It’s the last Sunday in 2010, so it seems like a perfect time to look back over the year. This, of course, means a best of list. I find it impossible to choose a set number of books that are the “best,” so I’m continuing the tradition Jenny and I started last year of putting together a “best of” list that is more about books that made an impression and that covers lots of different reading experiences. (Be sure to also take a look at Jenny’s 2010 list.)
As I write this post, my LibraryThing list tells me that I’ve read 132 books this year (although I hope to polish off a few more before the year is out). These are a few that stand out.
Favorite Book Published in 2010: As much as I admired Great House by Nicole Krauss, God of the Hive by Laurie R. King has to get the nod for the sheer pleasure it gave me. King has somehow managed to keep her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mysteries fresh for 10 whole books, and an 11th book is coming in 2011!
Favorite New-to-Me Author: This should come as no surprise to those who have seen me gush over Kate Atkinson since Catherine introduced me to Behind the Scenes at the Museum earlier this year. Since then, I’ve listened to the audio versions of all her Jackson Brodie mysteries and read (and adored) Emotionally Weird. She’s dark and funny and wonderful!
Favorite Reread: This year, I developed a habit of rereading favorite books during my lunch break at work, which means this category is all about amazing books. So what to choose? Lord of the Rings is one of my all-time favorites, and the readalong at the beginning of the year was great fun, but the book that amazed me the most on rereading was actually Jude the Obscure by my favorite author, Thomas Hardy.
Favorite Classic: Oh, dear, another tough one. I’ll leave out the rereads, because they are all favorites anyway, but there are so many good ones left. But The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was definitely a standout. Anne may be the least beloved of the Brontë sisters, and this book may not be as accomplished as Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre, but it’s still pretty darned impressive.
Most On-the-Nose Title: Last year, I bestowed this award on Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, and this year the award goes to… Anthony Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right. (Honestly, is that not the best title ever? And it suits the book so well.)
Best Audiobook: I listened to some terrific audiobooks this year, but perhaps the biggest surprise was A Clockwork Orange. I fully expected to find Anthony Burgess’s invented nadsat language to be incomprehensible, but Tom Hollander’s incredible narration worked perfectly, better I think than it would have been in print.
Most Disturbing: I’ve read plenty of dark books this year, as I always do, but Before the Fact by Francis Iles still gives me chills. It’s not gory or scary, but the psychology of the main characters is frighteningly real. (Why is this book out of print? It’s amazing!)
Most Accessible Author Who Intimidated Me for No Good Reason: For some reason, I always though Emile Zola’s books were dense and philosophical and, well, dull. I have no idea why. Reading Thérèse Raquin showed me that his books are exactly my kind of thing.
Most Discouraging Realization: My disappointment with The Belgariad by David Eddings and The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay has made me wonder if I don’t like high fantasy as much as I thought I did (or as much as I used to). But that leads me to my…
Most Reassuring Realization: The final book in the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud made me squeal with glee and cry along with the characters. So perhaps I do still like high fantasy, just not all of it.
Most Pleasant Surprise: I was skeptical about The Uncommon Reader. The premise made it seem too twee, too gimmicky, too calculated to win the love of bookworms. Perhaps that’s all true, but it’s also a very good book.
Best World War II, post–World War II novel with a Backwards Chronology and Multiple Perspectives (tie): Despite having a lot in common, The Night Watch by Sarah Waters and Small Island by Andrea Levy are completely different sorts of books but equally accomplished and absorbing.
This year, I also made an effort to read more books by international authors (non U.S. or U.K.), more translated works, and more books by people of color. My LibraryThing records tell me that I read 17 books by people of color this year (13% of total books read). That’s a small percentage, but it is an improvement over 2009, when I only read 8 books by people of color (7% of total books read). The same trend held true with translated works: 7 books (6% of total) in 2009 and 13 books (9% of total) in 2010. I don’t have any set goals in mind or percentages that I’m shooting for, but I’d love for those trends to continue.
As for books by international authors, let’s take a look:
visited 14 states (6.22%)
Create your own visited map of The World
Only 14 countries are represented, as opposed to 16 last year, but because of a few country repeats I actually read more books by authors from outside the U.S. or the U.K. in 2010 (23 in 2010 and 20 in 2009), and the percentage has held steady at 17%. So no real progress on that front, but at least I haven’t gone backwards.
U.K. authors dominated my reading in 2010 (61 U.K. books vs. 50 U.S. books), but the U.S. won out in 2009 (57 U.S. books vs. 48 U.K. books). I think I generally keep an even balance between the two countries without much conscious effort.
The split between both men and women also tends to be even, with books by men having a slight edge in 2010 (70 books by men, 61 by women) and in 2009 (61 by men, 59 by women). I’m actually a little surprised that books by men got the edge, since I think of myself as someone who reads a lot of books by women. Still, I’m pretty comfortable with this balance. I suspect that in other years it could just as easily tip the other way.
So that’s my year. I’ve really enjoyed my reading this year, especially since I’ve become more willing to give up on books that aren’t working for me. How has your reading year been?