January 15, 2011

2010: The Year in Books

Despite my Slow Start, I made it to 27 28 (forgot one). My best showing since I started keeping track. And, this year feels like it's got potential, so I'm going to challenge myself to 30. Any suggestions?

1. The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood. Awesomely complex characters riddled by religion/society/scars from other humans. Primarily strong women, which is, of course, if repeated throughout many books, a flaw, as an author should be more balanced with well developed characters of all genders, but much like most male authors throughout history who have favored their male characters, hers is a common and easily overlooked flaw. Also, there are lyrics of song and worship that reminded me of Blake, one of my favorite poets. In the afterward, she noted Blake as one of her inspirations. Overall, this was one of the most enjoyable books I read this year.

2. The Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferris. No doubt you've heard of it and some of the many opinions it has incited. I found its perspectives interesting -- some useful, but most ridiculous. Good preparation for going out on my own as a solo.

3. World Without End, Ken Follett. Masterful storytelling -- twisting and turning plot with complex, flawed, but loveable characters. Excellent historical research.

4. The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood. Amazing, painful, at times chuckle-worthy, but at all times clear descriptions of raw humans and their wrinkles and bows, set firmly in the details of the mid-20th century.

5. Tales From the Pancake Guy, Jamis MacNiven. Hilarious insider stories from Silicon Valley, Berkeley in the 60s and the random travels of a true adventurer (and likely a tall-tale-teller, but a great one).

6. Shanghai Baby, Wei Hui. A crazy tale of a foreign life lived by a young female author in a foreign city, but told in a way that felt eerily familiar. It made me want to spend some time in Shanghai.

7. Zorro, Isabel Allende. A mythical lyrical tale of adventure in the early 19th century combining the Spanish missions in California, Native American magic, gypsies, fencing, pirates, secret societies, unrequited love, prison breaks, travel across the world, and more. A delightful escape.

8. Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver. A multi-character narative told from the interwoven perspectives of a Mountain woman, an aging farmer, and a "city-girl" widower. An impressively researched biologically fact-heavy story of life and interdependencies. One of my favorite books of the year.

9. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver. As E said, "You've got a complete girl-crush on Barbara Kingsolver." This book tells the story of an adventure after my own heart. As a gardner and food enthusiast, I couldn't agree with her more. It was entertaining, educational, and inspirational.

10. Farm city: The Education of an Urban Farmer, Novella Carpenter.

11. Girl With a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier. Simply written sentences told a bold and intriguing tale. A study in character development -- I could not help but fall for and root for the heroine.

12. Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, Geneen Roth. Interesting combination of Zen and Yogic philsophies as applied to women's compulsive eating issues. While I had difficulty relating to the majority of the eating issues displayed by the author and her clients, I was surprised as the application of philosophies I have come to embrace in the face of my own patterns -- it helped me understand that the zen and yogic philosophies are, at their core, about how we, as humans, can learn not to hide from our true nature.

13. The Other Boleyn Girl, Phillipa Gregory. An excellent tour of pre-Elizabethan British Courts and the ridiculousnous that ruled the world therefrom. Also, a great life story of one who loves despite the power struggles that make it unintelligent to do so.

14. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseni. A poignant love story that graphically depicts the fate of women in Afghanistan.

15. The World to Come, Dara Horn. A mystical tale of birth, death, life, love and art built on Jewish, Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian and American culture.

16. Halting State, Charles Stross. A mystery science fiction novel set in Scotland post UK economic meltdown setting forth a super-speedy tale of esponage, crimes perpetrated in virtual reality, and one possibility of the future of economics and trusted computing.

17. The Gold Coast, Nelson Demille. A novel in the Gatsby Tradition regarding the fading gentry of Long Island's Gold Coast, their social mores and traditions, and how they mix and react with the only new money that can buy them out: mafia, foreign royalty, and others.

18. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Steig Larssen. A gripping crime trilogy with a whiplash-inducing plot focused on drawing attention to violence and hatred against women by men.

19. The Girl Who Played with Fire, Steig Larssen.

20. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, Steig Larssen.

21. A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson. A lighthearted skim of the little bit humans have learned the development of life on earth. Informative and funny.

22. Gang Leader For a Day, Sudhir Venkatesh. A fascinating look inside the daily life of one of Chicago's largest projects and the various power brokers within it.

23. Tinkers, Paul Harding. A woven story of fathers and sons, told in non-linear time, and sad but precise poetic language.

24. The Solace of Open Spaces, Gretel Ehrlich. Language paints the rugged sadness and lonely beauty of Wyoming and how the space can heal.

25. Woman Hollering Creek, Sandra Cisneros. Beautiful Vingnettes. Strong Language. Often painful Stories, achingly told.

26. Kate Vaiden, Reynolds Price. Best female character I've ever read written by a male author. An orphan due to tragedy tells her story of survival and the choices she made in hopes of reuniting with the son she gave up for adoption 40 years ago.

27. Run with the Horsemen, Ferrol Sams. Languid biography of growing up in the South interspersed with vivid displays of racial tension and race/class roles all told from the view of a child who's known nothing else.

28. A Civil Action, Jonathan Harr. A gripping real-life tale of a self-destructing lawyer chasing a complex toxic tort case.


Arvay said...

We have so much overlap in our reading! :)

A said...

Loved the language of Tinkers, if not the actual story.

bt said...

Arvay: Huh... I wonder how that happened. [grin]

A: Agreed.