfying heft in a nice wrapping. It’s the hope and encouragement to slow down, get lost, step back and see another way.

So, what to give? Or hope for? We’re looking at the best books of 2009 today, and the range is wide.

From lost cities to an illustrated Old Testament. From “Love in Infant Monkeys,” to “Wolf Hall” and “Little Bee.” Michael Sandel makes my guests cut. So do Lorrie Moore, Jonathan Lethem, A.S. Byatt, Tania James.

What about yours? This hour, On Point: for the holidays, the best books of ’09.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Laura Miller, book critic for and one of its co-founders. She is an occasional contributor to The New York Times Book Review and editor of “The Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Authors.”

David Ulin, editor of the Los Angeles Times Books section. He is also a member of the National Book Critics Circle board of directors.

Carol Besse, co-owner of Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville, Kentucky, which was chosen as bookstore of the year by Publisher’s Weekly.

Our guests have offered their own Best of ’09 lists, which we’re posting here. What’s on your list? Tell us in the comments section below.

Laura Miller:


– Diana Athill, “Somewhere Towards the End: A Memoir”
– Greil Marcus & Werner Sollors, eds.,  “A New Literary History of America”
– Richard Holmes, “The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science”
– Chloe Hooper, “Tall Man: The Death of Doomadgee”
– Dave Cullen, “Columbine”


– Jonathan Lethem, “Chronic City”
– Sarah Waters, “The Little Stranger”
– A.S. Byatt, “The Children’s Book”
– Lydia Millet, “Love in Infant Monkeys: Stories”
– Dan Chaon, “Await Your Reply”

David Ulin:


– Francine Prose, “Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife”
– Ted Kooser, “Lights on a Ground of Darkness” (Listen to On Point’s interview)
– Lynne Sharon Schwartz, “Not Now, Voyager: A Memoir”
– Dave Cullen, “Columbine”
– Joe Torre & Tom Verducci, “The Yankee Years”
– William T. Vollmann, “Imperial”

Fiction, poetry & literature:

– Lydia Millet, “Love in Infant Monkeys: Stories”
– David Mazzuchelli, “Asterios Polyp”
– B. H. Fairchild, “Usher: Poems”
– R. Crumb, illustrator, “The Book of Genesis”

Carol Besse:


– Chris Hedges, “The Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle”
– David Grann, “The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon” (Listen to On Point’s interview)
– T. R. Reid, “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care”
– Michael Sandel, “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?”
– David Small, “Stitches: A Memoir”


– Chris Cleave, “Little Bee”
– Muriel Barbery, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”
– Tania James, “Atlas of Unknowns”
– Lydia Peelle, “Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing”
– Lorrie Moore, “A Gate at the Stairs”

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