Saturday, December 11, 2010

Best Books ~ Our Favorite Reads of 2010


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The Best of the Year in Books ~ 2010

We have a few favorites ~ our cherry on top of the “pile o’ books” that we would like to share as a summary of 2010; although it was very hard to narrow it down since we read so many wonderful books this year.

Not all were released in 2010, a few are considered classics, and some released in in 2009. It is our hope that this post may help you with last minute gifts for loved ones, friends, or even one for yourself. 

Please note - titles link to our  complete reviews, all except for one. Also included are little bits about each book and links for purchase.

The Tippy Top of the Pile for 2010 ~ Our Best of the Best


Shellie’s pick:  Lolita (audio version) ~ Vladimir Nabokov  (read by Jeremy Irons):   With incredible language, this is a dark and satirically humorous book. Read in audio by Jeremy Irons with his rich and deep English accent.  I loved every minute of this wonderful book. It is one of the most creative, and best pieces of fiction I have ever read. It is obviously not a book for everyone, but to me it had an unreliable narrator which I could almost empathize with. Review coming soon.

Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada. Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (April 26, 2005)


John’s pick:  The Army of the Republic ~ by Stuart Archer Cohen:  An excellent novel – “dark and dangerous and the best book I’ve read in months”. The setting is America in the very near future, after an energy crisis, oil-related wars and financial collapse have left much of working America in ruins. A corrupt government is working to privatize everything they can in order to line their own pockets, as they also slowly but surely disenfranchise the population by rigging elections. Feeling like they have no legitimate alternatives, a series of clandestine resistance groups spring up across the country.

This is a complex and powerful story. On one level it is a clever and engrossing thriller, but there is much more to it than that. I finally got to the end in the early hours of the morning, as I’d been unable to put the book down. If you like a thought-provoking, dark, complex thriller then this is a great book for you.

Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

Best Fantasy Novel

the healers war

Shellie’s pick: The Healer's War ~ by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough:   An incredible novel which shows the horrors and senselessness of war within the exotic beauty of Vietnam. It is a realistic picture of the war with a bit of light fantasy. It is recommended for those who do not generally read fantasy and very highly recommended for those who do.

Amazon purchasing links for US|UK|Canada;, May 17, 2010.


John’s pick: The City & The City ~ by China Mieville:   This is a splendid hard-boiled detective novel set in a most bizarre and fantastic location. It has an interesting and unique plot. Kudos to Mieville for having a great imagination and for bringing this strange world to life. On one level this is a straightforward detective story that just happens to be set in an odd location. On another level? Well, I guess it’s easy to draw parallels between the two cities and man’s inability to live peacefully with neighbors or to mix gracefully with different cultures. Once you refuse to see and accept people for what they are, bad things inevitably happen. I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good crime story or a bit of urban fantasy.

Purchasing links from Amazon are US/UK/Canada; Del Rey Books, 2009.

Best Historic Fiction ~ (contemporary)


Shellie’s pick: Rainy LakeMary Francois Rockcastle:   I loved this book on many different levels. Highly recommended for anyone who would like a journey into the 1960’s and early 1970’s from the perspective of a young white girl as she is coming of age amid all the complexities from the time. We have blatant racism, the ill-fated war in Vietnam and, of course, the natural flow of becoming mature, falling in love, and the inescapable nature of life itself and its inevitable loss. 

Amazon links for US|UK|Canada; Graywolf Press; March 1, 1996.


John’s pick: Pretty Birds ~ by Scott Simon:  A Harrowing Novel based upon the War in Bosnia through the 1990s. This is a really good book on an important subject. And don’t be misled by the title; it is a gritty, brutal, touching and tragic story about one of the most shameful acts of the 20th century – the siege of Sarajevo. It is full of interesting and rich characters, and the plot twists and turns in ways you do not expect. You root for the main characters but you know that in the world that they are forced to live in, things cannot end well for all of them. An excellent read – moving, illuminating and thought-provoking.

Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada. Random House, 2006 (hard cover 2005)

Best Graphic Novel


Shellie’s pick: Fun Home ~ by Allison Bechdel:  This is my first graphic novel. Since I am a very visually oriented person this type of literature suits me well. Also, because of the parallels with myself and the author’s life, I was immersed. I loved this book. I am looking forward to reading some of the author’s more fantastical graphic novels.

Purchasing links for Amazon US/UK/Canada.


John’s pick:  Britten and Brulightly ~ by Hannah Berry:  Only my second ever graphic novel, and it is a delightful book. For those who think graphic novels are just comics for not-quite-grown-ups (a group which would have included me until very recently), this book will come as a big surprise; it has great depth and complexity, and just oozes pathos. It’s tough to believe that this is her first novel, and even harder to believe that she illustrated it herself. If you’ve never read a graphic novel and feel put off by them – you shouldn’t be. This would be a fabulous place to start.

Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada

Best Thriller/ Horror


Shellie’s pick: The Passage ~ Justin Cronin:  This is a scary book, by a loquacious writer. It will suck you in, surprise you (I thought I had guessed the next twist more than a few times – but nope), make your heart beat, and I even cried at one point (I don’t cry.)  It is a grand escapist book.

Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada. Ballantine Books; June 8, 2010.


John’s pick: The Devil’s Star ~ by Jo Nesbo (translated by Don Bartlett):   A dark and brooding detective novel set in modern-day Oslo. This is one of those gritty crime stories where the “hero” is a smart and driven character but has flaws; lots of them. This is the second book I’ve read recently which was a translation from a Scandinavian language. While very different, both could be described as being very gritty and both were fine reads. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who loves thrillers and crime mysteries.

Amazon purchasing links are for US/UK/Canada. Norway in 2003; U.S. in 2010.

Best Science Fiction

Shellie’s pick: The Unit ~ by Ninni Holmqvist  (translated by Marlaine Delargy):    A fairly short novel it starts out slowly yet picks up considerably where it becomes both illuminating and heart wrenching. It summarizes a few subtle elements of human experience in enlightening and relatable ways. And the best part is that it was just plain scary. It is because of these things it will be placed in my favorite’s list.

Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada. Other Press (June 9, 2009)


John’s pick:  Eon ~ by Greg Bear:   This is an extremely clever, thought provoking and entertaining “hard” science fiction book. Some of the hard science (or science fiction!) in the book is tough to follow, but I just went with the flow and I thoroughly enjoyed it. To my mind it felt current and certainly didn’t have the feel of something written 25 years ago. Plaudits to Greg Bear on that one, and indeed plaudits all round to him. I’d thoroughly recommend this to anyone who likes science fiction with a big dollop of science thrown in, or to anyone who enjoys an epic story with strong characters and lots of imagination.

Amazon purchasing links US/UK/Canada.

Best Journalistic


Shellie’s pick: Searching for Whitopia ~ by Rich Benjamin:  This is a great book. My only negative thoughts around it is that it is so information packed it will probably not be a quick or easy read for most. It wasn’t for me. More importantly the subject matter is emotional and difficult, and one which many people do not want to deal with. Although the author does a brilliant job of attempting to making light of some situations, how can it be? Sadly, and most significantly, I also do not believe it will actually reach his intended audience. It comes highly recommend and is an excellent yet difficult book.

Amazon purchasing links US/UK/Canada.


John’s pick:  Palestine ~ by Joe Sacco:  This is a dark, thought-provoking and deeply disturbing graphic “novel” detailing the time that he spent in the Palestinian Territories – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. While the book does include some humor (most of it directed at Sacco himself), this is a difficult and provocative read and not one that I could describe as enjoyable. But I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone looking to broaden their understanding of the Middle East and some of its complex dynamics. And if you have any doubts about the use of the graphic novel/comic book format, you shouldn’t – it works remarkably well in the hands of this gifted artist. 

Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada. Fantagraphics Books; First Edition. US; January 2002.

Best Young Adult


Shellie’s pick: Tender Morsels ~ by Margo Lanagan:  Be forewarned this is not a light story, and addresses some very very dark and difficult issues. It is not a story which everyone is going to enjoy or even like. I would recommend it for mature teens and adults. I love creative and unusual dark fantasy which touches on important social issues and is also very well written. This is exceptional.

Amazon purchasing links US/UK/Canada.

Best Children’s


Shellie’s pick:  Keeper ~ by Kathi Appelt:  I think that the most special aspect of the story is that it contains several wonderful and key GLBT characters. Lastly, the ending is the type which I prefer, not completely that of a fairytale but with a slight tweak making one think, feel, and remember.

Highly recommended reading for adults who like myth and folklore mixed with realism, and for those who read to and teach children. As for children I would say all but a few will love it. I imagine that this story will be nominated for a variety or children’s book award. 

Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

We had only two 5 stars for this year both rated highly by Shellie ~ Tender Morsels and Lolita (review in progress).  Coming very close John had some highly rated reads for the year with quite a few in the 4.5 star range.

We have had such a fun year exploring all these books, and want to thank the authors, publishers, and publicists that have provided copies for review. Thanks also to our local independent book shops and our wonderful library system. Please support yours.

Happy reading and shopping. Yuletide is almost here!


Blodeuedd said...

Not read a single one :( though could easily find Nesbo at the library

Alexia561 said...

Enjoyed seeing what the two of you picked as your favorite reads. Not sure I'd be able to pick only one per catagory! Have to think on this... *ponders*

ediFanoB said...

I like this kind of post because it shows the variety of what people like and read.

I read none of the books you posted about.
That is far to be a drama. It just express different taste. Fortunately we all do not love the same books. That would be boring.

So thank you and John for a post which let me look beyond my own backyard.

But there is one book on your list which I will read in 2011: The Passage by Justin Cronin
Next year I will read The Passage.

Unknown said...

Blodeuedd -
Well thats good since it gives you some suggestions out or what you would normally read. *smile*

The question about Nesbo is which language would you be reading it in?

We love translations.

Alexia -
It was tough and I kept wanting to add categories. I had John choose first since he has more self control than I when it comes to books. But as you can see at the bottom I added two more.

I almost added urban fantasy with Gail Carriger's Soulless but I had to stop somewhere.... that was such a fun book.

Edi -
You see now - I think you would like every one that I read.... we both loved Soulless and a few others so.... and you and John felt the same way about The Dream of Perpetual Motion.

I did not think I would like Lolita, I was wrong.

If you want to stay away from drama then The Passage is not your book.. it is all drama, layers of drama. Oh but what a read! You will love it.

I also like posts like this and was also thinking of doing a quarterly "round up" like yours... Only once every 3 months instead of weekly?

logankstewart said...

Shellie & John, thanks for the year's reviews. Many have there been, and I've discovered some stuff that looks interesting because of your ever-growing TBR pile. May 2011 be an even better year for reading!

Unknown said...

Thanks Logan -
The thinking is reciprocal toward you too!

Anonymous said...

Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

Unknown said...

Thanks Anon... :)

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