ABC’s Favorite Books of 2009, part F

BookstackAh yes, it’s December, the time of looking over the past year and deciding what was great, what was so-so, and what could be done better next year.  In what is now very much a tradition, the ABC staff has been rootling through the books they read over the past year to decide what were the proper gems and what were the baubles.  Over the next few days and weeks Hayley and I will be posting their favorites.

Which reminds me: we would love to know what your 5 favorite reads of the past year were (they don’t have to be books published in 2009).  Please send them to (it’s not too late!)(really!), and please include your mailing address so we can send you an ABC gift voucher as our thank you.

In this penultimate edition you’ll see what Klaartje, Sander, and Ward loved reading this past year.  Fair warning: they’re a talkative lot!  So who is thinking about joining a new church started by demons?  Who’s an RPGer (and soon to join me as a level 80 in WoW!)(and no, I will not mention what kind of a day it was today for him ;-))?  And who’s not fond of a writer’s bag of tricks?

Click on more to find out!


De kauwentuin by Achilles Cools
Inspiring book for me!

Dageraad: Hoe taal de mens maakte by Rik Smits
This book is about the explanation that humans differ from animals, because we have our language.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Nice and entertaining. When you read a Dan Brown, you know what you get: a little bit of suspense and a little lesson in history.

Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
Still reading this book. Reads very well, it’s somehow soothing for people losing their hearing. And ABC has a good price for this title!

Confessions of a Demon by S.L. Wright
I read the uncorrected proof, with corrections it is even better! Nice gift for the Christmas season, demons who start a new church!



1. Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook by Jason Bulmahn
I love the fact that I can more or less continue with the familiar D&D 3.5 system and this is even better. The weaker classes at higher levels such as the Rogue, have been made more fun to play. Other things such as the overly complicated Feats structure are better organised and I just can’t seem to force myself into playing with miniatures and squares as much as D&D 4th edition forces you to. Might seem expensive for a Player’s Handbook, but that’s because the Game Master’s Guide is included.

2. The State of Africa by Martin Meredith
I wanted to become more acquainted with the general history of that diverse continent and that’s just what I got. It’s written quite clearly and to the point, without becoming boringly dry. Although it doesn’t take much to interest me for history of any kind. I should note that it’s wry in how on one page a person can be described as the saviour to his people, only to turn into a selfish tyrant on the next, and thereby refreshing your perception of humanity like a bucket of ice-water. A great read for anyone who’s interested in Africa, without knowing a thing in advance.

3. Teach Yourself French and Teach Yourself Xhosa
I love learning languages; just my bad luck that I started loving languages only after secondary school… which explains why my French and German are so horrid. For anyone who wants to use such a course as a refresher: it works. For anyone who wants to learn a language without knowing a thing about it, I tried learning Xhosa and that works great as well! My problem is mainly continuing and keeping up; if only my persistence was as great as my curiosity.

4. Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett
Every year I read two Pratchetts on average, and I love it. I try to read them all in sequence even though it’s not really all that necessary. I included this one right here because I happened to read this one for the first time this year and because it’s about the Watch! I should also become a Man in the City Watch! … Considering that I’m not a werewolf, troll, dwarf, woman, or otherwise acceptable new recruit for the Watch, that shouldn’t be a problem! Anyway, here Pratchett tackles the (now) funny subject of golems.

5. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
The first serious fiction title on the list, since I’ve been slacking this year. Also the first title I’ve ever read by Coetzee. It was an interesting read, although I must admit I had trouble getting into at first. I couldn’t seem to get along with the protagonist David Lurie, which later seemed about what Coetzee was trying to achieve. It kept me thinking for a long time, which is always a good thing according to my book. After watching the film Malkovich seemed to creep into it, if you can stop comparing the film to the book while watching, I can certainly recommend you that as well.

Notable absentees from my not-so-fiction-list this year: Paul Auster (I personally liked Man in the Dark better than Invisible), Haruki Murakami and Kurt Vonnegut, both of which will continue to be read by me in 2010!



1. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Though published in 2008, I didn’t get around to reading it until last summer while interrailing through Europe, and boy, am I glad I did. With this beautiful and simple story about a boy and his dogs on a remote farm in Wisconsin, Wroblewski shows that you don’t need to resort to that same old bag of postmodern, witty and quirky tricks that so many contemporary writers seem stuck on using all the time. Highly recommended!

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
It’s never too late to catch up on your classics, and To Kill a Mockingbird definitely deserves a place high on that list. A beautifully written reflection on slavery in the States, and a quintessential title in the American literary canon.

3. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
A delightfully twisted and dark little novel.

4. Invisible by Paul Auster
Pleasantly surprised by this return to form by Auster, who shows that he’s still every bit as relevant as he was with his debut over twenty years ago.

5. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Though, admittedly, I think that Foer very much suffers from the aforementioned bag-of-tricks syndrome, I’m happy to see a popular writer with a voice that carries wide discuss such an important topic. A topic that has remained in shadows for far too long.

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