Tag Archives: best books

Best Books of 2010

I read.  I read fast, and I read a lot, and I read many varied things.   This year I read 135 books, so from among those, here’s my list of the very best.  (You’re welcome to  check out my full reading list on goodreads.com, right here.)

So, in no particular order:

1) Full Dark, No Stars, by Stephen King.  Great collection of short stories and novellas.  What Stephen does well is make you care, then rip your heart out.  Bah humbug on anyone who says he’s a “genre writer”.  He’s a master, pure and simple.

2) Anasi Boys, by Neil Gaiman.  I’ve held out on reading this one for a long, long time, because I couldn’t bring myself to squander the ‘first read’ of this book.  I knew it would be brilliant, because Neil always is, and I knew it would break my heart a little to never again be able to read it for the first time.

3) I Am Not a Serial Killer, by John Cleaver.  I have waited for this book my entire life.  Seriously…this is the book I always wished someone would write.  The only thing that kept it from being 100% perfect was the author’s decision to take the second half in a supernatural direction.  We don’t really need imaginary monsters when we’ve got real ones.  But.  Still so wonderful.

4) The Way of Boys, by Anthony Rao.  Non-fiction.  Everyone who has a boy, knows a boy, or has ever seen a boy needs to read this.

5) Girl in Translation, by Jean Kwok.  Loved this, gave it to my mother to read, and she loved it too.  You don’t know how amazing that is, but it basically proves that there is no one on this planet who would not love this book.

6) The Temeraire Series, by Naomi Novak.  Okay, I’m cheating a little here, but I’m not listing an individual book.  But this is brilliantly done fantasy, and I couldn’t single out a single title when they all deserve mention.  If you love dragons, you’ll love this series.  If you hate dragons, or are so sick of seeing them in fantasy books you want to breathe fire, you’ll love this series.  If you love fantasy, it’s a given you’ll love this, but you don’t have to love fantasy, because it’s basically not even fantasy at all, but historial fiction.  Whoever you are, and whatever you like, give the first book a try.  I can nearly guarantee within the first few chapters you’ll be hooked.  Thank you, Sara, for giving me the push to read this!

7) World War Z, by Max Brooks.  Remember what I just said above about liking/hating dragons in fiction?  Replace ‘dragons’ with ‘zombies’ and you’ll have the description for why you’ll love World War Z.

8 ) The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.  Our food production has gone to hell in a handbasket, and unless something is done very very soon to change things, we’re all going to be in deep, deep trouble.

9) Wild Stories, by Colin Thompson.  Children’s stories about the wild and domestic life that lives in one house and backyard.  It brought me to tears many times, and completely charmed me at the same time.  It should be a classic.

10) The Passage, by Justin Cronin.  Intense and well-written.

11) Dragon Keeper/Dragon Haven, by Robin Hobb.  Robin Hobb is one of the top five current fantasy writers.  This is an awesome two-book series, bringing us all back to the “Rain Wild” world we’ve loved since her first series. She does some of the best world-building ever.

12) Ottoman Women Myth & Reality, by Asli Sancar.  Truly interesting non-fiction book that blew my old perceptions of what life was like to be a woman (or a slave) under the Ottoman Empire to smithereens.

13) The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson.  Neil Gaiman and Brandon Sanderson are hands-down the two best writers of fantasy alive today.

And there you have it, my most unforgettable reads of 2010!

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A Year in Books

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.  I tend to celebrate my ‘new year feelings’ on July 4th anyway, which is when I get all introspective and moody on the previous year, and give myself either a thumbs up or down.

But, to celebrate the ‘official’ New Years, I’m making a not-really-resolution to read (and write) more good books.  (Hey, I was totally going to do that anyway!)  By my best count, I’ve read 110 books this year, and when I go through the list, I can single out 11 of those as being truly good books.  The sort of books that, months later, when I see their titles written down, they give me that tingle of happy memory.  Here they are (in no particular order of goodness):

Black Juice, by Margo Lanagan.  This is a collection of short stories, and while I don’t remember most of the stories in it, one does stand out as being one of the top five short stories I’ve read in my entire life: Singing My Sister Down.  I still get chills, thinking of it!

Tesla: Man out of Time, by Margaret Cheney. This non-fiction book about America’s true genius will completely change your view of history.

Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater. Wonderful and haunting.

Way of Shadows, by Brent Weeks. The first of a fantasy trilogy, and the others are equally good.  Deep, shocking, and twisty!

Mimus, by Jeffrey Masson. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, this is character-driven fantasy at its very best.

Bess of Hardwick, by Mary Lovell. Non-fiction about an incredible Elizabethan woman.  And my ancestor!

In the Woods, by Tara French. Beautifully written study of character, masquerading as a mystery.

Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson. If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you already know the strong adoration I have for Sanderson’s writing.  He’s brilliant.

Common Sense, by Glenn Beck. Non-fiction about the trouble we’ve sunk America into and how to save ourselves.  This should be required reading for every American.

The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters. One of the absolute best accounts by an unreliable narrator I’ve ever seen.  Twisty, chilling, and mesmerizing.

Project X, by Jim Shepard. I can’t stop reading this book.  I’ve read it cover to cover three times, and every now and then I dip at random into it, just for the pleasure it gives me.  So true, and so perfect, this one has a forever place in my Top Five Books.

And that’s the 2009 Eleven Books I Loved.  When I was writing out this list, however, I was disappointed that several books I could have sworn I read in 2009 just missed making this list, having been read in late-ish 2008.  Since I can’t bear to leave their titles unspoken, I made a second list, of the Thirteen Books I Loved in 2008.  Again, in no particular order, I give you:

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. Grown-ups who don’t read “children’s books” are missing out.  This one is more eerie than Stephen King and more delightful.

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. So. Bloody. Good.

Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. The man’s a master of words, and this is a true treasure.

Hero of Ages, by Brandon Sanderson. This is the last book in a trilogy, and while I read all three with massive amounts of enjoyment, I chose the final book for my list, because this is where everything you think you know about his world and characters flips upside down, and you are left with your mouth hanging open in shock and your heart racing.

Time Traveler’s Wife, byAudrey Niffenegger. Brilliant story, brilliantly told.

Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan. Bears and girls and twisted fairy tales, oh my.

Traffic, by Tom Vanderbilt. If you drive a car, ride in a car, or walk near a car, you should read this non-fiction book.  It could very well save your life.  And it’s fascinating!

Passage, by Connie Willis. It sucks you in and won’t let you go.  Brain science and the Titanic, flawlessly mingled into a totally original work of fiction.

The Ghost Writer, by John Harwood. Okay, I will admit that the ending was flawed.  But the rest of the story more than made up for it.  Chilling and twisty.

Shadow Man, by Cody McFadyen.  Gory, riveting thriller.  Unlike some of those other guys (coughpattersoncough) McFadyen can write.  Lyrical and lovely even at its most disturbing, it doesn’t skimp on the thrills or plot.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. Massive tome, massive but quiet story that lulls you with its delightful language and whimsy, only to creep up on you and half throttle you with nail-biting suspense in the last half.  Not to be missed.  There really is absolutely NOTHING else remotely like it in the literary world.

The Unthinkable – Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why, by Amanda Ripley. Here’s another book that could be life-saving, and it makes for fascinating reading as well.

Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon. This is a undescribable and brilliant work of fiction.  Part coming of age, part fantasy, part mystery, part thriller, it brings me to tears every time I read it.  It’s one of those perfect works of fiction that touches you no matter how many times you’ve read it before.  I make a practice of reading it every few years.  Another Top Five Forever.

And there you have it, Alisa’s Year(s) in Books.  If you want to see the other books that didn’t make my lists, you can check me and my book reviews out on goodreads.com.