2009: Another Year in the Books

January 1, 2010

2009 was not the greatest year of reading, but it wasn’t bad. It has less to do with the quality of what I read, and more to do with the quantity – and diversity – of what I did read. I had a lot of big plans to branch out in the types of reading I do (and I bought the books to back those plans up), but a stranger-than-fiction work schedule and a major mid-year reading slump derailed me a bit. Still, I read some good stuff, some thought-provoking stuff, some new stuff, and a I even re-read a favorite or two along the way. Here’s the complete list, followed by my personal Top Ten.

What I Read
Killing Castro by Robert Block
All You Despise by Tom Piccirilli
The Reach of Children by Tim Lebbon
Dark Hollow by Brian Keene
Ghost Walk by Brian Keene
Master of the Moors by Kealan Patrick Burke
The Keeper by Sarah Langan
Gunpowder by Joe Hill
Last Days by Brian Evenson
The Missing by Sarah Langan
The Coldest Mile by Tom Piccirilli
The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliot
The Nobody by Tom Piccirilli
The Adventures of Mr. Maximillian Bacchus and His Traveling Circus by Clive Barker
Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale
Mucho Mojo by Joe R. Lansdale
Castaways by Brian Keene
Just When You Thought It Was Safe: A Jaws Companion by Patrick Jankiewicz
The Two-Bear Mambo by Joe R. Lansdale
Bad Chili by Joe R. Lansdale
Diving Into Darkness by Phillip Finch
Button, Button: Uncanny Stories by Richard Matheson
Mind the Gap by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
The Shimmer by David Morrell
Personal Demons by Gregory Lamberson
Hell Hollow by Ronald Kelly
Dark Delicacies III: Haunted edited by Jeff Gelb and Del Howison
Pet Sematary by Stephen King
Futile Efforts by Tom Piccirilli
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror Vol. Three edited by Angela Challis
Under the Dome by Stephen King
Stop This Man! by Peter Rabe

The Top Ten
10. The Keeper by Sarah Langan:
Moved beyond the haunted house story to become a haunted town story. Lyrical, taut, suspenseful, and peopled with great characters.
9. The Coldest Mile by Tom Piccirilli: I can’t say enought about this guy and his work, other than it’s frustrating to think of how many people have yet to discover him. His transition from horror to the darkest noir continues with this book, and proves that as long as he’s writing what his heart tells him to, we’re in for treat after treat.
8. Dark Hollow by Brian Keene: Stephen King used to describe his work as “the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries.” In other words, you knew what you were going to get every time you picked up one of his books, and as long as you liked the flavor you were sure to be satisfied. King left that description (one that I never really bought, anyway) in the dust a long time ago, but it fits Keene to a “T”. His novels aren’t bound for literary awards any time soon, but they are fast-paced, suspenseful, and a ball to read almost every single time. This is my favorite of all his work so far – and it’s not even a zombie book.
7. Dark Delicacies III: Haunted edited by Jeff Gelb and Del Howison: A collection of short stories that deliver page after page – and, in many cases, long after the book is closed.
6. Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale: I’ve been reading Lansdale for a while, but this is the first time I’ve really got acquainted with two of his best creations, Hap and Leonard, two fictional characters who I find it hard to believe aren’t really alive somewhere, getting into trouble, sniping at each other, and spinning these outrageous tales for Lansdale to write down and deliver to us. These books are ones that I will re-read over and over again.
5. The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliot: Weird, wild stuff. Psychotic clowns, a carnival of the damned, and more. Confounding and terrifying with each passing page.
4. Under the Dome by Stephen King: Midway through this 1,000+ page behemoth, I really doubted it would crack the Top Ten. It was good….but that was all. Comparisons to King epics like The Stand were being made left and right, but this one wasn’t – and isn’t – quite there for me. The last 200 pages moved like a house a-fire, though, and really lifted my opinion of this one. But King, as he’s been known to do, let me down a bit with the ending and the explanation behind the events of the book. Not his worst, and still among the best I read this year, but within the King canon it’s barely a blip on the radar.
3. The Reach of Children by Tim Lebbon: Lebbon, another writer who deserves a wider audience, teaches us the true meaning of “haunted” with this hearbreaking examination of grief and loss. An amazing story.
2. The Two-Bear Mambo by Joe R. Lansdale: Almost made it to the #1 slot by virtue of the reasoning behind the title. Another great entry in Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard series.
1. Mucho Mojo by Joe R. Lansdale: What can I say? 2009 was owned by Lansdale, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine.

2010 promises lots of good reading as I catch up with stuff released in 2009, anticipate the new books to come, and work to break down the To-Be-Read mountain that has taken over my office closet.