Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Top 11 2010 Releases- and Five Favorites from the Backlist

2010 has been a great year in books and bookish life. When I was trying to come up with my top 10, I couldn't get past my top 16- 11 of which were released in 2010 and five of which were not. So rather than whittle it down further I decided just to tell you about all the books I loved this year.

I came up with this list by running through the list of this year's reads, which you can see on the sidebar of my blog at any time, and when one of them elicited a big smile and a great memory, I wrote the title on a list in a notebook.  I had 16 books and decided I couldn't really fail to mention any of them.

This list of my favorites this year is in no particular order. There's no way I could choose a #1 favorite!

My Favorite 2010 Releases:
  •  Eddie Signwriter, by Adam Schwartzman. If there is one truly hidden gem of 2010 it's Eddie Signwriter. It wasn't nominated for any big awards and I don't even know if anyone besides me even read it. But it's wonderful. Please read it. Please. Please.
  • The Tiger, by John Vaillant, a breathtaking pageturner, part adventure story, part history, part window into a little-known part of the world and part ecological plea on behalf of the Amur tiger.
  • Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, a somewhat light but incredibly sweet and moving love story and story of the changing face of Great Britain.
  • The Passage, by Justin Cronin. A fab literary-pop page-turner about a post-apocalyptic America and the little girl destined to save it.
  • Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show, by Frank Delaney. The sequel, The Matchmaker of Kenmare, is due out in February and not a moment to soon to follow up this fun and very Irish novel about the theater, the family, love and history. If I could interview anyone in 2011 it would be Frank Delaney!
  • Running the Books, by Avi Steinberg. A winner of a memoir about a prison librarian and the challenges he faces on the job.
  • The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer. A wonderful epic novel about Hungarian Jews trying to survive in World War 2-era Europe.
  • The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson. I don't care what anyone says- this serious and sophisticated novel about being Jewish and British deserved its Booker Prize win.
  • To the End of the Land, by David Grossman. A brilliant epic about family life and the life of a country.
  • The Debba, by Avner Mandelman. A really engrossing thriller about contemporary Israel and the meaning of identity, nominated for Canada's Giller Prize.
  • Broken Glass Park, by Alina Bronksy. A searing and psychologically honest portrayal of a young woman whose life and family have been shattered by domestic violence. Heartbreaking and all too real.

The Backlisters I Loved:
    • Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee. Booker-Prize winner and stunning work of literature about scandal and its consequences. Not for the faint of heart!
    • The Rooftops of Tehran, by Mahbod Seraji. A paean to childhood and growing up set in Iran, both sweet and tragic, tender and bittersweet.
    • The Halfway House, by Guillermo Rosales. A book I wish everyone would read, a difficult novella about the fight to live with dignity against impossible odds.
    • Asta in the Wings, by Jan Elizabeth Watson. Hands-down one of the best books I've read about childhood, a brilliant and beautiful book; a little girl and her brother come out of isolation to face the world separately and together.
    • Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon. Wow. Just, wow. I sped-read this in two days and it still haunts me. A gripping story of that elusive thing called identity.
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