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Top 10 Books of 2010

By Emily Milner

A while ago I was tagged on Facebook to list my top ten books read in 2010. I didn’t answer, because 1-it was December and I couldn’t think clearly, and 2-while I read a lot, I usually forget what I read (I know. I should be on Goodreads. Or do a book review blog. But I don’t.), and 3-any list I thought of was heavily weight towards books that I read recently (see #2, bad memory).

With all those caveats, and hoping we’re not too far into 2011 to be talking about 2010, here’s a list of ten books I read and enjoyed in 2010. Not necessarily the top ten, but books that have stuck with me long enough that I can still post about them now. They are not in order. You’ll notice that it skews toward speculative and YA fiction, which are my favorite genres. Have you read any of the same ones, and what did you think?

1-In the Company of Angels, David Farland. This is an honest and powerful look at the Willie Handcart Company. I think its honesty (real, but redemptive) should be a model for all future LDS historical fiction.

2-I Am Not a Serial Killer and Mr. Monster, Dan Wells. I’m including two books here, both of which are written from the point of view of a sociopath teen trying to tame his inner serial killer, even when it becomes necessary to let the killer loose. They are creepy and haunting and quite compelling.

3-The Chosen One, Carol Lynch Williams. Beautiful, spare writing about a thirteen-year-old girl in a polygamous compound being forced to marry her uncle. Of all the 2009 Whitney finalists, this one had the most powerful writing.

4-How I Killed Pluto, and Why it Had it Coming, by Mike Brown. Mike Brown is the guy who killed Pluto, meaning the one who discovered enough large objects that it became clear Pluto could no longer be a planet. I got this for my astronomy-loving husband, but it was fascinating to me as well. I also recommend The Planet Hunter, a picture book for kids about Pluto’s demise.

5-The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate–Great historical fiction about a young girl who wants to be a naturalist and her relationship with her scientist grandfather. The voice here is perfect. I loved it.

5-Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction–Thought-provoking LDS short fiction. I didn’t love every story, but many of them have stayed with me, and I find myself thinking about them again. My favorite is probably Darin Cozzins’ “Light of the New Day,” which is honest and real and also redemptive.

6-The Way of Kings–The first book in Brandon Sanderson’s new epic fantasy series. The book is long, but the ending is one of the most satisfying I’ve ever read, and well worth the investment.

7- The Hunger Games Trilogy–I liked the first book best; it gave me that hazy book high hangover that I hardly ever get anymore, where I just want to reread the book over and over.

8-A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whalen Turner. Not as powerful as The Queen of Attolia, but I was dying to know what happened next in her Attolia series, and I was not disappointed.

9-Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand–Biography of Louie Zamperini, an Olympian who spent years as a Japanese POW. I loved the way she talked about Zamperini’s religion. The writing is compelling (and graphic sometimes, as fits her material), and the story is an important one.

10-Here is my confession: I spend a good chunk of my reading time rereading old favorites. Comfort books, is what I call them in my head, books I have read and reread so many times that they are old friends and I pick them up knowing what to expect, and I’m not disappointed. Here are a few comfort books I reread in 2010: The Blue Castle, L.M. Montgomery; The Worthing Saga, Orson Scott Card; Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. There are lots more. Anything I read as a teenager that I own a copy of, pretty much.

Your turn. Tell me some of your favorites from last year. What are your comfort books? And what’s on your to-read list for next year?

About Emily Milner

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

32 thoughts on “Top 10 Books of 2010”

  1. Favorites from 2010:
    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
    The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
    Family by J. California Cooper

    I usually don't read books more than once, so for my comfort reads I tend to turn to familiar authors, or books set in a familiar place or time. I love to read about World War Two, for example, non-fiction and historical fiction.

    What to read next? I have a huge stack on my night table, but I am most excited right now about The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley. The second Flavia de Luce mystery, I found the first one just so darn enjoyable!

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  2. Interesting list. I'll have to look into those. My favorites this year:

    Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson

    Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demmick

    Niamh and the Hermit by Emily C. Snyder (an dreamlike, epic faerie tale literature in the style of the late nineteenth century)

    Dave at Night by Gail Carson Levine (Levine's fictionalized account of her father's experiences in a NY orphanage)

    The Tutor's First Love, and The Musician's Quest written by George MacDonald and edited by Mike Phillips (originally published as "David Elginbrod" and "Robert Falconer")

    Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography by Peter Conn

    and

    I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino (an old Newberry award winner that I appreciated even more as an adult than I had as a child)

    My "old familiar friend" authors (in order, from the sublime to the ridiculous) include C.S. Lewis, E.B. White (essays), Jane Austen, LM Montgomery (short stories), John Gould, Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, Patricia Wrede, Vivian Van de Velde, Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett.

    My list of "yet to read" is way too long but among other things, in the coming year I hope to find and read a couple of early 20th century authors, Elizabeth Coatsworth and Florence Barclay that have been recommended to me.

    Thanks for sharing your reading.

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  3. I got tagged for that meme too and wasn't unable to fill it out for similar reasons. I read 86 books last year, according to my blog, and I recently did a wrap-up of that reading on there.

    I have read your numbers 1,2,3,5, and 7 and have similar opinions about all of them. I'm reading Unbroken right now and it is fabulous; we just gave it to my dad for his birthday. Another book that I have read recently and can't stop talking about is called "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea". It was fascinating. I think my husband is going to read it just to get me to stop telling him all about it ๐Ÿ™‚

    During the last few years I haven't read too many comfort books and I haven't been doing a lot of rereading. I love to re-read the Dean Hughes' Children of the Promise and Hearts of the Children series every few years. I love historical fiction, especially from those time periods, and those have become comfort books to me. Plus my husband introduced me to them when we were dating and he was taking classes from Dean, so they have a nostalgia factor.

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  4. I also loved "Nothing to Envy," though it is a really depressing book — so sad to think of conditions in North Korea.

    Also rated 4 or 5 stars on my list this year:

    2. Screwtape Letters. Old Favorite

    3. The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog. An amazingly informative, and compassionate look at how children develop and heal from traumatic experiences.

    4. Mao's Last Dancer

    5. Driven. About Larry Miller. Not one I thought would be interesting, but it really was.

    6. Moving in His Majesty and Power. Elder Maxwell's last book. It doesn't have the polish of some of his earlier works, but the heart is there.

    7. To the Rescue.

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  5. Emily – Dan Wells just moved into our ward. He shared a very cool story about things "not working out" – ie getting a job post MBA. No job actually gave him time to pursue his writing and publish the serial killer book. Haven't read it yet, but I've heard good things.

    I also read the first two Hunger Games and enjoyed them. YA fiction is not my favorite genre, but thanks to exposure from a good friend whose book was recently picked up by Harper Collins, I've found it to be a refreshing escape. You might enjoy her blog – http://brodiashton.blogspot.com/

    Thanks for the great list. I laughed because I can't recall what I've read over the last year either!

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  6. I joined Goodreads partly b/c I simply canNOT remember a)What I want to read, b)what I HAVE read and c)(on particularly bad days) what I AM reading! ๐Ÿ™‚ It helps!

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  7. I don't remember all the books I read this year either (ditto the bad memory), but I did enjoy Conspiracy of Kings (although the Queen is my favorite as well–harrowing and romantic at the same time). I'm on Goodreads, but I haven't updated in a while (I probably should).

    The Blue Castle figures high on my comfort reading list too. Also anything by Jane Austen, and my go-to Georgette Heyer (who's the next best thing to Austen that I've found). Also Patricia Wrede (who's been mentioned before), Dorothy Sayers, Lois McMasters Bujold (if you like fantasy, her Curse of Chalion is one of the very best I've read), and Elizabeth Peters. (My tastes skew to women authors, I find.)

    One of my goals this year is to read more "high brow" literature, which I usually enjoy, but don't return to as frequently as my "comfort food" books. I'm currently reading Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, and loving it.

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  8. Okay, (after checking Goodreads ๐Ÿ™‚ ) here are a few of my favorites–in no particular order and not all read in 2010: To Kill a Mockingbird, Embraced by the Light, The Headless Cupid, Watership Down, North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell), Wizard of Earth Sea series, Dracula and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

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  9. Dalene, I "discovered" The Book Thief this year, too, and thought it was just great. Here are some of my other favorites from 2010: Room by Emma Donoghue, The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, A Sense of Order and Other Stories by Jack Harrell, Matched by Ally Condie, and Belong to Me by Maria de los Santos. Thanks for all the recommendations.

    And don't forget, everybody: we're discussing The Age of Innocence here on the blog in February. I'm in the middle of rereading it right now and really enjoying it.

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  10. Love your list! Definitely some fabulous ones there and some new-to-me books I'll have to look up. My favorite go-to book is The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I read it for the first time in the 5th grade and have pulled it off my shelf nearly every year since then. (So yes, my copy is a bit worn!) My favorite new reads from this year: Out of the Dust and The Help.

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  11. Thanks for the great suggestions, everyone! I need to go to the library by myself sometime so I can find them. It's always a treat to discover a new writer I can love–like I just barely read Terry Pratchett for the first time this year and he's great.

    I loved The Book Thief too, although I can never reread Holocaust books often the way I do other books–it's too wrenching for me to enter that world again.

    Other people love The Blue Castle too! That's a great book. Someone should make it into a movie. It would only work as a period piece, I think, but it could be really great. Or alternatively they might wreck it…

    I am also a fan of Diana Wynne Jones as go to reading.

    And my book club is reading Driven this year–glad to hear it's good.

    I need to go check out Age of Innocence. Sometimes I have "I don't read enough highbrow stuff" guilt. I would like to read them more, and every so often I do, but I'm trying to figure out basic storytelling right now. And it's very interesting what you can learn about storytelling from rereading The Blue Castle. L.M. Montgomery knew her storytelling stuff.

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  12. I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who forgets what books she's read.

    Ditto, love The Blue Castle.

    If you like Darin Cozzens' short story "Light of the New Day," he has an entire collection out by the same name, and with stories I liked even better. (Full disclosure: he's my brother-in-law.)

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  13. Unfortunately my 'fun' reading time was tiny due to study commitments, though I was able to squeeze several books in, and happily some of them were great. Namely, The Underneath (Kathi Appelt I think, Newberry Award winner?), Garden Spells (Sarah Addison Allen), the Hunger Games series (undecided about the ending still), Packing for Mars (Mary Roach, non-fiction), American Music (Jane Mendelsohn), Peeps (Scott Westerfeld), Rose for the Anzac Boys (Jacki French), and a short story book that I loved and am still trying to remember the name of.

    A fantastic friend sent me the Anne of Green Gables series that I've only just started, and can tell it's going to be a comfort series. Other comfort books are The Book Thief (weird but true), the Old Man's War series (John Scalzi), and Lost Boys (Orson Scott Card). There's more, but I'd just be describing my bookcase!

    Can't wait to read more of your recommendations Emily!

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  14. So hard to choose. . . here goes:

    1. 'Winesburg, Ohio' by Sherwood Anderson. Read concurrently with Faulkner. Was surprised by how similar they felt–and I later learned that Faulkner was influenced by Anderson. Hmmm. . .

    2. 'True Grit' by Charles Portis. Haven't seen the movie yet. Will do that soon.

    3. 'Silent Spring' by Rachel Carson.

    4. 'Jude the Obscure' by Thomas Hardy. Made me watch my babies in their sleep, haunting.

    5. 'Under the Banner of Heaven' Reread in 2010. John Krakauer. The impetus that helped me start working in family history again. Thanks Krakauer.

    6. Lonesome Dove by McMurtry. Oh. my. heart.

    7. 'Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs' by Stegner. My favorite of 'essay books.'

    8. 'The Lonely Polygamist.' I still need to review this for the blog. oops.

    9. 'Heart of Darkness' by Conrad. How I missed this during my University days, I don't know.

    10. 'The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail' by Stegner. Must read again.

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  15. I'm glad I'm not the only one who forgets what books I've read. That was my primary reason for joining Goodreads. Since I'm always logging in to put books on my "read" and "to read" lists, I frequently see the books I've read over the past few months, which has helped me to remember and retain what I've read.

    Many of my favorites from 2010 were nonfiction, which is quite unusual for me. I loved Born to Run, Half the Sky, and Into Thin Air. Also, The Price of Motherhood, The Healing of America, and Bird by Bird. For fiction, I was delighted by the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, the Uglies trilogy, A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Cutting for Stone. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Once and Future King and Brideshead Revisted have really stuck with me. It was a good year for reading!

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  16. Rosalyn, Georgette Heyer was one of my favorite authors when I was a teenager/young adult. I need to revisit her.

    Some of my favorite books this past year: The Help, Cutting for Stone, Every Last One (Anna Quindlen), Comfort (Ann Hood), and a couple of other memoirs that I can't remember offhand. I'm currently rereading The Woman in White, which I love, and I'm looking forward to reading Room.

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  17. ๐Ÿ™‚ After consulting my goodreads list, I can say my 10 favorites were the Hunger Games trilogy, the first two books in Le Guin's Earthsea cycle (the others weren't as good), Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop (the Nebraskan in me is ashamed it took me so long to find this one), Ihimaera's The Whale Rider, Hallstrom's Bound on Earth, Condie's Matched, and Turner's These is my Words.

    My comfort read is Julia Alvarez's "In the Time of the Butterflies." I see myself in a different sister each time I read it.

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  18. My favorite comfort books to re-read are Georgette Heyer, Rosamunde Pilcher, and Mary Stewart.

    This year, my favorite books were "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" by Jamie Ford and "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow.

    =)

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  19. My book club read The Chosen One and Carol Lynch Williams (the author) was kind enough to agree to do a Skype call with us at our meeting. It was such a fascinating conversation. I so appreciated her generosity in sharing her time with us.

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  20. My favorites of the year included Cutting for Stone, The Known World, and The Book Thief. There are some books that sink into your soul and The Known World did that for me. I also did find the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society delightful.

    I am currently reading On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and the Lonely Polygamist. I have read a lot of Young Adult fiction lately as well and really enjoyed the Hunger Games trilogy (although I didn't like the direction it took in the third story) but my favorite YA fiction is still the Hero and the Crown. Loved it. Yes, I have my comfort books too and Jane Austin always makes me happy as do the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

    I'm going to put The Blue Castle on my hold list now too! Thanks for the recommendations.

    It's also nice to hear I'm not the only one who forgets what she reads. I look at it this way, I can enjoy the same book over and over because I forget what happened! (I do that with movies too.)

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  21. Emily – Ummm… embarrassing! I just had a conversation with Rob Wells who moved into our ward (not Dan Wells). Apparently I had Rob confused with his brother Dan. Rob does have a book coming out in the Fall called Variegated and he says he knows you. I'm sure you caught my error – but were kind enough not to point it out. Bless you. And happy Sabbath.

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  22. Okay, I just started my first Georgette Heyer book–she was the name that I remembered when I went to the library last week. I loved the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. I am going to return to this thread often for recommendations when I'm stumped.

    Catherine, no worries–I figured it might be Rob but it's fine. Rob and I have exchanged emails since he was president of the Whitneys and graciously allowed Segullah to vote with the Whitney Academy. He's a great person who has spent many many hours on improving the quality of LDS writing. (Speaking of the Whitneys, only one more week till Whitney finalists are announced.)

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