Best Books of 2009

My favorite part about this time of year is the release of the year-end Best Of lists. Let’s take a look at 2009’s Best [Valley] Books

this is where i leave you book cover

I hope everyone had a great weekend of gorging on Halloween candy (then burning off all the calories cheering for your team in the World Series or running the marathon). Now that Halloween is over, I’m starting to hear the beginnings of end-of-year talk — there’s chatter of holiday travel plans, people wondering about New Year’s Eve, and that sort of thing.

My favorite part about the end of the year is the release of all the year-end Best Of lists. (And, since it’s 2009, there might even be some Best of the Decade lists to look forward to.) Believe it or not, some of these lists are already coming out of the gate.

The first year-end best-of list I’ve seen so far is Amazon’s Best Books of 2009. As far as starting off the list-making season, I think Amazon does it right. So few outlets take the time to honor books, and Amazon puts 100 titles on its year-end roster, admirably ignoring the fact that most people don’t read 100 books in a year. They also set up a Best of 2009 Page where customers can see the list broken down by genre, see customer-favorite lists, and browse the bests from other years.

Of course, as with any Best Of list, I spot a few local names:

No. 14: This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Local Connection: Tropper lives in New Rochelle and teaches at Manhattanville College.
What Amazon Says: “Jonathan Tropper writes compulsively readable, laugh-out-loud funny novels, and his fifth book, This Is Where I Leave You is his best yet… What elevates his novels and makes him a truly splendid writer is his ability to create fantastically flawed, real characters who stay with you long after the book is over. Simultaneously hilarious and hopeful, This Is Where I Leave You is as much about a family’s reckoning as it is about one man’s attempt to get it together. The affectionate, warts-and-all portrayal of the Foxmans will have fans wishing for a sequel (and clamoring for all things Tropper).”

No. 18: Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey
Local Connection: Though Bailey is a Virginian, the subject of his book, John Cheever, is practically synonymous with Westchester.
What Amazon Says: “In Blake Bailey’s monumental, masterful, and, at nearly 800 pages, mammoth biography, Cheever: A Life, the author of A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates turns his attention to the ‘the Chekhov of the suburbs’ and his storied, celebrated, and deeply tortured life. Written with compassion and the full cooperation of Cheever’s widow, Mary, and their three children, Cheever is rich with detail and chronicles the mournful arc of a lifetime struggling with a core duplicity that ached throughout his writing life.”

No. 8 (on the children’s book list): The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
Local Connection: Pinkney, and his wife Gloria Pinkney (also an author), both live in northern Westchester.

I also see a lot of books on Amazon’s list that were previously recommended to our readers in our sister magazine’s Fall Books and Summer Books articles, which shows that our indie booksellers are really on the ball.

So, let’s hear from you: What were your favorite books of 2009? Let me know in the comments.


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About This Blog

Marisa LaScala

Marisa LaScala
Elmsford, NY

Associate Editor Marisa LaScala joined Westchester magazine in 2003, and ever since she's blown every paycheck at the Greenburgh Multiplex. She also staunchly defends Richard Kelly, doesn't mind spoiling the endings of trashy movies you're curious about but don't want to pay to see, wishes the Hold Steady would come back and rock out Westchester, misses Arrested Development more than anyone can imagine, and still watches cartoons and Saturday Night Live. You can find more of her cultural criticism at, where she is a staff writer.



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