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The best books of 2009
Asia Literary Review Editor Chris Wood gives his picks for the best books of 2009
The Asia Literary Review is an acclaimed publication showcasing the works of new and established writers across Asia.
Editor Chris Wood has played no small part in the Review's success and in this three part interview with CNNGo Wood shares his favorite books of 2009, his picks for the best books of the past decade, and what authors to look out for in 2010. Stay tuned for parts two and three later this week.
Chris Wood's best books of 2009
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin.
Chris Wood says: A fabulous collection of interlinked short stories set in Pakistan.
Amazon reader review: "If you were a fan of A Fine Balance (one of my favorite books), or The God of Small Things, I can *guarantee* that you will love this book. Like those great novels, this one can be both heartbreaking and funny, and many times you will be smiling at some amusing passage only to be devastated by the next."
The Vagrants by Yiyun Li.
Chris Wood says: A bleak account of provincial life in 1979 China.
Amazon reader review: "I've been an avid fan of Ha Jin until Yiyun Li came along. For writings on modern China, Yiyun is simply the best. After A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, I was afraid that any follow-up act would disappoint. Instead, The Vagrants shone brilliantly."
The Last War by Ana Menendez.
Chris Wood says: A photojournalist in Istanbul waits to join her war-correspondent husband in Iraq.
Amazon reader review: "Reading The Last War is like a voyeur's journey into the thoughts and feelings of a complex modern woman. It has a surreal feel and the insights and observations drew me back for more time and time again. The first 90% or so of the book was an intoxicating journey. But in the final bit, everything gets tied up in a neat package which is somehow deeply unfulfilling. Honestly I'm not sure if I would recommend reading this book or not. Maybe the thing to do would be to read everything up until the ending bits and then just close the book."
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.
Chris Wood says: Ghost story set in a dilapidated English mansion. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Amazon reader review: "Sarah Waters has turned out the kind of haunted house story that I used to love to read when I was little. It's like she took a delicious little kid's ghost story and turned it into one for grownups. This is a creepy tale in a lot of ways, good ways. I felt sorry for the people affected and I loved the ending. If you're not afraid of things that go bump in the night, read this book and you will be."
Once The Shore by Paul Yoon.
Chris Wood says: Beautiful, intricate stories set on a South Korean island.
Amazon reader review: "I finally finished Paul Yoon's collection of short stories. It took a few months to read, mainly because I did not want the reading experience to end. This collection was amazing. Yoon writes with such graceful, elgant prose. His voice and control over his characters is amazing to read. All the stories were previously published and it's easy to see why. I'm very anxious and excited for more of Yoon's fiction. Lets hope he has a book coming out soon, but if not, I can and will turn back to the collection. This is a book you need to buy. Enjoy!"
Solo by Rana Dasgupta.
Chris Wood says: An unexpected and epic tale. The 20th and 21st centuries through the life of a blind 100-year-old Bulgarian man.
Amazon reader review: "This novel manages to cover a lot of territory for its relatively short length of just over 350 pages, with rich portrayals of its main and secondary characters. The differences between the first and second movements are quite striking, and it took me quite awhile to get used to the flow of the second half. Once I did, the novel regained its hold on me. This would have been a worthy nominee for the Booker Prize, and it would have made my shortlist had it been selected. Highly recommended."
Columbine by David Cullum.
Chris Wood says: Ten years on from the 1999 school massacre, how two troubled boys terrorized a town.
Amazon reader review: "To rate five stars, a book should be memorable, thoroughly researched, and well-written. The reader should be absorbed into the book to the point that he/she and the author have a "shared experience" and the reader should be changed in some way by that experience.
Dave Cullin succeeds on all counts. Columbine is a riveting narrative. He addresses many myths that the press created in the first moments after the tragedy and that most of us still believe. He also defends his premise -- that Eric Harris wasn't bullied, but a bully and a psychopath -- very well with ample substantiation. I recommend this book."
The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream by Patrick Radden Keef.
Chris Wood says: The gangs behind the ill-fated 1993 voyage of The Golden Venture and it’s human cargo.
Washington post quote: "This is one of the freshest accounts of modern-day migration I've read, one filled with moral ambiguity, one that doesn't pretend to have the answers, one that in these times feels like essential reading."
The Story of My Assassins by Tarun J Tejpal.
Chris Wood says: Another story from the underbelly of India, but more deeply layered than those of Vikas Swarup and Aravind Adiga.
Outlook Weekly quote: "A journey to the depths of a planned crime is also an empathetic descent into the bowels of the underclass."
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie.
Chris Wood says: An Indian novelist moves beyond her national boundaries and grapples with modern history from Nagasaki to Guantanamo.
Amazon reader review: "I recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and world events. Readers of literary fiction will enjoy this poetic story with the universal themes of humanity and characters finding a way to bring satisfaction to their individual lives"