Monday, February 14, 2011

The Best Books of 2010, Valentine's Day Edition

In honor of my love for books, I give you my Best Books of the Year 2010. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tenth Best of the Year: Room, by Emma Donoghue - This is a disturbing book and it won't make you feel good. You will have a difficult time putting it down. This story is told from the viewpoint of a five-year old boy who has never left his room. The insights that unfold about the history and future of the boy's room accurately portray the state of our society. This is an easy read that is unusual, smart, and though-provoking.

Ninth Best of the Year: The Unnamed, by Josh Harris - I adored Harris' first book, which was absolutely hilarious in its satirical look at the corporate office culture. His second, The Unnamed, is a stark contrast to his first. An in-depth look at suffering and marriage, it is dark, depressing, and yet it is chock full of insight on sticking with your betrothed through thick and thin. You can read my full review here. While the experts didn't generally give this one favorable reviews, I thought it was an extremely worth-while read, and especially important for couples.

Eighth Best of the Year: Little Bee, by Chris Cleave - Little Bee escapes her native Nigeria for the hope of salvation in England. A couple in England tries to help her in the midst of their marital turmoil. Again, this isn't one that will make you feel good, but it sheds an important light on immigration issues facing the West.

Seventh Best of the Year: The Road, by Cormac McCarthy - Here's another that stuck with me. My husband read this one and we talked about it extensively; maybe that's the reason I can't shake it. The Road chronicles a father and son as they try to survive in a post "apocalypic" (the reader never really knows why the entire world has been decimated) world where the few survivors are driven to the most horrific of responses to being the few living beings of any kind remaining on the earth. Beautifully written, this one was very tough to read, but I still highly recommend it. During my early morning runs when there is no one else on the road, I am quick to remember this book and I think I appreciate the present a bit more because of it.

Sixth Best of the Year: Blame, by Michelle Huneven - Patsy, a college professor, is accused of killing a mother and daughter while drunk driving. This novel is the story of how she survives her prison sentence and how she copes with life after her time is served. Huneven grapples with the question of how much punishment is really enough. The twist at the end of this one surprised me, though my dad saw it coming. The writing is lovely and thought-provoking.

Fifth Best of the Year: Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen - The Franzen frenzy? Yep. The guy deserves it. He must be a genius, and, boy, would I love to sit down and talk to him. Although I liked the way The Corrections was written much better, Freedom is no less brilliantly authored. In fact, it was intriguing to read his two novels back to back and be able to observe just how different they are. Freedom is satirical as it looks at American culture post 9/11, and yet there is beautiful compassion mixed with the satire. The intermingling of the two tones causes the reader to wonder whether or not America looks like Franzen's picture.

Fourth Best of the Year: Lit, by Mary Karr - Many readers are complimentary of Agassi's Open as an honest memoir of a well known athlete. Mary Karr isn't a well known athlete, but she is a poet laureate and her memoir is full of raw vulnerability like nothing I've ever read. My mom and I will often quote lines from this book to one another. The Glass Castle has gotten so much attention and praise; Lit is the same type of memoir, but it is so, so much better. She struggles with relationships, substance abuse, and the possibility of a brilliant career. This one is outstanding.

Third Best of the Year: Tinkers, by Paul Harding - There is a reason books win Pulitzer Prizes. Tinkers, the winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in fiction, is well deserving of this year's honor. It is the rapid accumulation of a man's thoughts as he lies on his death bed. While maudlin and sad, the account is a stunning reminder to me that the "little" moments in life aren't necessarily "little". This is not easy reading, but I thought it was well worth the effort.

Second Best of the Year: Home, by Marilynne Robinson - A follow up to Gilead, Home does not disappoint. It is the story of a prodigal son, though it will make every other take off on the Biblical story pale in comparison. I saw myself all over the judgmental characters in the novel and was convicted to the core. Not a day goes by when my sinful self reminds me of those poignant characters. Its impact on me was enormous, more so than any Christian living book I read this year.

Best Book of the Year: The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen - As my regular readers know, I was only reading the genre of parenting books in 2001, which happens to be the year The Corrections was published. My parenting would have been fared better from reading this book than from reading those books. It is a novel about a family living in the 90's. As the father faces Alzheimer's disease, his wife and three children seek to grapple with their identities in an American culture that promises much and delivers little. The introspective reader will see himself or herself all over the pages of Franzen's superb writing. Highly convicting, this one got to me at the core, probably because the writing holds a mirror in front of my face and says, "Is this what you want your life to look like?" But not only is his writing powerful enough to kick the reader in the gut, it is beyond gorgeous. It is, by far, one of the most incredible books I've ever read and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Honorable Mention - My Reading Life, by Pat Conroy - While Pat Conroy's writing is just TOO much for me, I adored this memoir. I could completely grasp his excitement for reading, and the way he described his love of books, well, in that case, his writing is spot on. If you need some motivation to read more, check out this one.

Award for Most Gut-Wrenching Book of the Year - The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell - Heh, heh, heh. I couldn't resist.


  1. Interesting list. I read or started most of these this year. Have to say that Blame was an addictive read. Really enjoyed it and have recommended it to others. Also found Unnamed to be fascinating (even though I am not married or part of a couple).

    Thanks for putting these reviews on your blog. There are far more books recommended to me than I can ever read, so I look to your reviews for more support to the recs. Very helpful!

  2. Domestic,

    Feel free to list your recent favorites here. We have similar taste!