Normally I would wait until closer to the end of December to post this year’s reading round up but I decided to go ahead and post it now for a couple of reasons: firstly, no matter how hard I try right now I seem unable to post more than once a week, and I have several other posts lined up for the month of December I would like to write. Despite my less than frequent updates I keep blogging because I know I will be able to find a way to post with more regularity in the future, and I enjoy it too much to stop, anyway. Secondly, I’ve only recently started Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and while I am thoroughly enjoying it I think it will probably take me most of the month to complete. It’s possible I’ll start the next book in my line up (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter) by the end of the month but if that is the case I will just roll it over into my January reading. Secondly, most major newspapers have already put out their notable books of 2010 and so I feel I am in fine company by putting my own list out a bit early as well.
Anyway. I am somewhat sad to report that I read 1 less books this year than last year, despite my goal of attempting to read 30 books in 2010. Last year I read 26 books (exceeding my goal of 25) but this year I only managed 25. I will say, though, that a couple I tackled were doozies in terms of length, like Handling Sin, and others seriously challenged the breadth of my knowledge, causing me to look up information before continuing to read, like The Lacuna. All in all, I feel I had a truly exceptional reading year, one filled with incredibly books, and that makes me happier than meeting any arbitrary number ever could. So, in the tradition of years past, I will return to categories used for this same post, each year, to see which apply to my 2010 reading roundup, and then create some new categories for this year.
2007 Categories that apply to 2010 reading:
1. Book I lent to the most people: Faithful Place, by Tana French – I don’t think too many people in the blogosphere need to be told about the brilliance that is Irish literary mystery writer Tana French, but some of my friends and family certainly do. Her novels are truly impossibly to put down – rarely has a writer done such a remarkable job of pulling me so completely into her world. I can think of more than one person receiving the first three of her books from me for Christmas.
2. Scariest Book: The Devil’s Punchbowl, by Gregory Iles. This is not a recommendation, just a fact. I found this book unnecessarily misogynistic and cruel.
3. The One Book both S. and I read: Born Round, by Frank Bruni. Great memoir written by the former New York Times Food editor – unexpectedly touching and funny. This book is also going to be a Christmas gift for a certain foodie in my life. Can’t recommend it highly enough.
4. Hands-down my absolute favorite book of the year: Handling Sin, by Michael Malone. All I can say is if you haven’t read any of Michael Malone’s work yet, you need to start as soon as possible. Handling Sin is easily one of the best books I’ve read in the last five years and what the author manages to is remarkable – his work is at once brilliantly crafted, incredibly funny and so, terribly touching – I’m looking forward to much more Malone in my life in 2011!
Four categories from 2007 apply to 2010 – not too shabby. Now on to 2008!
5. Nicest Book of the Year (ie, the kind of book you can give your mother, your grandmother, your daughter that encompasses solid writing and a good understanding of plot and character without anything offensive included anywhere in the text): The Last Noel, by Michael Malone – another Malone novel makes the list! I will say while this book is lovely, it doesn’t touch Handling Sin in terms of brilliance.
6. Annual author I try because my dad recommends him, but this year (unlike previous years) I actually agreed with my father’s recommendation: Michael Malone. I owe my dad big-time.
Two categories from 2008…and moving into 2009…
7. The book that WOULD have been my favorite of the year if Malone hadn’t shown up so late to the game and trumped it: The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver…truly a remarkable book in terms of craft, scope, passion – it took me nearly a month to read and revealed a significant deficit in my Cold War education – this really is a book that makes you smarter, and a better person, for having read it.
Weird – only one category from last year really applies to my 2010 reading. And here are this year’s categories!
8. The book I should have stopped reading but didn’t and then regretted because I found equal parts depressing and poorly written: Life Sentences, by Laura Lippman.
9. Best book from the Reading Through the Stacks Challenge (to be continued in 2010 – the challenge, that is – not the book): The Book Thief, by Mark Zusak. I know almost everyone read this when it came out but it lingered on our shelves for a couple of years before I could actually bring myself to read it – I am so glad I did.
10. One of the best authors writing today you probably aren’t reading: Ron McLarty. Get to it, now.
11. Most depressing but still worth it read of the year: East Side of the Mountain, David Guterson.
There you have it – about 10 of the 25 books I read seem worthy of being categorized this year. Oh, I read some other notable books, certainly – Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood comes to mind, as does Never Let me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro, but one of the reasons I am not a book blogger (and in some ways I would LOVE to turn this blog solely into a book blog, for consistency’s sake) is because I happen to be a fairly uncritical reader, really – I LOVED both books mentioned above but when pressed to put pen to paper, or finger tips to key pad, I find myself at a loss as for what to say. I do hope next year to read a little bit more nonfiction, and work in some literary and news magazines as well, but I can happily say I am ending 2010 happier with the reading I’ve done than any year prior, since I’ve been keeping track, and that is, I have no doubt, because of the blogs I read and the conversations I engage in throughout the year. Thanks to all of you for continuing to challenge and inspire my reading, and I look forward to an even better 2011.