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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.

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