You’ve probably already figured out I’m a reader. Here’s my list for 2010, the goods and the not-quite-theres.
- The Swan Thieves: A Novel (2010) by Elizabeth Kostova
A story about Impressionism, psychology, and obsession. How could you go wrong? I can’t exactly say that The Swan Thieves went wrong, but it’s number eleven on my list this year because of its length and predictability. It’s still a great read and I recommend it. Read the reviews on this one before you commit.
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (2002) by Mildred D. Taylor
I have been teaching Mildred D. Taylor books for close to twenty years, and she never fails to reward me with a new insight. Roll of Thunder is the flagship book in Taylor’s stories of the Logan family, drawn from her own family stories of racism and redemption in the segregated South. Although it is a young adult book, Taylor’s lyrical writing elevates it and makes it readable for adults.
- To Kill a Mockingbird: 50th Anniversary Edition (1960, 2010) by Harper Lee
Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece still captivates 13-year-olds as well as adults. If you have never read Mockingbird, put it on your bucket list for 2011.
- Dancing for Degas: A Novel (2010) by Kathryn Wagner
I had high hopes for this novel, but it lacks historical and dance terminology accuracy while painting Degas’ ballerinas as conniving prostitutes. Not my best choice in 2010.
- Heart of Dixie (Loveswept) (2008) by Tami Hoag
Hoag’s plot is simplistic and relatively cliched, but it’s a cute romance about a Hollywood starlet who vanished into thin air and the biographer who finds her.
- Shoe Addicts Anonymous (2007) by Beth Harbison
This little gem is surprising well written, with four separate plot lines that intertwine neatly with each other. And yes, shoes are the fifth character!
- Secrets of a Shoe Addict (2008) by Beth Harbison
Harbison’s second book in this series was not as good as the first one, with some outlandish plot twists, but it was fun to rediscover the four ladies who are part of the Shoe Addict group.
- Big Girl: A Novel (2010) by Danielle Steel
At size 12-14, the heroine of Big Girl struggles with her “obesity” and her family’s borderline abusive relationship with her. It deserves the 2.5/5 stars it got from Amazon reviewers, and even Publishers’ Weekly says that Steel “falls short” in this one. I kept reading, even when I realized that Steel wasn’t going to change her warped viewpoint about what constitutes fat in our society. Read this one if you want to stir up some righteous anger.
- Brava, Valentine: A Novel (2010) by Adriana Trigani
- Sizzle: A Novel (2009) by Julie Garwood
- Poor Little Bitch Girl (2010) by Jackie Collins
- My Little Blue Dress (2001) by Bruno Maddox
- Jane Austen Ruined My Life (2009) by Beth Patillo
- The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery (Flavia De Luce Mysteries) (2010) by Alan Bradley
- Fly Away Home: A Novel (2010) by Jennifer Weiner
Fly Away Home is a classic Jennifer Weiner meshing together current tales pulled from the headlines with a wronged political wife, a daughter in a bad marriage, and a daughter coming of age. If you like Weiner, this is at best a beach read, but it’s pretty predictable.
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) by Stieg Larsson
I’ve resisted reading this based on the reported violent scenes, but I was wrong and all my friends were right. This is a taut mystery that keeps you on your toes. I did figure it out relatively soon, but it didn’t matter. Larsson’s plot development is compelling and I can’t wait to read the next one.
- The Book Thief (2007) by Markus Zuzak
I should listen to my friends and relatives when they recommend books. Zuzak’s Holocaust story as seen through Death’s lens is hauntingly beautiful. I had some trouble getting into it but once there, I could not put it down. For young adults, it should be part of the Holocaust canon.
- Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (2009) by Jamie Ford
This book club read about being Asian in the U.S. in the 1940s is so good that it forced me to go find the Panama Hotel, which still stands in the International District of Seattle. I will write a complete post on this one later (with photos), but don’t forget to read this one.
- Cleopatra: A Life (2010) by Stacy Schiff
I had heard that this book was very good and I’m always a sucker for an Ancient Egypt story, so when I saw it in audiobook, I couldn’t resist. Schiff has combined well-researched, scholarly non-fiction writing with a narrative style that brings Cleopatra and her world to life. This one is not to be missed.
- Wedding Season: A Novel (2010) by Katie Fforde
Fluffy British chick lit with a wedding planner as the protagonist, Wedding Season has some interesting details that reminded me of my friend’s wedding in England. Based on the reviews, it’s not Fforde’s best book, but it was an enjoyable piece of froth.
- With Friends Like These: A Novel (2010) Sally Koslow
Koslow unites us with four unlikely friends as they room together as young women on the town in New York, and then fast forwards us to their grown-up selves where they make mistakes and forgive each other. With glorious New York as its backdrop, this is a strong picture of real women that I enjoyed.
I’m not a lover of fantasy, but this novel about hobgoblins attempting to live and continue their ancient practices in a modern world was strangely compelling. Read the Amazon reviews on this one.
- The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time (2010) by Jeff Deck
My daughter, knowing my penchant for correcting others’ use of language, bought me this book for my birthday. Deck tells the story of his quest traveling the United States correcting grammatical and spelling errors. Initially I was as holier-than-thou as its author, but as Jeff Deck presented this erudite and entertaining survey of our changing rhetorical usage, I began to see that maybe — just maybe– I can learn to live with they as a singular pronoun (On second thought, no, I can’t go that far!). The book is highly readable for those of you who care about language.
- All Shook Up (2009 YA) by Shelley Pearsall — a Caudill nominee
- Trouble (2008 YA) by Gary D. Schmidt — a Caudill nominee
- American Wife: A Novel (New York Times Notable Books) (2009) by Curtis Sittenfeld REVIEW
- The School of Essential Ingredients (2009) by Erica Bauermeister
- Cheap Diamonds: A Novel (2008) by Norris Church Mailer
Mailer (yes, she’s the wife of Norman) tells a somewhat autobiographical tale of a nice southern girl from Arkansas who leaves home to build a modeling career in early 1970s New York. It was surprisingly compelling, and the backstage look at the modeling industry when I was devouring fashion magazines myself was very fun to read.
- The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel (2007) by Diane Setterfield
A “ghost” story that will remind you of Jane Eyre and Rebecca, this is a slow starter that you will devour once you get going. I highly recommend it if you love brooding English novels.
- A Visit from the Goon Squad(2010) by Jennifer Egan
This book came highly recommended by cousin Sandy and did not disappoint. If you love hipster fiction with complex plots, this is the one for you.
- Loving Frank: A Novel ( 2007) by Nancy Horan REVIEW
- A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition (1964) by Earnest Hemingway REVIEW
- The Heights (2010) by Peter Hedges REVIEW
- Best Friends Forever: A Novel (2009) by Jennifer Weiner REVIEW
- Give + Take (2010) by Stona Fitch REVIEW
- The Vintage Caper (2009) by Peter Mayle
The Vintage Caper continues Mayle’s love of all things Provence, and this time it’s wine. As a mystery, it’s got some interesting twists and turns, but it doesn’t have the power of the memoirs Mayle has written (A Year in Provence, Toujours Provence). If you like Mayle, it’s worth a lazy afternoon on the couch, but don’t expect much more.
- Nefertiti (2007) by Michelle Moran
If you like Egyptian history, you’ll like this book. It’s very readable (I agree with Diana Gabaldon on this one) and even though the names are similar, Moran does a good job of keeping everything clear. Hard to put down once you get started.
- Honolulu (2009) by Alan Brennert REVIEW
- Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home (2009) by Rhoda Janzen
Obviously, I chose this book for the witty title, and it didn’t fail me. Janzen’s light touch regarding her problematic marriage and her Mennonite childhood often made me laugh out loud. If you know and love Mennonites as I do, you are unlikely to be offended by the book’s jabs at inconsistencies in this small segment of society. The story of how Janzen recovers from the wreckage of her marriage is compelling. This one is worth reading.
- Summer at Tiffany (2007) by Marjorie Hart
I bought this sweet little book at The Breakers’ souvenir shop because of its beautiful Tiffany blue cover with cute 1940s art work. First time memoir writer Hart tells the true story of how she and a University of Iowa sorority sister spent the summer of 1945 in New York City working at the famous Tiffany store. It is elegantly written and takes the reader back to a more innocent time.
- Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict (2009 ) by Laurie Viera Rigler
Rude Awakenings is the second of a pair of time travel books in which a modern-day Los Angeles woman (Courtney Stone) and a Regency England country woman (Jane Mansfield) switch bodies. I read Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict a while back, and just like everyone else in the reviews, I was very interested to know what happened on the other end. I would suggest reading these as a pair, starting with Confessions. If you’re a Janeite, you will find that these are pretty well done and worth reading, as the author appears to know both Austen and the Regency time period well. Sometimes her precision of explanation as Jane (in Courtney’s body) learns to navigate cell phones, air conditioning, and electricity feels like a demonstration speech in my English class, but at least she takes the time to be careful and fill all of the gaps in Courtney’s knowledge.
- South of Broad (2009 ) by Pat Conroy
I love all of Pat Conroy’s books and this was no exception. Set in Charleston, SC, the ensemble cast of characters is creatively assembled and the plot twists are unexpected. Conroy’s descriptive style is omnipresent; the city of Charleston is practically a character in the book. This one should should be made into a movie!
- The White Queen (2009) by Phillipa Gregory
- Breaking the Rules (2009) by Barbara Taylor Bradford
- French Toast (1999) by Harriet Welty Rochefort
- Under the Tuscan Sun (1997) by Frances Mayes REVIEW
- French by Heart: An American Family’s Adventures in La Belle France (2007) by Rebecca S. Ramsey
- La Vie en Rose (2008) by Jamie Ivey
- The Cinderella Deal (2010 reprint) by Jennifer Crusie REVIEW
- The Seven Year Bitch (2010) by Jennifer Belle
- Miss Harper Can Do It: A Novel (2009) by Jane Berentson
- Arcadia Falls (2010) by Carol Goodman
- The 19th Wife: A Novel (2008) by David Ebershoff
- My Wife’s Affair (2010) by Nancy Woodruff
- An Unfinished Score (2010) by Elise Blackwell
- Wild Ride (2010) by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer REVIEW
- Portrait of an Unknown Woman: A Novel (2007) by Vanora Bennett REVIEW
- The Help (2009) by Kathryn Stockett
- Winter Dance (2005) by Gary Paulsen
- The People of the Book (2008) by Geraldine Brooks REVIEW
- My Sister’s Keeper (2004) by Jodi Picoult
- Man Eater (2003) by Gigi Levangie Grazer
- Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (2009) by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters
- Bridge of Sighs (2008) by Richard Russo
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog (2008) by Muriel Barbery
- Gourmet Rhapsody (2009) by Muriel Barbery
- Murder on the Eiffel Tower(2007) by Claude Izner
- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009) by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Click Readers Recommend on the right banner to add your own recommendations.