Well, I'm happy to report I've accomplished my goal of finishing 52 books this year, and with a month to spare!
Of course with a project like this I had to keep a record--to be honest, I wouldn't remember I'd read some books if I didn't write them down, which tells you of the impact of those books. Basically, I just kept a spreadsheet of the book details (title, author, genre, etc.), my personal rating, and maybe a brief note.
As far as my goal of being diverse, I'm reasonably satisfied, though I probably could have read a greater variety of nonfiction categories--I mostly stuck with memoirs, travel, essays, and humor. Another of my earlier goals was to purge my shelves, and I got rid of about half of the books I read that I owned (some were borrowed from the library or friends). Basically, anything that didn't get a 4-star rating or higher went in the canvas bin for donations/used book store trade ins.
Before I get to my favorite books of the year, I should briefly explain my rating system. There are half stars, but obviously those are for books that fall between.
* = repulsive, I actively disliked this book. Nothing got one star because I wouldn't have finished it, and only the books I finished counted.
** = Didn't like, regretted reading it. Only three books got a 2, two of which were slightly obscure 19th century children's *** classics.
= Okay, enjoyable read. Most books got this, which isn't surprising since I focused on books I wanted to read.
**** = Exceptional, I would read it again or recomend it to a friend. I'll note these in a moment.
***** = An all time favorite. None received this. There are only a handful of books I've ever considered a 5.
I should also note that my rating system is entirely subjective, naturally, and vastly skewed according to my personal preferences. I also weigh books in the context of their genres. For instance, a romance novel could get a 4, while Hemingway earned a 3. You can't compare carrots and cupcakes, each have their place and can only be compared to their kind.
So, without further rambling, here, in order of having read them, are the 4-star books of 2009 (a.k.a. those I would recomend):
Lord of Ice by Gaelen Foley (historical romance)
A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins (memoir/travel)
What I Did for Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (contemporary romance)
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott (memoir)
The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsely (personal finance)
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (fiction)
Wildlife Preserves by Gary Larson (humor)
The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks (historical fiction)
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (classic/science fiction)
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (memoir/essays)
Lord of Fire by Gaelen Foley (historical romance)
Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich (mystery)
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (YA/fantasy)
Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (YA/fantasy)
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris (memoir/essays)
Signspotting III by Doug Lansky(humor)
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti (historical fiction)
Bear Portraits by Jill Greenburg (photography)
In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck (classic/fiction)
I tried to be diverse in my reading. I work on commercial fiction, so I try to keep up on genre fiction (romance, mystery, science fiction, young adult, etc.) I also tried to get in a few classics, and for most it was evident to me why they've lasted.
So now I'll have to think about what adjustments to make for 2010. More books? More diversity? Hmmm....