Friday, January 7, 2011

The Top 10 I Read in 2010

In a prior blog post, I promised my list of the Top 10 books I read this past year. Everyone seems to have put together a Top 10 list, and maybe you're tired of them, maybe not. But there's something satisfying about making (and sharing) lists, so herewith, the top 10 books I read (not necessarily published) in 2010 (in no particular order):

1. A Confederacy of Dunces. How I made it all these years without reading John Kennedy Toole's classic comic novel is a mystery. I suspect, after talking with a colleague, that it might have been the cover. I like to think I don't judge books by their covers, but this cover is just awful. Anyway, I've made up for not reading it all these years by subsequently recommending it to everyone I know.

2. Room by Emma Donohue. Quite simply, the best book I read this year. I read it through in one sitting.

3. Freedom. There was a lot of early praise for Jonathan Franzen's latest...and then the criticism began. I thought it was great (but then I loved The Corrections too).

4. The Most Beautiful Book in the World. The novellas in this collection by Eric Emmanuel-Schmitt are surprising and uplifting, illuminating situations that are not always what they seem. The only story that seems out of place is the title story - interestingly, the one that attracted me to the book in the first place (see: judging book by its cover, er.. title)

5. I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang (by Robert Burns) was originally published in 1932 (and made into a classic movie starring Paul Muni), and is one of the most remarkable stories of wrongful conviction, punishment, escape, punishment, escape...

6. One Day by David Nicholls. A "Hollywood-ready" {says Publishers Weekly} romantic comedy. Let's just say it was a guilty pleasure. And I'm betting that the book will be better than the movie, anyway.

7. As someone who used to spend a lot of time in airports in a previous life, I really enjoyed Alain de Botton's A Week at the Airport. de Botton was invited to be Heathrow's writer in residence and his witty and perceptive observations on airport life are beautifully rendered.

8. In A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan changes the narration from character to character and jumps back and forth across decades in a story that sometimes confuses. But don't let that put you off, because as the novel progresses, you are increasingly drawn to these characters and their intersecting lives.

9. David Goodwillie's debut novel American Subversive is a fascinating characterization of a home grown terrorist and he weaves this into a great psychological thriller that also involves a jaded political blogger who happens to stumble into the story of a terrorist plot.

10. I don't read a lot of mysteries, but Tana French's Faithful Place drew me in as much for the characters at the center of it - the estranged Irish family of cop Frank Mackey (introduced in French's earlier mystery The Likeness) - as much for the story itself.

and some of the others...The Lovers by Vendela Vida, American Music by Jane Mendelsohn, The End of Wall Street by Roger Lowenstein.

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