The Books I Gushed About in 2010

‘Tis the season for ‘best of’ lists! Over the past couple of years, I have discovered in myself a tendency to shy away from picking 10 books as my favorites. Part of this, I’m sure, is that 10 seems to be such an arbitrary number, particularly when you read from a variety of genres as I do. A bigger part, though, is that I have read over 230 books this year, and I hate thinking at the end of the year that only 4% of what I read is worth mentioning.

That being said, you also don’t want to look at a list of 100+ books because I want all my books to feel equally loved or don’t want to feel I’ve wasted my time. To solve this conundrum, here are the books I gushed about this year. These are the books I got effusive about in reviews, pushed on people in real life, and couldn’t stop tweeting about. Most, but not all, of these were published in 2010, and they are here in the order I read them:

In audio:

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan, narrated by Erik Davies – Gritty, self-referencing crime drama, with a narrator who sounded like he was born to voice this role.

Feed by Mira Grant, narrated by Paula Christensen and Jesse Bernstein -Zombies, bloggers, and political sabotage, what more could you ask for in a book? This was a smart book with fantastic world building, and the narrators brought Grant’s story to life. I can’t wait for the second book in this trilogy, out in 2011.

The City and The City by China Mieville, narrated by John Lee – Crime drama? Fantasty? A little of both, actually, and spectacularly done both by Mieville and by Lee. Another one with absolutely amazing world building.

In print:

The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar – Gorgeous, gorgeous, GORGEOUS writing. Someone remind me to read everything that Thrity Umrigar has ever written in 2011, okay?

The House of Tomorrow by Peter Borgnanni – Punk rock and geodesic domes, who would think the two belong together? This is an amazing coming-of-age story, Borgnanni’s empathy for his characters was so great that he made me care about what they cared about, even though what they cared about was not something I tend to care about.

Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky – Marie is just the most lovable damn kidnapper ever. I have no idea how Dermansky kept her from being obnoxious and ridiculous, but somehow she made me love her.

The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurt – A novelist writing about a novelist, whose story is told through excerpts from the books she has written. A novel concept, and one beautifully executed. Plus there’s the whole thing with her son being suspected of killing his girlfriend to keep the plot moving.

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman – Absolutely beautiful writing, and a plot that was heartbreaking without being maudlin and just realistic enough to be somewhat hopeful. As an aside, Waldmman’s book of essays, “Bad Mother,” made my list in 2009 as well.

The Report by Jessica Francis Kane – A fictionalization of the investigation into the worst civilian disaster of WWII-era Britain may not sound fascinating, but this was. I was particularly impressed by the depth Kane managed to impart to her large cast of characters.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – I have been hearing recommendations for this series for years but have been intimidated by the thought of adding seven or more very hefty books to my TBR. Now I wish I had listened earlier. Getting to at least the next three books is a high priority for me for 2011.

The Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley – In addition to beautiful prose, Sunley wove Icelandic lore and tradition into this book masterfully, and without ever making the reader that she was subjecting them to an info dump. Most of all, though, Freya’s voice so absolutely authentic and amazing.

Skating Around the Law by Joelle Charbonneau – So. Much. Fun. A murder in a skating rink, a a frisky grandfather, and a camel make for an enjoyable and well-written romp that I couldn’t stop recommending.

The World in Half by Cristina Henriquez – Henriquez has beautiful prose, every word of which supports the fascinating story of discovery of self and family.

The Heroine’s Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore – A testament to the power of the written word to work on our lives, every reader needs this book. If nobody gave it to you for Christmas, go buy it yourself right now.

A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein – Grodstein wrote a book I just didn’t want to put down. The story of doctor Pete Dinzinoff, what he lost, and how he lost it was absolutely gripping without feeling manufactured.

Harry Potter Film Wizardry by Brian Sibley – If you had told me a year ago that an entertainment books like this would be on my ‘best of’ list, I would have scoffed, but this one is so well done and so well put together that all Harry Potter addicts need it.

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore – Full disclosure: Graham and I had lunch together after I wrote my review, so if you think that unduly influenced me, feel free to ignore this recommendation, but I did really enjoy this book – never have I raved so much about pacing! It is worth noting that quite a few people I recommended this book to have read it and really enjoyed it even without having lunch with Graham. So there.

Some of the above books were provided to me for review.

August 2010 Reading Wrap-Up

Okay, no more complaining about slow reading, because August was a *banner* month. TWENTY THREE BOOKS. Read’em and weep…no pun intended.  Five audiobooks, for almost 3 days of listening, and 18 print books of over 5,300 pages. Don’t ask how, I have no idea. Even better, I’ve already reviewed almost all of them.

I’m feeling quite accomplished at the moment, if you can’t tell.

After my list of what I read this month, you’ll find a list of the other reviews I posted this month.

What I Read:

Audiobooks
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, narrated by
How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson, narrated by
The City & The City by China Mieville, narrated by John Lee
Kraken by China Mieville – review pending
Body Work by Sara Paretsky – review coming in October

Fiction
Simply From Scratch by Alicia Bessette
29: A Novel by Adena Halpern
Kapitoil by Teddy Wayne
What He’s Poised to Do by Ben Greenberg (short stories)
Lake Overturn by Vestal McIntyre
Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin
The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart
The Life You’ve Imagined by Kristina Riggle
Dracula in Love by Karen Essex
American Music by Jane Mendehlson
Numb by Sean Ferrell

Young Adult/Middle Grades Fiction
Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mystery/Thriller
The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva

Historical Fiction
The Report by Jessica Francis Kane
The Gendarme by Mark Mustian

Memoir
Everything is Going to be Great by Rachel Shukert
Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell

Pick of the Month:

It has been a long, long time since I have had such a difficult time picking a favorite book for the month. Of course, it has also been a long, long time since I finished 23 books in a month, too. I considered Rachel Shukert’s Everything is Going to be Great, The Life You’ve Imagined by Kristina Riggle, and Lake Overturn by Vestal McIntyre.

The winners, however, is: The Report by Jessica Francis Kane, partly because it was such a sleeper hit, and The City & The City by China Mieville, which was just a phenomenal audiobook..

Honorable mention to The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva and Body Work by Sara Paretsky, both of which made me want to read all of the previous books in both of these prolific series.

What I Posted:

Announcements/Specials
An Interview With…Me!
My Kind of Book: A Celebration of Chicago Literature

Fiction
The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson
The Time it Snowed in Puerto Rico by Maddie Dawson

Historical Fiction
The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

Note: Some of these books were provided to me for review.

June 2010 Reading Wrap-Up

June was sort of a slow reading month. I blame Audiobook Week. And LOST, which we are currently working through season by season.

After my list of what I read this month, you’ll find a list of the other reviews I posted this month, as well as an update of how I’m doing in my challenges. Still, I did complete 16 books last month: 13 print books at a total of 4,311 pages and 3 audiobooks for 1.6 days of audio.

What I Read:

Fiction
Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky, translated by Tim Mohr
The Passage by Justin Cronin
Secret Daughter by Shilpi Gowda
Day for Night by Frederick Reiken (review coming July 7th)
My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares
Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky
The Icing on the Cupcake by Jennifer Ross
The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst
Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson (review pending)
Commuters by Emily Grey Tedrowe

Young Adult/Middle Grades Fiction
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, narrated by Jeannie Stith (review pending)

Mystery/Thriller/Horror
Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott (review pending)
So Cold the River by Michael Kortya, narrated by Robert Petkoff – audiobook
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
Feed by Mira Grant, narrated by Paula Christensen and Jesse Bernstein (review pending)


Pick of the Month:

The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst

What I Posted:

Discussion Posts
Oh, D.E.A.R! BEA Edition
By Popular Demand…My Reading Schedule
My Day As An Indie Bookseller
Shilpi Gowda – Author Event At The Bookstore
Hot Summer Reading

Audiobook Week Posts
Why Audiobooks?
How To Write An Audiobook Week Review
Audiobook Week Meme
When Do You Listen To Audiobooks?
Recommended Audiobooks
Other Audiobook Week Discussions

Fiction
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson, narrated by Paul Altschuler
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch

Mystery/Thriller/Horror
Bad Things Happen by Henry Dolan, narrated by Erik Davies – audiobook
The Whole World by Emily Winslow
Motherhood is Murder by Diana Orgain

Historical Fiction
31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan

Nonfiction/Memoir
My Life in France by Julia Child, narrated by Kimberly Farr – audiobook
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin – audiobook
Leaving the Saints by Martha Beck, narrated by Martha beck – audiobook
Love in a Time of Homeschooling by Laura Brodie