09 December 2010

Favorite Books of 2010

This may be redundant as I've been somewhat faithfully recording what I read here and on Goodreads and I've already blogged about several of these, but nonetheless these were my favorite books of the year. In reviewing what I read this year, I was embarrassed to discover that I've only read 3 YA books since January and none of them made my top ten, although I did really enjoy The Ant Colony and Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith.

Favorite Fiction
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I imagine everyone already knows and loves (you love it, right?) this one. I got to it late, but it's my favorite book of the year.

The Spellman Series by Lisa Lutz
I discovered the Spellmans because the first book in the series was a 2008 Alex Award recipient. I'd describe the books as sweeter, gentler versions of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. Isabel is a member of her family's private investigation practice and the whole clan is mad. Isabel's parents use their spy skills to discover information about her new relationship and her school-age sister has to be forcibly restrained from surveilling in her spare time. The stories are light and funny and get progressively better. I wasn't sure I liked the main character in the first book but I've become more and more attached to the whole cast with each book. If you like Ally Carter's YA spy novels, give this series a try (but don't expect squeaky clean books).

The books in the series are as follows (My library doesn't have the last one yet. Boo.)
  1. The Spellman Files
  2. Curse of the Spellmans
  3. Revenge of the Spellmans
  4. The Spellmans Strike Again

Favorite Non-Fiction

At Home by Bill Bryson
As expected, this book is full of fascinating information told in an incredibly readable way. Bryson considers his home and each room in it as the starting point for a history that includes the private life of rectors, the workings of the spice trade, and some lessons on crinolines. I skipped the section on brick-making but I was completely intrigued by all of the information about food and food culture.

Twilight Children by Torey Hayden
I love Torey Hayden's nonfiction. I thought I had read all of her books, but this one slipped by me somehow. It was published in 2005 and, like Hayden's previous works, recounts the author's experiences working with troubled children, especially children who are electively mute. In addition to being fascinating, Hayden's books are very readable. Some of my favorite narrative nonfiction.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is an account of a young man in Africa who couldn't afford to attend school but managed to build a windmill out of junk he scavenged from his village's dump, providing his family with electricity in their home. William Kamkwamba (the windmill maker) and Bryan Mealer co-wrote the book and the narrative voice is unique and perfectly fitted to the tales that make up the work—the author's personal family history in Africa, local folklore involving witches stealing children, and the actual construction of the windmill.

No Impact Man by Colin Beavan
I wrote an entire post about this one at the beginning of the year. Steve and I saw the documentary as well, and I like the author and his family better in print.

Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin
Have I mentioned that I read this every year? I do. I love it. I feel like the author and I are friends even though she passed away well before I started reading her books. I find her British recipes especially interesting now that I'm married to a self-proclaimed steamed pudding evangelist.

As always, I love to hear your recommendations (especially if I can get my hands on them in Scotland). I could especially use some YA suggestions, it seems.


Anonymous said...

I loved The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. I cried at the chapter when he gets to the TED conference.


CSIowa said...

My bff from high school and college freshman roommate is now a published YA novelist. As you might guess, she reads extensively in the genre. She also posts recommendations on her blog, along with advice on writing and training for triathlon.

Her latest individual recommendation can be found here: http://metteharrison.livejournal.com/268001.html

Her latest monthly list of recommendations can be found here:

Now, instead of reading a draft of her latest work that is waiting for me in my computer, I have to study for my accounting final. Happy reading!

CSIowa said...

Oh! I was also wondering whether you would tell me more about the Spellman series. I am a fan of detective fiction of various sorts, such as Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series or P.D. James or Jim Butcher. I read Janet Evanovich's One for the Money this summer. It was the stupidest book I've ever read. There was not a single thing I liked about it--writing, characters, plot, nothing. I can't imagine how it got published, much less the dozen+ sequels. Given that, is it worth trying Lisa Lutz?

MBC said...

Kjerste--I cried at that part too! I found the whole book really touching in the best possible way.

CSIowa--I have read (and enjoyed!) Mette's books but I didn't know she had a blog/recommendations. That's excellent to know.

Based on your reading preferences, I probably wouldn't recommend the Spellmans to you. The books are perfect if you're into chick lit and like slightly eccentric characters or if you're after something really LIGHT and fun. But if you want a proper mystery series, it will likely disappoint.

Anonymous said...

Sci-fi has always been my favorite read. In the past few years I've spend a lot of time with my nose in historical fiction by writers such as Nigel Tranter and Edward Rutherford. I have also developed a taste for British mystery writers, my favs being PD James and Ian Rankin. I particularly like Rankin's work as it is mostly set in your end of Scotland and I have seen a lot of the places he writes about so I can better relate to the story.
I suppose with the recent snow days you are getting some extra book time.
Happy Reading


Yankee Girl said...

I love your list (especially the non-fiction cause I needed some suggestions) and have even had it in the back of my mind to do something similar.


Countdown by Deborah Wiles
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Behemoth (Leviathan #2) by Scott Westerfeld
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Adult Fiction:

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Death With Interruptions by Jose Saramago

MBC said...

KWB--I really should pick up some Ian Rankin and give him a try. I read an M.C. Beaton this week and I liked it much more than the last one I read since I caught more of the cultural references. I DO have more reading time but it is, unfortunately, mostly reading time in trains and bus stations while I kick my heels waiting to see if I can get to work.

Yankee Girl--Thanks for the suggestions! I've even seen several of those in my library here. I read part of Leviathan but I kept getting distracted. Will have to give it another go.

Anonymous said...

CSlowa --

I agree that if you are only looking for mystery and detection you won't likely be satisfied by the Spellman books. The series are comic novels about family, not plot-driven mysteries. But if you might be interested in fresh and funny books about a family who are private eyes mostly investigating each other, I wouldn't be too put off by the fact you didn't like Evanovich. While the two are frequently compared, I have also frequently heard or read of people who like the Lutz books but not Evanovich. I'd say read a bit to see.

christine said...

I'm currently reading the Boy who harnessed the wind...still in the starvation chapters. LOVED THE HELP...actually loved it more than the much hyped Jonathan Franzen Freedom.

Brooke said...

I just picked up "Home" and I am very exited! I'm glad to see that it meets your mustard.

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