(As mentioned in a previous post, I’m going to start using this space to keep track of my end of year book wrap-ups, so thought I’d share all the previous years I’ve done this first. And so, here is 2010)
I read over 60 books this year (stopped keeping track for a few months in spring, so this year’s count isn’t firm). Here were some of my favorites:
“The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson – Fan-bloody-tastic! Local author, too. Really interesting story following Chicago’s world’s fair and America’s first serial killer (a contemporary of Jack the Ripper who left a truly horrifying trail of bodies). Well paced, fascinating, and I feel like I learned a LOT!
“Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford -recommended by my aunt Mary. Was worried it would be Nicholas Sparks’ style sentimental garbage, but it wasn’t. A nice little story that raises some decent questions about identity and national policies. I loved reading about Seattle’s international district (in the 40’s and the 80’s)
“The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga – Sat on my shelf for months before I finally started it, but so glad I did. Caustic and sarcastic, darkly comic, great fun story set in modern India.
“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins – DEVOURED this in one sitting. The entire series is great, but this first was the most enjoyable.
“Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro – This was a slow starter for me, and I spent much of the novel struggling with it, as I wanted it to be different than it was. But once I accepted this lovely quiet story, I recognized its power and beauty. Good stuff.
“Room” by Emma Donaghue – Couldn’t catch my breath for the first half of this. Great read. The second half is not quite as good, but still a decent novel, and a very fast read.
“Red Seas Under Red Skies” by Scott Lynch – REALLY enjoying this fantasy series (this is the second book. First is “The Lies of Locke Lamora”) following a band of plucky thieves. It’s an old-timey Ocean’s Eleven-style heist romp set in a magic medieval fantasy land.
“Soulless” by Gail Carriger – more of a romance novel than I usually read. By all accounts I should have hated this. It feels so contrived out of focus groups and what’s “hot right now,” featuring steam punk, werewolves, vampires, our bluestocking heroine, etc. Much of the jokes seem forced, but it was a fast read that I found more enjoyable than I expected to, so it’s made the list. (Although the second book was boring!)
“The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi – GORGEOUS! Rich language, fascinating plot. I found this as part of my bookclub’s challenge (read a book about a brothel or the plague. This had BOTH!!). Some truly great futuristic writing (without all that boring space/technology stuff that normally bores me).
“Beat the Reaper” by Josh Bazell – Woah! What a wild wild ride. Darkly sarcastic and comic mystery thriller, exploring mafia hitmen and modern hospitals. Plus, I am a SUCKER for fiction with footnotes. Honestly, I have made 5 people read this so far, and they’ve all loved it (although if you are squeamish about violence and blood, maybe not the novel for you). I literally said, out loud, “Oh My God!” a few times, speaking to an empty room, especially during the end when the pacing/stakes ramp up even further.
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Steigg Larsson – I liked this, but didn’t LOVE it. Initially turned off/annoyed with it…felt like Law & Order: SVU, using violent sex crimes against women to titillate the reader. But learning that the Swedish title is “Men Who Hate Women” coupled with the domestic violence statistics throughout helped me to change my mind. A decent mystery, and Lisbeth is a truly fascinating character.
“The Lost City of Z” by David Grann – gripping non-fiction, great adventure story and travel memoir. Even my sister liked it, and she’s not obsessed with travel adventure writing the way that I am.
“The Lies of Locke Lamora” by Scott Lynch – LOVED this epic fantasy. There’s a huge shift in tone partway through, however. Begins as a fun adventure caper, and then suddenly the stakes are raised and “shit just got real.” I did enjoyed this very much.
“Cut to the Quick” by Kate Ross – Loved all four of Ross’ Julian Kestrel mysteries (this is the first). I am not generally a big fan of the mystery genre, but these are great fun and pretty well written.
“Will Grayson, Will Grayson” by John Green & David Levithan – Some seriously great Young Adult reading, following the lives of two teenagers named Will Grayson. Characters felt very true.
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie – I am almost always a fan of Alexie, but this is truly truly wonderful. Made both of my parents read it, and they both LOVED it, as well. Truth!
“The Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists” by Gideon Defoe – This series is so so silly, and it makes me very happy. Definitely not for everyone, but if you like silly things and/or pirates, you must read these.
“World War Z” by Max Brooks – Put off reading this because zombies feel played out already, and while Brooks’ “Survival Guide” made for an entertaining idea, it really was a GUIDE and made for dry reading at times. But on the recommendation of some facebook pals, I gave this a shot. SO glad I did. Really effective pacing and story telling. Truly great stuff.
“Lord of Emperors” by Guy Gavriel Kay – One of my favorite fantasy authors, with a talent for epic stories. 2nd (in a series of 2) modeled after the Byzantine Empire. The other wonderful thing about him (in addition to his great characterization and intricate plotting) is that many of his stories are STAND ALONE books (so rare in fantasy genre). Even if a story is multiple books, it’s only 2 or 3 total. Very very good.