my top five books of 2010

Filed under: reading

I’m a bit late on this one, but I did a draft post and forgot about it. Der. Anyway, I read some great books in 2010. I’ve been trying to use the library as much as possible, which means I’ve tried a lot of books that I wouldn’t normally pick up. I’ve discovered some authors I want to read more of, like historical novelist Karen Maitland, and started some series that I’m looking forward to, like the Angel books by Lee Weatherly. I also got completely addicted to the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay.

These are five of the ones that were my favourites, though, off the top of my head.

The Girls by Lori Lansens
I read this book for the book group that my ambitious and energetic neighbour, Gemma, started up (well, really, it’s more of a drinking group than a book group, but we do read the books too). I absolutely loved it. It’s the story of a pair of conjoined twins, joined at the head, told from their separate points of view, and it is lyrical, touching, funny, clever, beautiful, and sad. It’s probably the best book I read all year—it’s so well crafted and moving.

Take A Chance on Me by Jill Mansell
How does she do it? HOW DOES SHE DO IT?? I’ve read a lot of Jill’s books now and every single one of them is effortlessly entertaining, funny and true. Like a perfect weekend between two paperback covers.

The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes
I’d been putting off reading this for ages because I thought it would depress me. Marian is so, so, so, so, so, so good. She is the person who made me want to write commercial women’s fiction. So when she has a new book out, I circle it warily, with equal feelings of desire and fear. I know I’ll love it. I always do. I really want to read it. But I also know that it will probably make me feel inadequate and jealous as hell. It’s like having a hugely talented best friend who you’re really pleased for, really, but when you stand next to her, you can’t help but feel like a tiny pale shadow. Anyway, I overcame my craven feelings and bought the book and read it, nonstop, for two days, and then kicked myself for not having read it the minute it came out in hardback. I loved it. A lot. It even had the dog’s point of view in it which is a big warning NO sign for me usually, and I did not care. Marian, you are a goddess and I will never be afraid of reading your books again.

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
This was research—my latest heroine is an enormous Heyer fan, and I needed to get into her head—but I fell in love with this book and read it twice in one year, which is something I never do. I love Heyer, and there’s something special about Sophy. I think it’s because she’s the master of her own universe. And she carries a little pistol in her muff.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I’d looked forward to this book for months. I absolutely adored the first two books in the trilogy—The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. They were pretty much my best reads of 2009, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Katniss and her love triangle with Gale and Peeta. So I reread the first books before I read the third. To a great extent, I was disappointed in Mockingjay, to tell the truth. But I was sort of honestly disappointed. I could see why it had to happen this way. Collins had set up such big issues in her first two books, her world-building was so complete and vital, that she had little choice but to spend the last book in the trilogy dealing with them. Basically, books 1 and 2 foreshadow and start a war, and book 3 is about the war. And in a war, the big things are more important than the individuals. While the first two books focus relentlessly on Katniss and what she does, in the third book, she’s necessarily pretty inactive. (I had this same problem with Steig Larsson’s third Milennium book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, where Lisbeth Salander is in a hospital bed for about half the book while the big world works out its complexities around her.) However. The love story is so sad and yet so right, that I sat in the bath that had gone cold and read the last few pages over and over and over and sobbed, literally sobbed. And that’s the sign of a good book, regardless of its faults.

There were lots of other really good books that I read for the first time this year—Mariana by Susanna Kearsley, and From Hell by Alan Moore, and Room by Emma Donoghue, to name a few. 2010 was a good reading year.

What stood out for you?

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  1. ‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’ was an excellent read. Couldn’t put it down.

    ‘House Rules’ and ‘Handle With Care’ by Jodi Picoult. The last one in particular really touched me.

    Read a few classics, ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Dracula’ and ‘The Color Purple’.

    ‘Mr Rosenblum’s List’ Bought for me by the children, for Mother’s Day. Didn’t think I’d like it, but did.

    ‘The Fry Chronicles’ Can’t go wrong with Stephen, can you?

    ‘The Book of Werewolves’ by Sabine Baring-Gould. (Free on the Kindle!) great research by a 19th century writer.

    • I’m reading my first Jodi Picoult now, Nicolette, and enjoying it so far. I just looked up Mr Rosenblum’s List and it looks excellent, thanks for the recommendation!

      You can’t go wrong with any of those classics. I must admit (geekily) that I know the Baring-Goulds best because William S. B-G was a Sherlock Holmes fanatic. Sad, sad me.

  2. Hi Julie,

    Happy New Year and thanks for posting your best reads of last year, I’ll definitely be putting most of those on my list for 2011.

    I read an amazing book at the the end of the year ‘The Help’ by Karen Stockett. By a wonderful coincidence a friend recommended it to me over a bottle of wine on 22nd December, and DH had independently bought it for me under the Christmas tree. Such serendipity put it to the top of reading list and I devoured it over the holidays. Brilliant character portrayals of women in Missipi in the early 60’s and such a fantastic read.

    • I’ve got The Help on my TBR pile right here, Carol. Maybe I’ll shuffle it up a little.

  3. Only two books stand out for me from last year: The Brightest Star in the Sky, also, and Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom, which makes me sound like a real a*** licker but I loved that book and would happily read it again.

    I also discovered Rachel Johnson – not the greatest on plot but I loved her use of words and she made me laugh aloud – always a plus in my book. (Scuse pun.)

    • She mentioned me in the same paragraph as The Marian!



  4. I really ought to start writing down what I’ve read and when, since I can’t remember anything further than last week. I think Joanna Bourne’s The Forbidden Rose was 2010, and even if it wasn’t I’m going to name it because it was just wonderful, written so elegantly and evocatively, set during the last days of Robespierre with aristocrats and spies, and fear infusing every page.

    On a completely different note, I’ve been reading Jane Lovering, who makes me giggle with every page. Reversing over Liberace was not only hilarious but also highly unusual in having a hero less than physically perfect–he has cerebral palsy and the oddest sense of humour I’ve ever read (much like Jane herself. The odd sense of humour, that is).

    More recently I read Tamsyn Murray’s My So-Called Afterlife, which was brilliantly funny and touching, and genuinely had me wondering how it would end.

    Jim Butcher’s latest Dresden Files book, Changes, had me gripped, but then I get the feeling Jim Butcher could write a shopping list ad I wouldn’t be able to put it down. I’ve never known an author to keep such a breakneck, suspenseful pace and create such an incredibly detailed and believable world. I do miss the Codex Alera series now it’s over.

    Oh…and somebody called Julie wrote a book about some twins. You might have heard of it…

    • I like your list, Kate, because (except for the last one) it’s all stuff I’ve never read. I have to read Jane’s books soon, especially as I’m doing a workshop with her in March! I’m looking forward to them.

      Thanks for the recommendations.

  5. I felt the same way about Mockingjay. I was irritated through most of it at the way Katniss was being used. That poor girl went through so much and things just weren’t getting better. But, like you said, there was no other way for Collins to write the story. This book was about war, and war is not pretty.

    Thanks for sharing your list. Definitely gonna have to pick up some of these books this year!

    • I know, Meika. It was difficult to read, because I knew I wasn’t satisfied, and I could see why I wasn’t satisfied, but I couldn’t think of another way of winding up the story, given how she’d set it up. As I said, though, I did like the romantic resolution, and at least she tackled some difficult subjects and situations in a complex and thoughtful way.

  6. I adore Marian Keyes too and thought her latest was one of her best. Room stood out for me and so did Blacklands by Belinda Bauer (I love a good psychological thriller)and for feel-good laugh-out-loud fun, Bernadette Strachan’s Why DO We Have to Live With Men? was perfect.

    Ooh and I discovered a book called Saving Grace by a writer similar to Marian Keyes (also Irish) called Ciara Geraghty, which was fab.

    Looking forward to reading your new one this year :o)

    • People keep on recommending Ciara Geraghty to me, Karen. I will have to find her books.

      I’ve never read any Belinda Bauer and I love a good psychological thriller too, so I’ll look out for that. Thanks!

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