Saturday, December 25, 2010

What was your favorite book of 2010?

In my Dec. 26 column, I list my favorite reads of the year.

Here's the abbreviated version:

Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom"

John Updike's "Rabbit Run"

Randi Davenport's "The Boy Who Loved Tornadoes"

Mary Karr's "Lit"

David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas"

David Sedaris's "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk"

Ron Rash's "Burning Bright"

My list of books I want to read in 2011 is already getting long. At the top:

"The Elegance of the Hedgehog" a novel by French author Muriel Barbery.

Dave Eggers' "Zeitoun," a nonfiction set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Zadie Smith's essay collection, "Changing My Mind."

I've been intrigued by glowing reviews of "Cleopatra," the new biography by Stacy Schiff.

After hearing Terry Gross interview rapper Jay-Z recently, I'd like to read "Decoded," his new memoir.

So what were the most memorable books you read this year? Leave a comment, tell me why. And what are looking forward to reading in the new year?


Dr. Tom Bibey said...

Oh, let's 'bout "The Mandolin Case?" No, that wouldn't be fair, nothing but shameless self promotion there.

I guess I'll go for Mark Twain's new autobiography. My daughter got it for me for Christmas and I'm about a hundred pages into it; excellent so far. He's my hero.

I agree with you about Ron Rash. Hey, I'm not in his league, but he liked my book and gave it a good quote. Also it was reviewed in the Jan. issue of "Our State" magazine, but I haven't seen it yet.

All the best for the New Year,

Dr. B, author, "The Mandolin Case"

Anonymous said...

"The Thousand Autumns of Jacon De Zoet" by David Mitchell is my top pick for 2010. (To be fair, "Freedom" by J. Franzen is on the shelf waiting.

The history, the details, the characters are so meticulous, yet it's such a sumptuous read.

Mark said...

I also read a John Updike novel this year, "Roger's Version." It is an intriguing blend of theology, science and the banality of American suburbia in the '80s. I sense it is a send-up of Harvard Divinity School.

My favorite read this year was Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead" and "Home." Both are filled with wisdom and realism born out of a deep, tender and abiding Calvinism. That might scare some off if they believe the inaccurate stereotype of the famous Reformer.

Anonymous said...

Got Decoded for a friend for Christmas and ended up reading it. Its probably the one I would recommend first. I loved its honesty and the guy is deep and very philosophical in talking about his life, hip-hop/art, business, and how it all ties together with his desire to compete and "succeed"..and how we are all decoding life

Alice Osborn said...

My name is Alice Osborn and I've led my book club, The Wonderland Book Club for almost three years. Our favorite book this year was Lionel Shriver's "We Need to Talk About Kevin." This book is about a 15-year-old killing 13 fellow students and adults with a crossbow because it doesn't make as much noise as a shotgun.

We discussed it in August and couldn't stop talking about it every time we met for next four months. The writing is of course excellent and the question of whether or not Kevin's mother is to blame for him being a mass murderer never gets answered, which makes this book an excellent book discussion book.

Thanks so much for your blog!

Unfinished Projects, poetry by Alice Osborn is now available!
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Alice Osborn, M.A.
Write From the Inside Out
9660-138 Falls of Neuse #294
Raleigh, NC 27615

Anonymous said...

I've just recently found out that Ross Thomas' books are being brought out again and I'm SO glad! Anyone who loves complicated plots with twists and turn and interesting characters will love these books!

Bill Floyd said...

A few of the amazing books I read this year:

Cloud Atlas,by David Mitchell. For many of the same reasons articulated in your column.

JR, by William Gaddis. A "difficult" read, well worth the time & focus required. A 700+ page novel told mostly in unattributed dialogue, this is the most searing take on the hazards of unfettered capitalism I've ever read. Predicts nearly all of our current woes, despite the fact that it was published in the 1970s. The climactic debate between 11-yr old JR and his adult enabler is one of the most concise distillations of the tension between art & commerce ever put to paper.

Rabbit at Rest, by John Updike. I finished the series this year and, yes, Harry becomes more unpleasant as he goes along, but, man, does he ever pay for it. Rabbit represented the typical white American male of his era(s) (and there's nothing subtle about this--he marches in the 4th of July parade as Uncle Sam in this book) and as such his moral decrepitude is more cautionary than celebratory, as some have accused Updike of being. The final 100 pages or so are simply some of the most powerful fiction I've read. If you found anything worthwhile in the first book, I unreservedly recommend seeing the series through.

Consider the Lobster, by David Foster Wallace. Book of essays by the rightly celebrated author of Infinite Jest. For those intimidated by IJ's length & reputation, this is a great entry point into Wallace's beguiling prose.

Sarah Winn said...

My favorite read of 2010 was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, published in 2008. An epistolary novel composed of letters, short notes, cables, telegrams, or excerpts from a notebook, with 105 messages written by 19 different characters, this book movingly tells how the people on Guernsey, one of the English Channel islands, endured the occupation of the German Army during World War II. With a surprising amount of humor and great pathos, the reader sees the tragedy of war, the importance of books in the lives of everyday people, and even the development of a sweet love story. I thank my friends of the Brier Creek Barnes and Noble Romance Readers Book Club for recommending this one.

Jennifer said...

The book that made the biggest impact on me was Laura Hillendbrand's Unbroken. My dad is 88 and is a WWII veteran. At one point, in the war, he was the youngest commissioned officer. However, he does not sit around talking about his exploits. He got called back when the Korean War broke out. War to him is a very dark place. Some of his stories I've only learned from his telling of them in a college history class. Unbroken gave me such a vivid understanding of that dark place where people do the vilest things. One of the quotes I will never forget him telling the college students is: "You have no idea what you are capable of doing when your life is in danger. Soliders I thought would fight valiantly, fled, and those I thought were weak, were often heroes. Don't judge others when you hear war stories. You have no idea what you would do in a similar situation."