Saturday, January 1, 2011

Best of 2010 Reading List

Everyone else has done it, so I guess I'll join the crowd. That brings up the old parent question: "If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?" I guess my answer is yes. Yes, I would.

So without further ado, my best of 2010 list, with links to reviews (if they've been written!):

Todd Johnson's The Sweet By and By: I haven't reviewed it because, well, I'm really behind. My hope is to do mini-reviews of everything and start fresh for the New Year. Then keep up. Call it a resolution. But definitely check out Johnson's debut novel. Southern fiction at its best.

Sara Paretsky's Body Work: Again, not reviewed yet. Suffice it to say, I've read every book Paretsky has written. Her female PI protagonist V.I. Warshawski is one of the best around. This is reminiscent of Paretsky's early V.I. novels (which I adored). Set in Chicago, and very current, as the story revolves around an Iraqi War vet.

Amy Green's Bloodroot: I promise, the last non-reviewed book I'll include. Amy spoke at the Southern Festival of Books, and I was so impressed, I ran (literally) over to the sales tent and then the signing pavilion so I could meet her and have her sign my copy. Beautiful, the best of my favorite genre -- and she's a Tennessee writer, not just a southern one.

Tana French's Faithful Place: My review doesn't do this novel justice. If you've never read French, go find her two previous novels and this one as fast as you can. She does a brilliant job of building suspense and describing the Irish setting. Enough said.

Attica Locke's Black Water Rising: I loved this debut mystery novel set in Texas (Houston, to be exact). Locke does an amazing job of giving the reader a sense of both the place and the time (1981). She doesn't do terribly with her plot, characters, or anything else. Read all about it in my review of the novel. I cannot wait for her second novel to be released.

Ilana Stanger-Ross's Sima's Undergarments for Women: My requirements for a good book are as follows: well-written and interesting characters, strong setting that shapes both characters and plot, and a plot that holds my attention. Stanger-Ross's debut novel has all three, although the plot is probably the least of the three (you'll notice, however, that plot comes in last on my list). She paints a portrait of a Brooklyn Jewish woman who seeks self-growth without realizing what it is she is searching for. I loved it.

Jeanette Walls' Half Broke Horses: Walls produced a strong debut with her first memoir The Glass Castle. In her latest memoir/biography, Walls relates the story of her maternal grandmother with stunning detail and shows readers what the wild west was all about. Read my review.

Joshilyn Jackson's Backseat Saints: Jackson does everything well. She's described her books as southern gothic. I would agree, but throw in women's lit, as well. Her novels all tie together wonderfully, and her characters fairly jump off the page. I recommend reading them all in order of publication. I follow her blog, and you should, too. My take on the novel, and my review of it with its companion book gods in Alabama.

 Louise Erdrich's Shadow Tag: Erdrich is the master of the Native American tale. In this novel she melds her personal life (divorce after many years, child abuse accusations) with the fictional world she creates in a beautiful, haunting story. Although I've never been an Erdrich fan, this novel changed my mind.

Lisa Gardner's The Neighbor: This book renewed my faith in the power of an audiobook. It is chilling, entertaining, and riveting. Read it, or listen like I did.

That's ten, a nice even number. Honorable mention should go to the series novels I've enjoyed this year (and read almost all of during the year):

Michael Connelly's books -- the Harry Bosch ones, the Mickey Haller ones, and the Jack McEvoy ones. Sometimes they even overlap. And I met Connelly back in February! I actually read the majority of Connelly's books in 2009, but added three or four this year.

Laura Lippman's standalone novels, as well as the Tess novels I had missed. Love them all, especially the short story collection Hardly Knew Her that I haven't reviewed yet.

Jefferson Bass's Tennessee-based Dr. Bill Brockton series. I can't get enough of this duo, a writer and Dr. Bill Bass who founded the Body Farm in Knoxville. More to come soon from them, as a new book will release in March. And I met them, as well!

Kathy Reichs' Tempe Brennan series. I have literally read every one of these books this year, beginning last February. If only I could find a new Tempe for the next year... Spider Bones is actually in my lap as I type, but it's the newest one (and the last one, for a while).

To all of you who received a Kindle, Nook, or some other such eReader for Christmas, look these up. Most programs will let you download a sample (as much as 60 pages in some cases), so that you can read for yourself and decide if you want to buy and finish it. Happy reading in 2011!


  1. so glad to see SIMA'S UNDERGARMENTS on your list! I LOVE that book :)

    also, just discovered Tana French myself. most excellent :)

  2. Thanks! They are both WONDERFUL. Hope you've read both In the Woods & The Likeness. I haven't read a single line from French I DIDN'T like.



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