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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What I'm Reading: Favorites of 2010

Okay, so I finally sucked it up and picked the 10 books I most enjoyed reading in 2010.  This year was harder than most for me.  So what follows is my "Year in Reading," a list of the 10 books which I loved for one reason or another.  The links are to my initial reviews on each title and any comments are further thoughts about the book.

Interestingly, I have almost all fiction this year (8 fictions vs only 2 nonfiction).  I think this has to do with the year I had though.  I spent most of 2010 researching and writing my new book and read a lot of horror and disturbing books.  Since I was engaged in writing about them, many of these stuck with me.  In fact, 5 (or half) of the books on this list ended up mentioned in my book in one way or another.

Finally, as I look at the overall list, in most of these books, things do not end well.  Thankfully it is only in 2 of them where the main protagonist end up dead, but in almost every book, there is a level of uneasiness, defeat, or unsettledness that ends each story.  But by no means does that mean these books are sad or upsetting.  Many are hopeful that better things are to come; we just might have to wait awhile.  If you use the links to click through to my reviews, you will get a better sense of what I mean.

The first 2 books listed were my absolute favorites, but after that it is a toss up depending on what mood you catch me in.  For the record, No. 11 is The Reapers Are the Angels.  See, I couldn't actually get the list to only 10 in the end. Enough analysis, here is the list:

  • The Passage by Justin Cronin: No other book this year has stayed with me longer than this 700+ page epic.  It is the best book I have read in a long time.  I still think about the story, the characters, and the beauty of the language.  It has it all: it is thought provoking, character-centered, steadily paced, has great action sequences, and is engrossing.
  • Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon:  I read this book twice this year, and loved it both times. Click here for the book discussion report. Back when I finished it in the beginning of January, I predicted that it would end up on this list.  I was right.  This is also a disturbing but thought-provoking look at what makes up our identities.  Await Your Reply was one of the most popular "best books" of 2009.
  • The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall.  Again this book stayed with me.  It was layered, well constructed, realistic, and fascinating. It was my second favorite book with a 2010 copyright.
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.  Creepy and historical, all wrapped up in a compelling story of a British family in decline during the post-WWII era.  Don't read this book however, if you like nicely closed and clearly defined endings.
  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. This is infinitely darker than his Thursday Next series, but if you don't mind that, this book is great.  I also read the highly touted The City and the City by China Mieville this year, and I thought Shades of Grey tackled the same issues, better.
  • Horns by Joe Hill.  I think Joe Hill could write a phone book and I would love it.  He has really taken over as THE horror author in the world right now.  What is so interesting about Horns however is that our protagonist is slowly turning into the Devil and although we are rooting for him, we do not trust him.  It makes for an interesting read.
  • The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.  I read this memoir for book club and can't stop thinking about it.  I loved how Walls recounts the crazy but true episodes from her life in a way that does not make the reader feel bad for the family's misfortune.  She infuses optimism and hope even when the family is starving and their house is falling down around them.  And as an added bonus, the writing is great too.
  • Solar by Ian McEwan.  This is a hysterical and dark novel in which the protagonist keeps making the worst decisions and the reader just sits back to watch it all collapse on him.  McEwan is a genius.
  • In the Woods by Tana French.  This is one I just finished after years of it being on my to read list.  I knew it was supposed to be good, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good it turned out to be.
  • The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik.  This is the shocker on my list, at least to me.  The reasons I read this book had nothing to do with RA principles, and the reasons I loved it were purely personal.  (use the link to see) But, I also loved how much this book taught me about birds, competitive birding, and the American landscape.  I read a few nonfiction books about America and nature this year (click here for 2 more), but this was the best of the bunch for many reasons. When I went back to look at my year of reading, it was only then that I realized how much this book stuck with me.

So that's the list.  Remember, you can see everything I have read and reviewed by using the What I'm Reading tag.  Also, for my list of the best horror titles of 2010, click here.

Feel free to continue to share your favorite books here on RA for All.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Discussion: Looking Toward 2011

Last week's Monday Discussion asked what the best book your read this year was.  Click here for the full comments, but here is a quick list of the responses:
Thanks to all the participants.  Now on to this week's discussion.  Let's stop looking back at 2010 and look ahead to 2011.  Publishers are already starting to advertise 2011 releases. I already have patrons coming in clamoring for titles that don't come out until the end of March.

So for today's Monday discussion, what titles are you most looking forward to?  Click here, here, here, here, here, here, and here to take a peak at some of the biggest titles due out this Winter and Spring.  These links go through April 2011 and include fiction and nonfiction.  I will compile your responses and post them next week.

For me, some of my favorite lighter mystery writers like Lisa Lutz and Alan Bradley have new books coming out in the next few months.  Jasper Fforde will also return with a new Thursday Next book in March, while Orson Scott Card is releases a new contemporary fantasy that I am excited about.  And I can't forget my own book which will be out sometime in late spring/early summer 2011 (click here for the most up to date information as it becomes available).  Use the links in the previous paragraph to check out what is coming and let the rest of us know what you are excited about.

Finally, for those who are interested, I also posted my list of the best horror books of 2010 on RA for All: Horror.  I will have my best list of everything I read in 2010 posted here at RA for All later this week.  I have the list whittled down to 12 and have to make 2 more painful cuts from the final list.  After today however, RA for All will go off of its regular Monday through Friday schedule until the New Year.  I will continue to post over the holidays just not on a reliably daily basis.

To follow any Monday Discussion, past or present click here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Top 10 Stories About Writing

I know I have posted the links to many end of the year best lists, but here is something a bit different.  Over on the USA Character Approved Blog, Ann Kingman, also of Books on the Nightstand, had this post about the Top 10 stories about writing.

Top 5 Reviewer Sins

Over on the New Dork Review of Books, Greg said his favorite post of 2010 was this one where he listed what he saw as the top 5 sins of reviewers.

The reason this was his favorite post was because of the discussion that followed in the form of a few dozen comments.  Check them out too.

As someone who has to read many, many (really too many) reviews for work, I appreciated his post.  As I was reading and chuckling, I realized I too have probably committed each sin in my reviews on this blog over the last 3+ years.

Oh well, if you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Best Lists to Check Out

A couple of interesting "Best Lists" came out in the last day or so that I wanted to highlight for you:

Remember, the full archive of book best lists is constantly being updated over at Largehearted Boy.

ALA Editions Blog

In this article in the LA Times last month, a prominent librarian questioned the place of gaming in the Public Library.

The new ALA Editions blog continued the discussion by asking their authors, including myself, to comment on the article.  Here is the link to the specific post.  Below, I have pulled out my quote/opinion:
Any program or service that brings people new to the library inside our doors presents an opportunity for us, the library staff, to show them everything else we have to offer them.  They can not know the breadth of information and materials we have if they never come through the doors to see it for themselves.
If you are interested in this issue, click through because the opinions are varied.  Also, keep an eye on this new blog from ALA Editions.  They are trying to provide professional information specifically geared toward all librarians.  I like following the blog because it gives me a glimpse into the entirety of library issues.  It is very easy to get too focused on your little niche and not consider the larger picture.  I am a better Reader Advisor if I keep up with the issues of the entire profession.  Signing up for the ALA Editions blog is an easy way to stay informed.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Scott Brick's Holiday Story

Love him or hate him, Scott Brick is one of the most famous audiobook readers out there today.  He is also technologically savvy and a big self promoter.  His blog is already one of my go to resources for audiobook readers.

Use this link to access Brick's post from yesterday where he tells the story of why he became an audiobook reader.   It is a holiday story about Scott, his great-grandfather, and the perfect Christmas gift.  You can use this link to read it for yourself instead.

Take a 17 minute break to bask in the Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Female Detectives

I saw this list of the Top 10 Female Detectives over on Lit Lists and it reminded me how many of my readers specifically do request mysteries with female leads.  The post also included another list of great female detectives here.

I thought I would share a few of my personal favs too.  So off the top of my head here are the female detectives I particularly enjoy with their authors in parentheses:

Cassie Maddox (Tana French)
Maisie Dobbs (Jacqueline Winspear)
Izzy Spellman (Lisa Lutz)
Thursday Next (Jasper Fforde)
Flavia de Luce (Alan Bradley)

Check out the lists above too for a much more comprehensive sampling of the great female detectives in books. Feel free to share some of your own favorites too.

Also, for the best resource for all things mystery, go to Stop You're Killing Me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Discussion: Favorite Book of 2010 Part 2

Last Week I asked for people's favorite book they read with a 2010 copyright.  Here are the books people mentioned on the blog and to me in person:
As a reminder, I will be withholding my opinion until the last week of the year when I will publish my top 10 best book I read this year in lieu of a Monday Discussion that week.  In the meantime, for an aggregated list of all of the best lists from all over the print and electronic media, click here.

This week I want to know what the best book you read this year was...period.  No restrictions here.  I have already had 2 nominations for The Glass Castle by staff here at the RA desk.  The BPL book groups read it this year, and Kathy and I loved it so much, we convinced most of the staff to read it too.  It will definitely make my top 10 to come out in 2 weeks.

So don't hold back.  Give me at least one and no more than three of the best books you read this year.  It doesn't matter when the book was published; in fact, the older the better.  Next week I will be asking you to look to the future.

You can always follow past Monday Discussions with this link.