Thursday, December 23, 2010

Best Reads for 2010

The year is almost at an end and I have had the pleasure of reading some really fabulous books this year. Of the 80+ books I managed to complete there are 15 +1 honorable mention that stuck out. Without further ado and in no particular order:

My TOP 5 Non-Historical Fiction Books of 2010

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This classic story of the four March sisters: Amy, Jo, Beth, and Meg was like a nice cup of hot chocolate on a cold day. I couldn't help but love them all and found myself wishing I had read this years ago.

The Grapes of Wrath was the first book I read in 2010 and it just blew me away. It is the story of the Joad family who set out for California from Dust Bowl of Oklahoma after they are driven off their land. This book won the Pulitzer in 1940 and it was easy to see why.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo started out so dull it had me deciding if I'd rather go watch paint dry instead of read it. After I got past the first 100 pages though, the mystery of the missing Harriet Vanger and the teaming of Mikael Blomkvist and the anything but stereotypical heroine Lizbeth Salander had me glued to the pages. I loved this and can't wait to read the other two in the trilogy.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins: This Dystopian Trilogy tells of a US now divided into 13 districts and ruled by the Capitol. As a way to keep the other districts in line the Capitol makes 2 children from every district participate in the Hunger Games-a televised fight to the death every year. These gave me a new appreciation for YA. I tore through all of these and it was the first time EVER that I went to the store and bought a YA book (Mockingjay) the day it came out.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is a YA about a girl who commits suicide and leaves behind tapes to 13 people detailing how they were involved in her decision to end her life. Following Hannah Baker's story as the tapes passed from one person to another really made me sad and it made me think a lot about the whole high school experience and seeing so many kids who could have been this girl. Yet another one that made me like YA novels just a bit more.

My TOP 10 Historical Fiction Reads of the Year:

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan paints a portrait of of 15th century Spain during the Inquisition and focuses on Luis de Santagel, a Jewish convert to Christianity who is targeted by the head of the Inquisition. It is hard to sum up this novel in just a sentence or two as it had several other things going on as well, but it was a very enjoyable read.

Elizabeth I is one of my favorite historical figures to read about. I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles which tells Elizabeth's story in her own words really made this much written about Queen feel real to me. I have read many Elizabeth books and love this one best of all.

The King's Fool by Margaret Campbell Barnes gives us the much told story of Henry VIII and his wives from a different point of view: his fool Will Somers. Here Will is not just the clown- he is smart, sensitive and courageous as well.

I loved all the books on this list but if there is one that completely awed me this year it is Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. This is not just a western, its an epic of the frontier. It has love and loss, a terrifying villain and plenty of action. I cried at the end of this beautiful book and then watched the miniseries based on the book and cried some more. You know a book is great when it is almost 900 pages and you get to the end and wish you had 900 more to read.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon tells the story of Claire Randall who touches an ancient boulder in Scotland which sends her back in time to 1745 Scotland where she is constantly thrown into danger and eventually into the arms of Scotsman Jamie Frasier. Claire must decide whether to get back to the future and husband Frank or stay in the past with Jamie. I read this to find out what all the fuss was about. Now I know. It has romance and adventure and most of all Jamie. Unless you have a heart made of stone there is no way you can read this book and not fall in love with him. Gabaldon's writing is also so detailed you feel like you are right there in the highlands.

In The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon young Daniel discovers a long forgotten book written by a man named Julian Carax. When he delves into the author's life a little more he discovers someone has been hunting down and burning everything ever written by him. Daniel and his friend Fermin begin to investigate Julian's story to find out why and are soon thrown into a web of intrigue and danger with a plot that has so many surprising twists and turns I had no clue what was going to happen til the very end. I just finished this book yesterday and it was not originally on my top 10 list but the story was so engaging and the writing so beautiful I had to reserve a spot for it. This book has been described as a novel for book lovers and that is exactly what it is.

The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare by Arliss Ryan is a book I only heard mentioned in a couple of places this year which is a shame because it was REALLY good. It tells the story of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's first wife whom we meet on her death bed when she confesses to her grand daughter that Will didn't write all the famous plays-she did. Anne goes on to tell her life story in a voice that is believable and so alive. I really loved this character and I love when an author can take a character that was a mere footnote in history and craft such a wonderful story about them.

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn is the first of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries. We meet Lady Julia as her ailing husband collapses and dies at her feet. Convinced it was murder she engages the services of the enigmatic inquiry agent Nicholas Brisbane. What follows is a wild and dangerous ride to find out who may have wanted Edward Grey dead. I loved this book so much that I read the next four in the series in quick succession. Lady Julia and Brisbane are now on my list of favorite fictional couples, right up there with Scarlett and Rhett and Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. LOVE LOVE LOVE this series!

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum is another novel of the holocaust which really touched me. It begins with Trudy, a professor of German history discovers a photo of herself, her mother and a Nazi officer taken in Germany-a time which her mother Anna refuses to talk about. The book flashes back to tell Anna's story from the German perspective during the war and with what unfolds, it is no wonder she refuses to talk about it. I read this book in one day and could not stop thinking about it for quite awhile afterward.

To Dance with Kings by Rosalind Laker takes place during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV and tells the story of four generations of women from the same family who practice the art of fan making. Margeurite, Jasmin, Violette and Rose each have their own engrossing story and distinctive voice that made this novel a joy to read. I am glad I discovered Rosalind Laker this year. I can't wait to read more!

Honorable Mention:

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay broke my heart. It tells two stories: the story of Sarah a 10 year old girl who was rounded up with the rest of the Jews in Paris in 1942, and Julia, the reporter who discovers her name 60 years later and resolves to find out what happened to her. I really wanted to find out what happened to Sarah and could not put this book down.

And there you have it, my top picks for 2010. Did any of these wonderful books make your list?


  1. By Fire, By Water was one of my favorite reads this year as well!!

  2. I've been meaning to read Outlander for a long time. And that Thirteen Reasons Why sounds interesting so I am putting it on my list of things to read as well.

  3. Outlander and The Shadow of the Wind are favorites of mine. Lonesome Dove is on the TBR list - I wasn't able to do the readalong this year but I'll get to it eventually. My list will be up next week.

  4. This is a great list! Outlander and Lonesome Dove are all time favorites of mine, and I loved Silent in the Grave. I didn't love Dragon Tattoo but most people did! I have Shadow of the Wind on my bookshelf and will definitely read it.

  5. I read I, Elizabeth a few years ago and loved it. And Lonesome Dove is a favorite of mine too.

  6. What a fabulous historical fiction list!! I couldn't agree more on I, Elizabeth (my 2nd fave Elizabeth I novel after Susan Kay's Legacy, which made my top 10 list of 2010). I also loved, loved, loved To Dance With Kings, By Fire By Water and Outlander! You had some great reads this year...I hope 2011 is just as good!

  7. Dear Holly, I'm thrilled that you loved By Fire, By Water and honored to be on this list. Thank you so much for all your kindness and have a great 2011. Mitchell