Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Readers Favorite Books of 2010

Greetings, Fellow Readers!

This month, the few remaining magazines, reviews, online sites, and newspapers that report on books are putting out their annual list of The Best Books of 2010. That’s all well and good, but these are the professional reviewers’ favorites, generally chosen from among the books publishers sent them this past year.

I’m curious about what actual READERS like YOU thought were the best titles you read in 2010. The great books you picked up in a garage sale, in a dumpster, at a used book store, at an indie bookstore (bravo!) or—perish the thought—that you bought from Amazon (shame on you) and read on a Kindling.

Trust me, I am not fishing for compliments about MY books. In fact, should you mention them, I’ll suspect you’re about to hit me up for a donation, like to your local Police Department Doughnut Fund.

It’s a mad time of the year for everyone. Me—I just fell down a flight of stairs while practicing my ballet steps in the dark, under the influence of melatonin and valerian—and a not yet full moon. I look like Frankenstein or the cover girl for Wife Beaters’ Monthly Magazine.

If you’re game for this, please post a line or two about yourself—e.g. what you do for a living, where you live. You can also post yourself as A. Non, and in the case of certain pals, A. Nun. Give us a few lines about the best book you read this past year—memoir, biography, politics, gardening, novel, a kid’s book—even something written years ago. Dickens is certainly as eligible as Danielle Steele. If writing makes you break out in hives, just list title and author. Top ten? Top three? Also rans?

We’d like your input before the New Year, if possible. Just click comments at the bottom of the Readers Favorite Books of 2010 post & write you heart out. It will magically appear on the blog.

Thank you! And hope you have the happiest, healthiest and best holidays ever. I will as soon as the head cast comes off.

Yours—Martha Egan and Carol Eastes, Papalote Press


  1. Carol's List:

    The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall: Funny, touching, heartbreaking mostly simultaneously.

    In the Woods by Tana French: Why I went to Puerto Escondido but stayed under a palm tree reading while everyone else was playing in the surf.

  2. I was going to say Let the Great World Spin
    and Cutting for Stone (thankyou Martha)
    but also
    The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (thankyou Carol)
    but I also deeply love anything at any time by Jonathan Safran Foer

  3. I took a break from magazines this year, except for an occasional Vanity Fair, the best air travel read. The books I enjoyed are these:

    Patricia O'Connors delightful "Words Fail Me" opened the year. A fun read.

    "The Hemingses of Monticello" by Annette Gordon-Reed, a monumental book which I am still reading, taking time to process the emotions that this history provokes.

    Thanks to a growing fascination with late 19th-early 20th century world history, I found Katie Hickman's "Courtesans" an intriguing take on the societal morays and naughtiness of the day. Such grand women!

    "While I was Away" by Sue Miller was a surprise. I actually found the book perched on top of a newspaper stand at the corner of Eastern and Highlandtown Aves, in Southeast Baltimore.

    Presently I am reading "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration" Isabel Wilkerson's masterful work on the African American migration out of the South to points north and west from the turn of the 20th century through the early 70s. A fascinating re-framing of this chapter of American history.


  4. Bedside table groaning with books, but the standouts have been "Dark Star Safari" by Paul Theroux. He travels the length of Africa by rattletrap bus, dugout canoe, cattle truck, armed convoy, ferry and train - ah yes, my kind of holiday! He is inquisitive, highly observant and fearless and I wish he'd been my travel buddy during the 4 years I was there.
    Another favorite Theroux, "The Kingdom by the Sea," decribes a journey around the coast of Great Britain, visiting places few tourists will ever see. His encounters with the locals (my people) are hilarious and genuine.
    "Heat" - a NY Times writer (male) realises a dream and becomes a lowly kitchen apprentice to top chef Mario Battali. For all you foodies out there (and I am one), it is a fascinating, high adrenalin pumping, exhausting, punishing window into the inner workings of a top restaurant and the lengths to which its staff will go for the love of food. Just don't order pasta after 9:00 pm.....
    "A Life in Secrets" by Sara Helm, tells the story of Vera Atkins, Britain's heroic spymistress, and the missing agents of WW11, 39 of them women. It is a historical biography, a thriller and a mystery, with deceit, betrayal and bravery at the heart of a secret army
    "The Dreaded Feast" - 30 writers tales of enduring the holidays with an introduction by P.J. O'Rourke, which leaves you wanting more. He does not disappoint with 'ceremonies that have not recrudesced because we never succeeded in getting rid of them in the first place.'
    Classic essays, short stories and poetry, all poking fun at the notion of a 'perfect' holiday season. Walk away slowly from the warm egg nog while there's still time............

    Happy 2011 Tortlla Marta and Ducks!

  5. Three standout writers for me this year:

    Geraldine Brooks: "People of the Book," "March," "Year of Wonders" and a non-fiction about Islamic women "Nine Parts of Desire"

    Mary Doria Russell: "Dreamers of the Day," "Thread of Grace," and science fiction "Sparrow," and "Children of God"

    Craig Childs: "Secret Knowledge of Water" and "House of Rain" If you love the Southwest, these are must-reads from a wonderful nature writer.

    Barbara Rockwell, Placitas, author of "Boiling Frogs - Intel vs. the Village"

  6. It's been a year of history and airports. I began with "Rebels", by Peter De Rosa in the spring of the year. It's the history of the Irish Easter Uprising of 1916 - a daily account of the incredibly brave and cruel event. It is a foreshadowing of fascism and national brutality that took the air out of the 20th century. But for the Irish, it is an establishment of British inhumanity.
    Next we skip on to "Hellhound On His Trail", by Hampton Sides (who grew up in Memphis) a fascinating account of the assassin and the assassinated. It's again a day-to-day journalist investigation. This is the Martin Luther King assassination, tracking King into Memphis and James earl Ray, from his dives in L.A. across the country to their rendez-vous. It puts the present into perspective, as we try to decipher the weirdness and the odd thinking people have about race and culture every day.
    In airports I find the best trash I can. And there is good trash out there. Sanford and his Minnesota testosterone is a good ride. Four wheel. The last two years he has spun out Virgil Flowers, a completely northern simple guy. Two buttons..one is fishing.
    But I'd like to reserve most of my time for the biggest waste of time, literally, and more importantly, opportunity, and that would be the 900+ page Clemens autobiography. If you had the chance to bury your sins for 100 years and offer them, plus your thoughts about other people, your real politics, to the next century of Americans, please don't squander the opportunity. Clemens, or rather, his persona - Twain - did just that. This is a boat anchor. Little else. If you want to read this book, go back to Roughing It, or his other travelogues. That is all this is. If I could figure out how to insert the last paragraph I read (300 pages in, after which I wisely skimmed) I would. You have read it, countless times.
    The first 100 pages are the editors telling you about Clemens' ( I refuse to give him what he wanted - Twain) belief that no human can tell the truth about himself. Clemens gave himself 100 years to be buried and removed from whatever events he had hidden. There are none. None. He rhapsodizes about English habits and Italian villas. It's the single biggest time-capsule disappointment this far into the new century. What a horrible waste.
    At the end of 2010 I went back to British trash, something denser and harder than the Scandinavian trash we enjoyed this year. Try Barry Maitland, for instance.
    But don't try the "new" Clemens
    Pat Egan

  7. Erica Coleman saidJanuary 2, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    Erica Coleman

    Sorry I did not make the deadline.

    Short Stories:
    Yuyun Li: “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers”; “Gold Boy, Emerald Girl” (fabulous story-teller and English is her second language.)

    Novels, old and new:
    Junot Diaz: “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” (Please note the text, which was written in English is peppered with Spanish words and Dominican colloquialisms. (Before reading, I suggest you go to the following website: annotated-oscar-wao.com and print out chapter by chapter. I didn’t find this website until I was ¾ of the way through the book—now I want to read it again.)

    Kathryn Stockett: “The Help”

    Patricia Highsmith: “Strangers on a Train”

    Marge Piercy: “Three Women, A Novel”: Although not written in first person, this novel is told from the points-of-view of a grandmother, mother and daughter. Concept sounds dated? Perhaps, but the story is very engaging.

    Anna Quindlen: “Every Last One”: Some people have complained that nothing happens in this book—I don’t agree.

    Charlotte Bronte: “Jane Eyre”: Reread this book and it is not as I remembered it. Must take what Jane says with a grain of salt. Yes, she is unworldly, but not so sweet and innocent. On the contrary, she is often quite full of herself and quite arrogant. (Also, how did an 18-year-old acquire such a sophisticated vocabulary?)

    I am addicted to Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon novels. Allon is an undercover agent and assassin for the Israeli Secret Service; he is also brilliant art restorer. Start with the first one in the series “The Kill Artist.”

    Non-Fiction (well, maybe)
    Hellemann and Halperin: “Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin and the Race of a Lifetime”: Yes, some of this will be familiar, but read it anyway—it is great fun.

    (Note: if you want to feel overwhelmed by all the books you never read, skim through “1001 Books You Must Read before You Die”

  8. Most of my favorite suggestions are recorded books from the library.
    Even if you've already read these books, they are sooooo entertaining to hear again with a skilled narrator.

    The Naked Detective
    Laurence Shames
    Narrated by Ron McLarty
    GREAT writing - funny quirky mystery. I'll be reading more of his work.

    Christopher Moore
    A bawdy take on King Lear.
    The recorded version is a great romp.
    His other books are not as good.

    The Thirteenth Tale
    Diane Setterfield

    The Sweet Potato Queens' Big-Ass Audiobook (And Financial Planner) on audio tape at SF Library. Hilarious

    The Dead Side Of The Mike
    Simon Brett
    Performed by Simon Prebble

    Seven Years in Tibet
    Heinrich Harrer

    The Secret Life of Bees
    Sue Monk Kidd

    The Yiddish Policeman's Union
    Michael Chabon

    Victoria Rabinowe : Artist : Teacher : Dreamer : Author

  9. I am afraid it's gotta be Pete the Cat!!

    (Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes! by Eric Litwin and James Dean)

    From Franziska: Designer, Web Maven & Mom

  10. Founding Mothers, Cokie Roberts (my current reading) If you love American history and are interested in what the "ladies" were doing, check this out. Well researched.

    The Winner Stands Alone, Paul Coelhoe
    Upper class murder and mayhem. Nothin' like it!!

    The Help, Katheryn Stockett Great read and especially so if your mother had a black maid when you were a child. Yikes.

    Tinkers, Paul Harding An unusual book about time and life. Which brings me to Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson....melancholy memories.

    A few of my 2010 books...........Prosit!

  11. There's a few books that stand out from the past year. Generally, I like historical novels as opposed to history, which tends to put me to sleep.

    Ditto :The Help

    The Piano Teacher by Janice Lee (Hong Kong)

    Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (NYC)

    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (Nigeria, I think)

    The Story of Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer (USA)

    The Physik Book of Deliverance Dane by Catherine Howe (goes back and forth 1670s-1990s in MA)

    Fun contemporary one The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, I think (dog lovers!)

    Also loved Still Alice by Lisa Genova (about Alzheimer's, but heartwarming somehow)

    Liked Brunonia Barry's Map of True Places and just finished Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson (very Swedish story of female bonding).

    And of course, Dragon Tattoo, etc.- scary!


  12. Oddly, my favorites seem to have a common thread...

    Upper mid-west setting and Scandinavians.

    "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle", a dog with a wonderful voice, Almondine.
    David Wroblewski.

    "Driftless", I loved these people and missed them when I finished reading. An author I want more and more of.
    David Rhodes

    Maybe there is another commonality, authors named David.

    And a guilty pleasure..."The Girl With; The Girl Who..etc" You all know what I'm talkn' about.

    Ann Dennedy