Monday, December 20, 2010

Top Ten Books of 2010

I enjoy reading top ten lists this time of year, especially book and movie lists. I thought it would be fun to do some top ten lists of my own this year, starting with my top ten books of 2010. I read 49 books this year, which is a big number for me. The books on my list weren't necessarily published in 2010, just books I read this year. Steven King uses the same system, so it's legit.

10. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Tom Angleberger. The Rileys are Star Wars geeks, so Mr. Angleberger had us with the title. This is a sweet story about a socially awkward 6th grade boy (is there any other kind?) who dispenses middle school wisdom through a perfectly constructed origami Yoda. It's perfect for 3rd-6th graders, and their parents of course.

9. Everything Is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer. A young Jewish American travels to the Ukraine to uncover his family's history. In the process, he illuminates the family history of his Ukrainian guide as well. Foer's writing is unconventional and powerful.

8. A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore. Gotta give my fellow Badger some love. Moore's novel showcases a young college girl, Tassie Keltjin, as she navigates through the emotional minefield of her life. This book may have more spot-on figurative language than any book I've ever read.

7. Everything Matters, Ron Currie Jr. If you knew exactly when life on Earth was going to end, how would you live your life? This is John Thibodeau's fate, and as we follow his journey, we realize that every single choice, no matter how small, makes a difference.

6. That Old Cape Magic, Richard Russo. Jake and Joy Griffin are going through a rough patch in their marriage. As they try to figure things out, their daughter announces she's getting married. This is a book that deftly explores beginnings and endings.

5. let the northern lights erase your name, Vendela Vida. The protagonist of this book, Clarissa Iverton, travels to Lapland to find her father. She finds her mother instead and must come to grips with what she learns. I read three of Vida's books this year, this one being the best. I love Vida's writing style, short, crisp sentences.

4. Zeitoun, Dave Eggers. This nonfiction book details the struggles of one man, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, before and after Hurricane Katrina. It's an immigrant story, it's a New Orleans story, it's an American story. A definite must-read.

3. This Is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper. This is the story of Judd Foxman. His life is already a wreck when his dad dies, and we follow him as he joins the rest of his family to sit Shiva. I fell in love with Tropper this year, reading five of his books. I find his writing to be funny and poignant.

2. Freedom, Jonathan Franzen. I think this book lived up to the hype. The characters aren't exactly likable, but I think that's the point. Franzen is one of those hold-the-mirror-up kind of writers, and we don't always like what we see. If you're a serious reader, this is a book you have to read.

1. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers. Another nonfiction masterpiece from Eggers. This book chronicles the author's life as he raises his brother after the loss of their parents. The writing is brutally honest, Eggers often coming off as self-absorbed. It's a side of grief rarely admitted, and it is refreshing to read truth.

I'd love to hear what other people enjoyed reading this year in the comments, might give me some ideas for 2011. Your top book, top 3, 5, 10, whatever works for you.


  1. This brings it home to me that I'm seriously out of touch with the latest books. Best get reading at Christmas.

  2. My 2010 book list is lame compared to yours. I have book envy. Based on your recommendation, I may pick up THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA for the kids and I.

  3. Thanks for the ideas. I also enjoyed A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius but I haven't read the others.
    My top 3 this year (in no particular order):
    1. Room by Emma Donoghue~the narrator is a 5 year old boy and on his birthday his mother reveals a shocking secret about the room they live in and his life.
    2. Beatrice & Virgil by Yann Martel~the story of a writer who gets a fan letter from a taxidermist. Freaked me out!
    3.The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown~moving non-fiction from a man recounting his experiences with his extremely disabled son.

    You sound like a serious reader, like me. Consider (it's a virtual bookshelf; I get lots of ideas there and I can keep a record of books I plan to read, including some of the recommendations you just made).

  4. It's nowhere near literary genius, and I'm almost embarrassed to own up to it, but "Sh*t My Father Says" was one of the best books I read this year. It made me laugh until I cried, and anything that can do that makes my list.

  5. Much to my shame, I haven't read too much this year. But here's what I did read that I enjoyed or re-discovered...

    1. The Twilight series

    2. Please note: #1 was a joke.

    3. Zeitoun. Eggers.

    4. The Diary of a Madman and other Stories by Nikolai Gogol. First time I've read Gogol. I enjoyed it very much.

    5. Re-read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. He's one of my favorites.

    Merry Christmas.

  6. You said books, and I am here:)
    1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog; Muriel Barbery
    2. The trilogy of Stieg Larsson
    3. Flesh and Blood; Michael Cunningham
    4. I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere;Anna Gavalda
    5. Emmaus; Alessandro Baricco
    6. Without blood; Alessandro Baricco
    7.The word according to Garp;john Irving
    8. La belle saison;Patricia Atkins

    Happy Holidays!

  7. Have a wonderful 2011 with lots of good books and good luck !

  8. I have been looking for some books to try recently. So, your post is very helpful and informative. I will definitely be giving some of the titles a try. I don't have a top three for this year. I re-read some of my favorites the past couple of months. 1. The Place In Between by Rory Stewart 2. Left In Dark Times by Bernard-Henri Levy 3. Them by Jon Ronson
    Best wishes & Happy Holidays.

  9. Domey recommended Everything is Illuminated and a good friend recommended the Eggers years ago. I really must read faster.

  10. Fine list. I think the best book that I read this year was a book from the 1980's entitled, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," written by Milan Kundera.

  11. Oooh, Unbearable Lightness of Being. My piano teacher at grad school recommended that. I really, really need to read faster.

  12. I need to write this list down. They all sound very good. And I haven't read any of them. I'm so behind the curve.