Stephen King’s Top 10 Books of 2009
How can it be a year already since I posted Stephen King’s Top 10 Books of 2008?!
The year has zoomed by and it is time for his Top 10 Books of 2009 . (Note: The books weren’t all published during the past year. These are his choices from the books he’s read.) Since we seem to be hurtling through time anyhow, without further ado, here are Stephen King’s Top 10 Books of 2009 as published on EW.com.
King says: Sandford’s mystery-suspense novels are rich explorations of what it is to be a plain old American guy. This tale is rich, satisfying, and frequently hilarious.
Book description: John Sanford’s second adventure of Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator Virgil Flowers. Virgil’s always been known for having a somewhat active, er, social life, but he’s probably not going to be getting too many opportunities for that during his new case. While competing in a fishing tournament in a remote area of northern Minnesota, he gets a call from Lucas Davenport to investigate a murder at a nearby resort, where a woman has been shot while kayaking. The resort is for women only, a place to relax, get fit, recover from plastic surgery, commune with nature, and while it didn’t start out to be a place mostly for those with Sapphic inclinations, that’s pretty much what it is today.
Which makes things all the more complicated for Virgil, because as he begins investigating, he finds a web of connections between the people at the resort, the victim, and some local women, notably a talented country singer. The more he digs, the more he discovers the arrows of suspicion that point in many directions, encompassing a multitude of motivations: jealousy, blackmail, greed, anger, fear. Then he finds that this is not the first murder, that there was a second, seemingly unrelated one, the year before. And that there’s about to be a third, definitely related one, any time now. And as for the fourth . . . well, Virgil better hope he can catch the killer before that happens. Because it could be his own.
King says: Bad boys Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko decide to cut themselves in on a big lottery win by taking the Boatwright family hostage. When Green isn’t making you laugh, he’s making you bite your nails down to the bleeding point.
Book description: The Boatwrights just won 318 million dollars in the GeorgiaState lottery. It’s going to be the worst day of their lives.
When Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko pull up at a convenience store off I-95 in Georgia, their only thought is to fix a leaky tire and be on their way again to Florida-away from their dull Ohio tech-support jobs. But this happens to be the store from which a 318,000,000 million dollar Jackpot ticket has just been sold — and when a pretty clerk accidentally reveals to Shaw the identity of the winning family, he hatches a ferociously audacious scheme: He and Romeo will squeeze the family for half their prize.
That night, he visits the Boatwright home and takes the family hostage, while Romeo patrols the streets nearby, prepared to murder the Boatwrights’ loved ones at any sign of resistance. At first, the family offers none. But Shaw’s plot depends on maintaining constant fear-merciless, unfaltering terror-and soon, under the pressure, everyone’s sanity begins to unravel . . .
At once frightening, comic, and suspenseful, Ravens is a wholly original and utterly compelling novel from one of our most talented writers.
King says: If you’re not hip to rambling adventurer Jack Reacher, you’ve missed a mother lode of escapist entertainment. In the wonderfully tense opening, Reacher spots a late-night subway-rider who looks like a suicide bomber. The thrills build from there. Child’s writing is lean and wiry.
Book description: New York City. Two in the morning. A subway car heading uptown. Jack Reacher, plus five other passengers. Four are okay. The fifth isn’t.
In the next few tense seconds Reacher will make a choice–and trigger an electrifying chain of events in this gritty, gripping masterwork of suspense by #1 New York Times bestseller Lee Child.
Susan Mark was the fifth passenger. She had a lonely heart, an estranged son, and a big secret. Reacher, working with a woman cop and a host of shadowy feds, wants to know just how big a hole Susan Mark was in, how many lives had already been twisted before hers, and what danger is looming around him now.
Because a race has begun through the streets of Manhattan in a maze crowded with violent, skilled soldiers on all sides of a shadow war. Susan Mark’s plain little life was critical to dozens of others in Washington, California, Afghanistan . . . from a former Delta Force operator now running for the U.S. Senate, to a beautiful young woman with a fantastic story to tell–and to a host of others who have just one thing in common: They’re all lying to Reacher. A little. A lot. Or maybe just enough to get him killed.
In a novel that slams through one hairpin surprise after another, Lee Child unleashes a thriller that spans three decades and gnaws at the heart of America . . . and for Jack Reacher, a man who trusts no one and likes it that way, it’s a mystery with only one answer–the kind that comes when you finally get face-to-face and look your worst enemy in the eye.
King says: The last years of Charles Dickens, as narrated by his increasingly unstable colleague Wilkie Collins. This is a beautifully realized historical novel, but it’s also a modern tale that chronicles the descent of a great mind into dope-fueled madness.
Book description: On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, 53-year-old Charles Dickens–at the height of his powers and popularity, the most famous and successful novelist in the world and perhaps in the history of the world–hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever.
Did Dickens begin living a dark double life after the accident? Were his nightly forays into the worst slums of London and his deepening obsession with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens, the use of lime pits to dissolve bodies, and a hidden subterranean London mere research . . . or something more terrifying?
Just as he did in The Terror, Dan Simmons draws impeccably from history to create a gloriously engaging and terrifying narrative. Based on the historical details of Charles Dickens’s life and narrated by Wilkie Collins (Dickens’s friend, frequent collaborator, and Salieri-style secret rival), Drood explores the still-unsolved mysteries of the famous author’s last years and may provide the key to Dickens’s final, unfinished work: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Chilling, haunting, and utterly original, DROOD is Dan Simmons at his powerful best.
King says: Plenty of people saw the naked woman jump to her death, but professor Joe O’Loughlin discovers the lady was afraid of heights. Someone out there has become an architect of suicide, and soon he’s got his sights set on O’Loughlin¹s family. The most suspenseful book I read all year.
Book description: In Michael Robotham’s latest thriller, psychologist Joe O’Loughlin—the appealing hero of Suspect—tries to prevent a suicide and finds himself locked in a deadly duel with a very clever killer.
Joe O’Loughlin is on familiar territory—standing on a bridge high above a flooded gorge, trying to stop a distraught woman from jumping. She is naked, wearing only high-heel shoes, sobbing into a cell phone. Suddenly, she turns to him and whispers, “You don’t understand,” and lets go. Joe is shattered by the suicide and haunted by his failure to save the woman, until her teenage daughter finds him and reveals that her mother would never have committed suicide—not like that. She was terrified of heights. Compelled to investigate, Joe is soon obsessed with discovering who was on the other end of the phone. What could have driven her to commit such a desperate act? Whose voice? What evil?
Having devoted his career to repairing damaged minds, Joe must now confront an adversary who tears them apart: a man who searches for the cracks in a person’s psyche and claws his fingers inside, destroying what makes them whole.
With pitch-perfect dialogue, believable characters, and intriguingly unpredictable plot twists, Shatter is guaranteed to keep even the most avid thriller readers riveted long into the night.
King says: This surreal novel can’t be described; it has to be experienced in all its crazed glory. Suffice it to say it concerns what may be the most horrifying real-life mass-murder spree of all time: as many as 400 women killed in the vicinity of Juarez, Mexico. Given this as a backdrop, the late Bolano paints a mural of a poverty-stricken society that appears to be eating itself alive. And who cares? Nobody, it seems.
Book description: Three academics on the trail of a reclusive German author; a New York reporter on his first Mexican assignment; a widowed philosopher; a police detective in love with an elusive older woman—these are among the searchers drawn to the border city of Santa Teresa, where over the course of a decade hundreds of women have disappeared.
King says: 1,001 children are born in India at midnight on Aug. 15, 1947; this epic social comedy follows one of them through a lifetime of adventures worthy of Dickens.
Book description: Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the very moment of India’s independence. Greeted by fireworks displays, cheering crowds, and Prime Minister Nehru himself, Saleem grows up to learn the ominous consequences of this coincidence. His every act is mirrored and magnified in events that sway the course of national affairs; his health and well-being are inextricably bound to those of his nation; his life is inseparable, at times indistinguishable, from the history of his country. Perhaps most remarkable are the telepathic powers linking him with India’s 1,000 other “midnight’s children,” all born in that initial hour and endowed with magical gifts.
This novel is at once a fascinating family saga and an astonishing evocation of a vast land and its people–a brilliant incarnation of the universal human comedy. Twenty-five years after its publication, Midnight’s Children stands apart as both an epochal work of fiction and a brilliant performance by one of the great literary voices of our time.
King says: Only Dream City could produce cops as cool as Flotsam and Jetsam (surfer cops), Nate Weiss (the aspiring-actor cop), and Dana Vaughn (the cynical, fortysomething mom-cop). The best of Wambaugh’s Hollywood Station novels.
Book description: There’s a saying at Hollywood station that the full moon brings out the beast–rather than the best–in the precinct’s citizens. One moonlit night, LAPD veteran Dana Vaughn and “Hollywood” Nate Weiss, a struggling-actor-turned cop, get a call about a young man who’s been attacking women. Meanwhile, two surfer cops known as Flotsam and Jetsam keep bumping into an odd, suspicious duo–a smooth-talking player in dreads and a crazy-eyed, tattooed biker. No one suspects that all three dubious characters might be involved in something bigger, more high-tech, and much more illegal. After a dizzying series of twists, turns, and chases, the cops will find they’ve stumbled upon a complex web of crime where even the criminals can’t be sure who’s conning whom.
King says: Thank God I read the novel before seeing the movie, which is a pale imitation in spite of great acting. Set in 1955, Road focuses on a suburban couple living what looks like the American postwar dream. But Frank Wheeler’s fantasy life as an intellectual rebel is just a hollow pose, and when April makes the mistake of believing he’s serious about busting out of the rut they’ve dug for themselves, tragedy ensues. Skip the DVD; read the book.
Book description: In the hopeful 1950s, Frank and April Wheeler appear to be a model couple: bright, beautiful, talented, with two young children and a starter home in the suburbs. Perhaps they married too young and started a family too early. Maybe Frank’s job is dull. And April never saw herself as a housewife. Yet they have always lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. But now that certainty is about to crumble.
With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other, but their best selves.
King says: This is a terrifying, engrossing ghost story set in the English countryside not long after World War II, but it’s so much more. Although told in straightforward prose, this is a deeply textured and thoughtful piece of work. Several sleepless nights are guaranteed.
Book description: In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners – mother, son and daughter – are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own.
But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.