Thursday, November 11, 2010

Best of 2010, Update 28

Wow, just seven weeks left in the current reading year and my list is still evolving.  In fact, I seem to be making changes/additions to the list at a faster pace than I did earlier in the year...a good thing, because it means I've been finding some great books.  I offer eight new books for consideration this time around (six novels, one short story collection, and one memoir): Nashville Chrome (Rick Bass), City of Tranquil Light (Bo Caldwell), Shoeless Joe (W.P. Kinsella), Moonlight Mile (Dennis Lehane), Silence of the Grave (Arnaldur Indridason), Zen and the Art of Surfing (Greg Gutierrez), Djibouti (Elmore Leonard), and In Mania's Memory (Lisa Birnie).

So, with seven weeks to go and 79 fiction titles behind me, two new ones crack the list at numbers 8 and 9:
1. Cutting for Stone - Abraham Verghese (novel)

2. Matterhorn - Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)

3. The Calligrapher's Daughter - Eugenia Kim (novel)

4. The White Garden - Stephanie Barron (literary alternate history)

5. Shadow of the Swords - Kamran Pasha (novel about the Third Crusade)

6. Remarkable Creatures - Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)

7. Drood - Dan Simmons (historical fiction)

8. City of Tranquil Light - Bo Caldwell (historical fiction

9. Shoeless Joe - W.P. Kinsella (classic baseball novel)

10. Beatrice and Virgil - Yann Martel (novel with a kick to the gut)
The lone nonfiction book being considered this time manages to crack the very bottom of the list, a shaky perch, to be sure.  Of the 29 nonfiction titles read, these are my favorites:
1. George Washington: A Life - Ron Chernow (biography)

2. Lies My Mother Never Told Me - Kaylie Jones (memoir)

3. War - Sebastian Junger (about the daily lives of our soldiers in Afghanistan)

4. Man of Constant Sorrow - Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)

5. At Home: A Short History of Private Life - Bill Bryson (Sociology)

6. Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen - Jimmy McDonough (biography)

7. Losing My Cool - Thomas Chatterton Williams (memoir)

8. Roger Maris: Baseball's Reluctant Hero (biography)

9. Jane's Fame - Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen's reputation)

10. In Mania's Memory - Lisa Birnie (memoir)

And there you have the best 20 books of the 108 I've read so far this year - with only another 15 or so likely to be read before the end of 2010.  Oddly enough, the eight books I considered this time around also included two of my biggest disappointments of the entire year: Elmore Leonard's Djibouti and Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass.


  1. I think it would be really hard to choose my favorites and rank them! I could divide them into favorites and non-favorites. Earlier today I was looking through my list and was thinking that I have come across a lot more books that I like than ones I don't like. I've found some really great books totally by chance, it's been great! What a wonderful journey these books take us on! :)

  2. This is the first year I've done an evolving favorites list, pretty much in real time. I'm finding it much, much easier to do it this way than to try to recap all my reading come the end of December. I think even the ranking order is turning out to be more meaningful this way.

  3. I'm waiting until the end of the year to make my list. It's a good little project for winter break.

    I found this article on why Lonesome Dove is better than Blood Meridian and thought you might enjoy it.

    It's got me thinking about doing a little western reading challenge next year.

  4. Thanks for that link, C.B. As you know, Lonesome Dove is pretty much my favorite book of all time and it's good to see that others share my opinion that it is a special book.

    I hoped to read the whole series, in chronological order (not in publication date order) this year but never got around to it. Maybe 2011 will be the year...writing it down right now. :-)

    I do think that McMurtry is one of the best western writers of all time. I think he's underrated to a large degree and that Louis L'Amour and others are overrated. My favorite is actually Elmer Kelton because of the way he was so good at writing both traditional westerns and modern westerns.

  5. I there even a dispute about "Lonesome Dove" over "Blood Meridian?" Like, are there people who would argue about that?

    Fools. It's so obvious.

  6. I'm with you, Factotum. It's no contest, and never has been.