The Memory Project
Off the top of my head, natural (Johnny Ketchum)

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It's the time for best lists. I've had the good fortune to appear on two -- Margaret Cannon, the Toronto Globe and Mail, Adam Wood, the Seattle Times. And Sarah Weinman chose Every Secret Thing as one of the books that defined the "aughts" in crime fiction. (Sarah's list is meant to be provocative, but I like the fact that she picked my first stand-alone, which I also believe represents a significant shift in my writing, which happened to be concurrent with a significant shift in my life as well. And, yes, I believe the two are related.)

I was asked to pick my favorite book of the year by Salon. As it sometimes happens, I picked my most recent favorite, the book freshest in my mind: Jess Walter's THE FINANCIAL LIVES OF POETS. No regrets, but I began thinking about other books I might have chosen:

In traditional format: THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU, Jonathan Troepper; BURY ME DEEP, Megan Abbott (read and blurbed by me in 2008, but it's an '09 title); JULIET NAKED, Nick Hornby.

On Kindle. (A note: I acquired a Kindle in spring '09, largely in hopes of surviving a flight to Australia. At first, I found most of the books I read on the Kindle a little meh, solid B's and B-pluses, and I began to wonder if the sameness of the text was harming the experience. But I think it had more to do with my buying habits: AT first, I bought books for the Kindle that I didn't care about owning, but was too impatient to wait for at the library. Now, if I love a book, I resolve to track down a used copy, which seems fair enough.) DARK PLACES, Gillian Flynn. BLAME, Michelle Huvenen

On audio. I listen to an iPod wherever I walk and I walk quite a bit. I have a preference for memoirs read by the writers themselves. Sometimes, I even listen to books I've already read. KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL, Anthony Bourdain, and AMERICAN ON PURPOSE, Craig Ferguson, fall into this category. Bourdain is my favorite memoirist/narrator to date; the book, good as it is, is enhanced by this reading. (Ferguson's book is terrific, but I listened to it for the sheer pleasure of hearing his accent.) Roy Blount Jr. read an abridged version of FEET ON THE STREET and while I normally avoid abridged books, Blount's voice makes it come alive. Steve Martin's BORN STANDING UP was interesting because Martin's reading seemed almost deliberately joyless, as if to reiterate: I am NOT a wild and crazy guy." But it's a wonderful artist's memoir, tracing the development of his act/aesthetic. Special mention goes to Sarah Vowell, for ASSASSINATION VACATION and THE PARTLY CLOUDY PATRIOT. I was listening to her books when I suffered a carpal tunnel relapse in France and I was in too much pain to sleep for several nights. Her books helped me cope.

This list will probably grow over the next few days, as I consult all my shelves and little piles of books. I have found a lot of '09 titles that I'm keen to read, but haven't gotten around to yet. But I bought them! Sometimes in more than one format.

Happy to hear anyone's best lists here, with one caveat: You cannot include anything I wrote on that list.

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