Saturday, December 18, 2010

Favorite Books of 2010

Even as I reflect on my favorite books of 2010, the stack of books for 2011 grows in front of my eyes. I just started reading a biography of Florence Nightingale, Nightingales by Gillian Gill who wrote one of my favorite books of 2009, We Two about Victoria and Albert. Two other biographies await: Franklin and Eleanor, An Extraordinary Marriage by Hazel Rowley and Reading Jackie, Her Autobiography in Books by William Kuhn. My shelves overflow with novels to read as well, but the one I am most eager for and I think will be the perfect winter read is the new translation of Dr Zhivago. But I jump ahead. Many of the books I read in 2010 were for the book group/class I take through UW continuing education. For 9 Tuesday mornings a semester a group of 40 or so people meet for discussion led by a masterful facilitator, Emily Auerbach. I often end the session liking the book much more than I did when I finished reading it. I am also stunned sometimes by what I have missed in my reading of a book, so this group is teaching me to be a more careful, deeper reader. At the same time I sometimes feel a conflict about devoting so much of my reading time to a book I have not selected. So many books, so little time! At any rate, here is my list of favorites for 2010.

1. The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt. I don't usually declare a top favorite, but I will this year and this is it. I know I will reread this book, as I have read Byatt's Possession. Enchanting and disturbing, often in the same sentence. Now out in paperback--get it!
2. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
3. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
4. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. This was for the book class, and probably my third read of the book and just as moving as the first time--maybe more so. First published in 1990, this books stands firm in every way.
5. Life of Pi by Martel. I had resisted this book for whatever reason, but read it for the group and it has stayed with me.
6. Atonement by Ian McEwan
7. Vanity Fair by Thackery
8. Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar. A favorite author.
9. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. While this was not her best, it was worth reading. She always is.
10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I reread this because I gave it to my Dad to read. Loved it all over again. Also, read a bio of Lee, which while it didn't make my favorites list, did help give a context to the author and her writing.
11. The Quiet American by Graham Greene. This inspires me to read more books by Greene. I had previously only read The Power and the Glory.
12. Family Album by Penelope Lively. Another favorite author.
13. The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone. I gave this book to granddaughter Maren this summer. It is the story of two young people who visit the Thorne miniature rooms at the Chicago Institute of Art and while there they some how become small enough to enter the rooms. The adventures begin. This fall we took Maren to see the rooms and while nothing magical happened, we loved being there and the book is a delight.
14. The Shadows in the Street by Susan Hill. The latest in her mystery series.
15. An Expert in Murder, A Josephine Tey Mystery by Nicola Upson. Can't wait to read the next one.

1. Compassion, Listening to the Cries of the World by Christina Feldman
2. Howard's End is on the Landing, A Year of Reading from Home by Susan Hill. This is the mystery writer. She decides that for a year she will only read what she already owns. I could do that--should do that. The only problem with the book is that is added many titles to my already long list!
3. Another Country, Navigating the Emotional Terrain of our Elders by Mary Pipher. Another wise book from a wise woman.
4. The Journal Keeper, A Memoir by Phyllis Theroux. Answered many questions for me about my own writing and journal keeping.
5. A Life of Being, Having and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller. Yes!!!!!
6. Women Food and God, An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth. Read it twice. Need to read again. Touches some deep places within. Plan to read the new book by Marianne Williamson on the same topic.
7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. A very important book--not sure why is didn't make Best Book lists.
8. Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell. Friendship and loss-tender and true.
9. Seeking Perspective, Weaving Spirituality and Psychology in Search of Clarity by Robert J. Wicks. This has been on my shelf for a long time and I am so glad I finally got to it.
10. Intimacy and Solitude by Stephanie Dowrick.

What are your favorites for this year? Any books you are giving or hoping to receive? All book talk is welcome. Happy reading!


  1. Thank you for this! I have such a hard time keeping track of what I read and what was favorite...hard to say. But recently am reading John O'Donohue whom I think you would LOVE (Catholic Irish contemplative writer) if you haven't read him. Also read the Book Thief this year finally (by Zuzak) - a strange YA novel in some ways, but very captivating and a wonderful exploration of narrators.

  2. Thanks, Miriam. I love John O'Donohue's books--even heard him speak once. I turn to his To Bless the Space Between Us, A Book of Blessings frequently. I MUST read Book Thief. Not sure what I am waiting for. Nancy