Here are my ten favorite books of 2010, in no particular order. I simply loved them all! While I read these books in 2010, some of them were published earlier. I’ll share my Goodreads.com reviews with you here as well. Goodreads is a great way to keep track of what you’ve read as well as to learn what other readers think of books you’re considering reading. Please share your own favorites with us!
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
Trudy, a professor of German history, discovers a photograph of that sends her on a search for the truth about her mother’s past in Germany during World War II. Her mother, Anna, refuses to talk about that time in her life, but Trudy relentlessly digs for answers that she may not be ready to learn.
My Goodreads review: Excellent book. I admire how Blum was able to make the contemporary story nearly as tense and suspenseful as the story from the past, which is extremely difficult to do. Trudy may not be at risk physically, as was her mother, but her psychological well-being is equally as precarious. Great job.
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
Absolutely gripping. Don’t read the cover copy. Go into it as I did–with no idea where the story is going. That way you’ll be as a stunned as the central character is when ‘it’ happens. This book asks the question “How do people survive the worst that can happen?”
My Goodreads review: Beautifully written. Not much happens in the first half, yet I was engaged from the start because Quindlen made me want to know her characters. She drew them so realistically, they felt like my neighbors–which makes what happens to them that much more devastating. You often wonder how someone can go on living after a tragedy. Quindlen has taken on the challenge of exploring exactly that, with compassion, heart and skill.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. By Rebecca Skloot
Skloot did a decade of research for this fascinating book. It’s really two stories in one. The first is about the sixty-year-old cervical cells of Henrietta Lacks, cells that have had an impact on your life and mine in ways that will surprise you. The second story is about the Lacks family, descendants of slaves, who had no idea Henrietta’s cells had been “taken” without her permission and used for hundreds of purposes world-wide. The cells live on to this day. The book covers all aspects of the situation, from the technical details of cell reproduction to the ethical questions of using someone’s cells without their permission, to the toll taken on the Lacks family as they realize what happened.
My Goodreads review: Can’t wait to recommend this book to my book club! It will make for a fabulous discussion. This book can satisfy several audiences on several different levels. The technical information about the science of cells is fascinating. The ethical questions raised by the unauthorized use of someone’s cells are important to ask and ponder. But most fascinating is the story of the Lacks family. Skloot’s exhaustive research spanned a decade and she tells a story that is honest, heart wrenching and provocative.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
The story is a simple one about a complex time in US history: a Chinese boy falls in love with a Japanese girl shortly before she and her family are taken to an internment camp. Moving between the present and the past, he searches for her both in ‘real life’ and in his heart.
My Goodreads review: Lovely book. I listened to it on audio and the narrator was excellent. I liked the shift back and forth between Henry as a older man and Henry the boy. The author really made it work, and I’m a sucker for a happy ending.
On Folly Beach by Karen White
This is the dual story of a young woman who moves to Folly Beach, SC to try to put her life back together after the death of her husband in Afghanistan. She discovers coded love letters written during World War II and becomes obsessed with finding out who wrote them and the story of their affair.
My Goodreads review: Totally loved it. It reminded me of my own books, so clearly it was the sort of story that resonates with me. Well done and engrossing. Karen did a beautiful job balancing different points of view and different time periods. A delight.
The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
If you love Berg’s writing, you’ll love this book. Again, it’s about a woman starting over after the loss of her husband. She’s a wonderfully likable and admirable character learning to take comfort in the every day.
My Goodreads review: This is a quiet book. It’s a gentle and uplifting story of a woman coming back to life after losing her husband. Berg always leaves me satisfied.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
I’m a big fan of Brooks. (If you haven’t read Year of Wonders, I highly recommend it). A young woman who restores old books discovers the secrets buried in an ancient illuminated Jewish prayer book. Through alternating chapters, Brooks takes you through history to follow the book’s journey to the present.
My Goodreads review: Fabulous, fabulous! I learned so much and enjoyed every minute. Geraldine Brooks is amazing,
Room by Emma Donoghue
Inspired by the true story of the Austrian woman who’d been held captive for years and who bore the children of her captor, this is a tale of strength and survival told through the eyes of the victim’s young son.
My Goodreads review: I thought it was brilliant of Donoghue to give five-year-old Jack the exclusive point of view. It was easy to get inside his skin, and seeing that terrible world through the eyes of innocence made it bearable in a way it might not have been if we’d been in his mother’s point of view. It’s a story that left me longing to know what happened after I read the last page. I couldn’t put it down.
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
My apologies for yet another ‘held captive’ book. It was only coincidental that I read them back to back, and they were both excellent. Still Missing is a debut novel I couldn’t put down about a young woman trying to put her life back together after spending nearly a year as the captive of a psychopath.
My Goodreads review: Well done and so engrossing. It’s easy to feel as trapped as the protagonist, both by the physical space in which her kidnapper was keeping her and the emotional trap that experience created for her. I had a little trouble with the ending, but not enough to spoil the enjoyment of the book at all. Just a little necessary suspension of disbelief. I look forward to Ms. Stevens’ next book.
No Death, No Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh
I guess when it comes right down to it, I am more Buddhist than anything else and I adore Thich Nhat Hanh and his wisdom. If you’ve lost someone you love or are thinking about your own mortality, this is the book for you.
My Goodreads review: May I give this book 6 stars? I’ve read it several times and am comforted by it each time. It usually causes me to walk around saying to myself I am that rock. I am that cloud. I am that man waiting for his bus. I am that homeless woman standing on the median strip. and feeling great joy at the epiphany and hoping no one is watching me and the goofy expression on my face. Just thinking about Thich Nhat Hanh makes me smile.
Yes, I do occasionally read lighter books, and here’s number 11 on my list to prove it:
Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper
At two weeks of age, a tiny abandoned kitten was found with a severe eye infection that required removal of his eyes. Gwen Cooper adopted him and this is his heartwarming, chuckle-inducing story. (And no animals die. I refuse to read books in which animals die!)
My Goodreads review:
I’m a dog person, but this book made me want a cat–if only family allergies didn’t make that a very bad idea. I laughed out loud at Homer’s antics, although there are some very serious moments in the story, since the author lived close to the World Trade Center in New York. I felt her tension when she couldn’t get back to her beloved cats after the Twin Towers collapsed. If you can’t stand anthropomorphizing of animals, this may not be the book for you, but if you’re one of those people who know animals ‘have feelings too’, you will love this story. What a lucky boy Homer is to have Gwen Cooper as his mom.
I hope you’ll share your favorites of 2010 with us!