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    The Guardian blog takes a look at the best books of 2009: the year in which the Man Booker winner -- Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall -- became a surprise, best-selling must-read (and the year in which, with the superb Strangers, Anita Brookner wrote yet another perfect novel that passed everybody by!)

    In fiction, Wolf Hall was the biggie of the year, in every sense. After almost universal adulation from critics, Hilary Mantel's 650-pager was favourite for the Booker from the off, and brought off the rare feat for a favourite of actually carrying off the prize. It could yet "do the double" and win the Costa. Some big names delivered the goods this year -- Coetzee with Summertime [my personal fave -- ed!], Toibin with Brooklyn and Atwood with The Year of the Flood -- and short stories did well, with Petina Gappah taking the Guardian first book award. Sarah Waters's ghostly Little Stranger was a winner for me (though not as much as The Night Watch) while Audrey Niffenegger's eagerly awaited follow-up to The Time-Traveller's Wife, the ghostly Her Fearful Symmetry was a disappointment -- curiously gripping for about three-quarters considering nothing much happens to the vaguely ludicrous characters, then gripping in the last quarter only because one wants to see if she can rescue the frankly ridiculous plot developments she suddenly introduces towards the end (she can't). Kamila Shamsie's Burnt Shadows and David Vann's Legend of a Suicide were both mesmerisingly good.

    Non-fiction highlights were Chris Mullin's excellent political dairies, View from the Foothills, and the continuation of David Kynaston's fascinating social history, this time taking us through the 1950s with Family Britain. 2009 was arguably not a particularly strong year for biography but it did see John Carey's William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies kick up a minor storm with revelations about the novelist's teenage years.

    In poetry, Don Paterson's Rain was the standout volume while there were excellent offerings from Alice Oswald, Ruth Padel, Hugo Williams and Christopher Reid.

    Children's fiction had a good year. The second part of Patrick Ness's trilogy, which he began with the award-winning The Knife of Never Letting Go, continued strongly with The Ask and The Answer. Margo Lanagan's caused a stir with her marvellous and controversial (you have to love a book the Daily Mail describes as "sordid wretchedness") Tender Morsels. I also loved Charlie Higson's The Enemy, a zombie thriller with a refreshingly positive take on teenagers (more...)

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