books in review: 2010

In 2010,  I read 36 books. I didn’t have a set number in mind at the start of the year, and I’m a little disappointed that my number wasn’t higher, which is part of the reason that I set a goal for 2011 to read at least fifty books.

Most of what I read in 2010 was pleasure reading, and a fair chunk of it was the majority of Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries. The rest was read for work, and I was surprised to find that I liked most of it.

There’s no point in sectioning my favorites into fiction and nonfiction when I only read 36 books, so I’ll settle for outlining the top five overall (in no order).

1. Graceling, Kristin Cashore: January 2010

Even though I ultimately liked Fire best, I’m including Graceling on the list because it was the book to turn me on to Kristin Cashore. I read this book overnight, practically; I got it for Christmas in 2009, and somehow waited until closer to the end of the year to start reading. I remember visiting my in-laws and reading it on their couch, and putting it away because I didn’t want to finish it too quickly. This book sets the bar for YA fiction.

2. On Writing, Stephen King: February 2010

This book will teach you more about writing than you can imagine, especially if you, like me, stupidly discount it because it’s by Stephen King and (a) you don’t like horror and (b) you’ve never read anything else by him. I learned my lesson. King’s advice is concise and, best of all, it’s true. I checked this book out from the library and was very, very reluctant to return it. I’ve yet to purchase my own copy, but it’s just a matter of time. This is an invaluable writing resource.

3. American Gods, Neil Gaiman: May 2010

I read this book in May partly because I’d picked it up at the thrift store near my house a few months earlier, partly because I felt guilty for leaving it around unread for so long. And then in May the whole world decided to read it, so I had to get myself into gear. What I love (and hate) about Neil Gaiman is how he makes it look so easy to write lyrical, dark fiction which isn’t overly contrived and which gives you shivers, shivers, shivers. Because, sadly, it’s not easy. This is on my all-time favorites list for many reasons, but I especially loved how this book sucked me in, lied to me, and blinded me so that I didn’t see it coming–twice.

4. The Book of Lost Things, Michael Connolly: October 2010

The only work book to make the list, and a book that’s also on my all-time favorites list. This is a fairytale with bite. This book also features one of the scariest villains I could possibly imagine. It’s at turns horrifying and absolutely heart-breakingly beautiful. Told from the perspective of a child, this is not a children’s book; it’s a book for adults who know what it’s like to remember innocence, and losing it, and the consequences thereafter. It’s beautiful.

5. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins: December 2010

This is the second book in the series, and while I loved all of the books, this one is ultimately my favorite. I also read all three books in December, after wondering for so long what the fuss was about this series. I’m glad that I waited until then to read them, because I had practically no waiting time between books; maybe a week from The Hunger Games to Catching Fire, and then a few more weeks until Christmas, when I received Mockingjay. I read The Hunger Games in one night; once I cracked the spine I couldn’t stop, and it was sort of scary the way I had to know what was going to happen and couldn’t stop reading, and was terrified about what was going to happen the whole time. It was like taking a hit of adrenaline. Catching Fire slowed that down just a little bit in the beginning, and then it was off to the races again. I usually enjoy the second of a trilogy best of all; I think it’s the Empire Strikes Back syndrome, where your hero is down and dirty and beaten and you’re hoping that things can only look up. Rough edges at the end, but they’re wonderful.

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