In 2009, we spent so much time putting together our retrospective of the last decade (click here for our "Best of the 2000s" series) that we almost forgot about all the memorable things that happened this year. Well, 2010 ain't here yet, so we're spending the last week looking back at all our favorite stuff, including albums, movies, girls, video games, sports moments, books, style trends, and websites. You might not realize it from our occasionally juvenile sense of humor, but the Complex staff is actually quite literate. Quite! This year we poured over everything from graffiti black books to revealing drug exposés. Read about all our favorites in the Top 25 Books of 2009 countdown...


#25: Piecebook: Reloaded

AUTHORS: Sacha Jenkins and Dave VIllorente

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: Complex homies Sacha Jenkins and and Dave "CHINO BYI" Villorente go back to the well for a follow-up peek into graf artists' black books. Spray it again, fam! We loved the concept so much that we collaborated with the book's authors on our recent model shoot.

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#24: The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?

AUTHOR: Padgett Powell

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: Yes, it's written all in questions. And yes, at first that might remind you of one of those Barnes & Noble impulse-buy "conversation starter" card sets. But trust us, stick with it.

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#23: Momofuku

AUTHOR: David Chang

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: We extolled the virtues of David Chang back in our '08 Style and Design issue, and now you can (try to) cook like the man at home. Just make sure you're all stocked up on pork and hoisin.

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#22: Changing My Mind

AUTHOR: Zadie Smith

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: A collection of critical essays may not be your idea of a casual read, but Zadie Smith never fails to be compelling and her unique take on literature, politics, and pop culture will give you something to think (and talk) about while you shake off seasonal affective disorder.

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#21: Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb

AUTHOR: R. Crumb

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: The legendary undeground comic artist brings his unique style to the book of Genesis. And when we say the book of Genesis, we mean the entire thing, with every biblical word printed alongside Crumb's quirky illustrations. Even if you're not Christian, it's one hell of a story.

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HIT NEXT TO SEE THE REST OF THE COUNTDOWN! (BOOKS #20 - #16)

 


#20: Vans Off The Wall: Stories of Sole from Vans Originals

AUTHORS: Doug Palladini

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: With in-depth interviews with everyone from Alva to Caballero to Shaun Palmer, and stunning photography to match, the Vans crew keeps things off the wall and on the shelf.

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#19: Chronic City

AUTHOR: Jonathan Lethem

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: From the author of the peerless Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress of Solitude comes a weird one: A grown-up child actor and a brilliant weedhead, along with a supporting cast of only-in-New-York oddballs, crawl throughout a Manhattan that you'll almost recognize. Disorienting, meandering, and essentially Lethemian. Is that a word? Nah, we just made it up.

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#18: The Onion Presents: Our Front Pages: 21 Years of Greatness, Virtue, and Moral Rectitude from America's Finest News Source

AUTHOR: The Onion

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: There's only one newspaper front page that's got better keepsake value than the New York Times, and this is it. 21 years of Onion splashes in one magical collection.

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#17: Evening's Empire: The Story of My Father's Murder

AUTHOR: Zachary Lazar

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: For his previous book, 2008's Sway, Lazar gave the Rolling Stones and the Manson Family the historical fiction treatment. This time around, he turns his novelist's eye to the true story of the murder of his father, a Phoenix accountant who got caught up with the Mafia and shady land dealings in the '70s. Yeah, it's a little heavy for the holidays, but it can't be all chestnuts roasting on an open fire, right?

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#16: Raymond Carver: Collected Stories (Library of America)

AUTHOR: Raymond Carver

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: If you haven't read the short-story master since Lit 101, it's time to come back. The new Library of America edition brings together all of his works, from collections to one-offs, to make the one Raymond Carver volume that...well, that closes the book on Raymond Carver. Also features some early versions of seminal works (ayo!) so you can read him before the editors got their lousy mitts on him.

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HIT NEXT TO SEE THE REST OF THE COUNTDOWN! (BOOKS #15 - #11)

 


#15: Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson

AUTHORS: Will Haywood

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: Forget these young gunners—back in the day, shit was all about the man who made us remember why boxing is called "the sweet science." He managed himself, negotiated his own contracts, and won 200 fights. Try that on for size, Zab Judah!

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#14: Inherent Vice

AUTHOR: Thomas Pynchon

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: The metafiction master came back in '09 and dropped a bomb on y'all. Not a ridiculously structured exercise in patience, but a...detective novel? Yes, Pynchon pulled some genre fiction out of his bag—or at least as close as he gets to it—and like nearly everything else he's done, we're all the better for it.

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#13: Eating the Dinosaur

AUTHORS: Chuck Klosterman

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: Do you have a beard and clunky glasses and a plaid shirt and have a lot of quirky opinions about pop culture—specifically, waxing rhapsodically about toys and cartoons and glam rock as a means of elevating them to works of serious art? You do? Well, shit. But still, you don't write about it as well as Chuck Klosterman does! His latest collection touches on eight million more seemingly disparate things, from Ralph Sampson to Cloverfield, as a means of making surprisingly nuanced points about our world.

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#12: Through the Wire: The Words and Lyrics of Kanye West

AUTHORS: Kanye West and Bill Plympton

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: If you don't already know Bill Plympton's animation style from back when MTV still played videos, it's time to get familiar—and we can't think of a better way than this, with his illustrations paired with Kanye's lyrics (and various tidbits about what they mean).

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#11: The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy

AUTHORS:Bill Simmons

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: Oh, Sports Guy: As much as you can be a pain in the ass, we still fux with you. Plus, 700 pages of decent, funny basketball writing is worth any price (even after stripping out the rhapsodic Celtics homerism).

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HIT NEXT TO SEE THE REST OF THE COUNTDOWN! (BOOKS #10 - #6)

 


#10: Await Your Reply

AUTHOR: Dan Chaon

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: Part dark thriller, part literary special, Chaon's latest plumbs his favorite existential grounds—memory and identity—for a story that, frankly, we're not so sure how to describe. But it's well-crafted (so well-crafted, in fact, that it may take a little while to figure out what's going on), and beautifully written, so do yourself a favor and read.

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#9: Under the Dome

AUTHOR: Stephen King

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: An invisible force field seals off an entire town? Think The Simpsons Movie, but creepier (and no Harry Plopper!). King started working on the book more than 30 years ago, and it shows. It might be a hernia waiting to happen, but it's worth it.

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#8: Sag Harbor

AUTHORS: Colson Whitehead

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: The coming-of-age novel might not be Whitehead's most challenging read (seek out The Intuitionist or John Henry Days for that), but that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile. Autobiographical, meandering, and nostalgia-filmed, it relives one teenager's beach-house summer and manages to extract truths about race, class, and hip-hop. But not in a way that's painful (seek out KRS-One's recent work for that).

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#7: Bloom County: The Complete Library, Volume One: 1980-1982

AUTHORS: Berke Breathed

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: As scathing as Doonesbury used to be, while still being accessible to idiots like us. Join up with Opus, Hodgepodge, and the rest of the cynical gang in their earliest days, as they lay waste to sacred cows and speak truth to power. And maybe indulge in a little slapstick here and there. What, you're too good for physical humor? ACK, bitches.

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#6: Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

AUTHOR: Robin D.G. Kelley

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: Give the drummer some? Sure, but we'll give the pianist more (ayo!), thanks to a new perspective of the jazz icon's life that doubles as a thorough examination of the NYC jazz scene mid-century. Kelley's exhaustive research not only paints a fully rendered portrait of a man with as many demons as gifts, but also makes for one of the most readable musical bios in some time.

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HIT NEXT TO SEE THE REST OF THE COUNTDOWN! (BOOKS #5 - #1)

 


#5: The Financial Lives of the Poets

AUTHORS: Jess Walter

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: Newspaper reporter loses his job, bets it all on a website that goes belly-up, and has to resort to selling weed. Damn, hit close to home much? We keed, we keed. Heftier than it sounds, but just as entertaining.

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#4: Methland

AUTHOR: Nick Reding

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: Speed kills, but meth fucking destroys. It's a fact everyone knows, but one which journalist Reding nonetheless drives home with an exhaustive and immersive account of one rural Iowa town's battle with the drug (aka "the devil's scrotal dandruff"). It's not as cut-and-dry as one would believe—the town has in fact rebounded somewhat after its methedemic—but it's harrowing nonetheless.

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#3: Big Machine

AUTHOR: Victor LaValle

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: The dude behind Slapboxing With Jesus and The Ecstatic came through with a tour de crazytown. Race, cults, disaster, and the supernatural, from New England to the Yay Area. Make sense? No? Good. Let the 40-year-old janitor protagonist walk you through it and everything'll be straight.

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#2: Parker: The Hunter

AUTHORS: Darwyn Cooke and Richard Stark

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: We already co-signed the original 1962 noir classic in our Best Summer Books list from earlier this year, but now that the graphic novel adaptation has come out, you no longer have the excuse of "things without pictures make me cry."

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#1: Let the Great World Spin

AUTHOR: Colum McCann

THE COMPLEX CO-SIGN: When Times Square is home to the world's biggest Toys R Us, it's easy to forget how jacked up NYC was in the 1970s. McCann takes us back to a time when Vietnam was wrapping up and innocence was all but impossible to come by.

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