Friday, December 3, 2010
Girlfriends Reveal the Books We Loved in 2010
The book I loved the most this year was THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett.
I was yanked into the story, read it like a freight train, and then
GONE WITH THE WIND many, many years ago.
And I've been reading food memoirs, in preparation for my new food
critic mystery series (coming next January!). BORN ROUND by Frank
Bruni, former critic for the New York Times, is a fascinating
description of his complicated relationship with food, the role food
played in his family, and then his life as a critic. I also enjoyed
Julia Child's MY LIFE IN FRANCE--about her life in France, of course!
She had absolutely no experience with cooking and yet evolved into one
of the most important figures in American food history.
My favorite fiction read in 2010 include David Sedaris' SQUIRREL SEEKS CHIPMUNK, Meg Wolitzer's THE TEN YEAR NAP, A COMPLICATED KINDNESS by Miriam Toews, THE OPPOSITE OF ME by Sarah Pekkanen, Julie Buxbaum's AFTER YOU, Jonathan Tropper's THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU, Allison Winn Scotch's THE ONE THAT I WANT, and just last night I finished Jennifer Belle's SEVEN YEAR BITCH. I love her eye for the absurd and dead-pan humor.
I usually can't remember where I parked my car, so it's hard for me to recall which books I read this year. But a few that stand out are UP FROM THE BLUE, Susan Henderson's gorgeous debut, BILLY BATHGATE, Doctorow's masterpiece that I should have read years ago, Kathryn Stockett's THE HELP, which deserves all the attention it got, and Susan Isaacs's AS HUSBANDS GO, which grabbed me with its fresh voice. Right now I'm in the middle of Jonathan Franzen's FREEDOM, and I feel like the whole world should just stop turning for a while so I can finish it. What a book!
Women's fiction: THE COOKBOOK COLLECTOR by Allegra Goodman; IF YOU FOLLOW ME by Malena Watrous
Quirky Japanese Fiction: POPULAR HITS OR THE SHOWA ERA by Ryu Murakami
For the Writers Out There: MODERN LIBRARY WRITER'S WORKSHOP: A GUIDE TO THE CRAFT OF FICTION by Stephen Koch; THE MAKING OF A STORY by Alice LaPlante
NEXT by James Hynes
THE HOUSE OF TOMORROW by Peter Bognanni
THE POISON DIARIES by Maryrose Woods
THE SECRET OF EVERYTHING by Barbara O'Neal
FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen
SAVOR THE MOMENT by Nora Roberts
HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Nora Roberts
WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan
KINGS OF THE EARTH by Jon Clinch; favorite nonfiction was TRUE COMPASS by Edward M. Kennedy.
CUTTING FOR STONE by Abraham Verghase, THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, BACKSEAT SAINTS by Joshilyn Jackson and LITTLE BEE by Chris Cleave.
A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD by Jennifer Egan. Funny, unexpected and smart, this book had me hooked from page one. It's a series of short stories that come together so perfectly, so seamlessly by the end that it will have you turning back to page one to start over the moment you finish the book.
I read a lot of fantastic books this past year, and I still have so many more on my TBR pile. But the ones that stood out for me are THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett, HEART OF THE MATTER by Emily Giffin, and Friday Mornings at Nine by our very own Marilyn Brant. Right now, I'm reading THE COUGAR CLUB by Susan McBride, and I'm finding it hard to put down. Next on my list is SARAH'S KEY, which I've had to keep bumping down the list, but I'm determined to get to it before the holidays. So many books, so little time!
So many favorites! I'll name the first few that come to mind: UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand, FLY AWAY HOME by Jennifer Weiner, THE ISLAND by Elin Hildebrand, and HEART OF THE MATTER by Emily Giffin.
I read Meljean Brooks's steampunk stories this year, the short story available in an anthology and THE IRON DUKE. They are both SO GOOD. Stunningly good. I read Jane Porter's SHE'S GONE COUNTRY (loved it) and Liza Palmer's A FIELD GUIDE TO BURYING YOUR PARENTS (heartwrenching and wonderful). I discovered Kresley Cole and have been reading her IMMORTALS AFTER DARK series and just loving it. All those mythical beings and their delicious love stories!
I've read two of Jennifer Echols books and am blown away by how great she is. I can't get Simone Elkeles's PERFECT CHEMISTRY out of my head. Stacia Kane's UNHOLY GHOSTS absolutely blew me away. Wow! I read Marian Keyes's The Brightest Star in the Sky and just adored it. I love her. Kate Noble's REVEALED and THE SUMMER OF YOU--both absolutely delicious historical romances. Smart and deep and fantastic. I also read Karen Marie Moning, Nalini Singh and Rachel Vincent's latest books in their series, and discovered the awesome Jack Kerley. So much great reading, and the year's not over yet!
EVERY LAST ONE, Anna Quindlen
THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS, Erica Bauermeister
LITTLE BEE, Chris Cleave
OLIVE KITTERIDGE, Elizabeth Strout
LOVE WALKED IN, Marisa de los Santos
Judy Merill Larsen
THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG by Muriel Barbery; THE BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEAD by Kevin Brockmeier; THE BLIND CONTESSA’S NEW MACHINE by Carey Wallace; EMPIRE OF DREAMS: THE EPIC LIFE OF CECIL B. DEMILLE by Scott Eyman
HOW TO BUY A LOVE OF READING by Tanya Egan Gibson. It's a smart, thought-provoking, heartfelt story by a wonderful writer.
SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT by Beth Hoffman
STAY by Allie Larkin
This year, I got hooked on Kate Morton, and I devoured THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON and THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN. I love her mix of history, mystery, and contemporary and the intricate stories she weaves. I've got THE DISTANT HOUR on my night-table, and I hope to dig in soon! I also loved reading Melissa Senate's THE LOVE GODDESS' COOKING SCHOOL, Marilyn Brant's FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE, and an ARC of Ellen Meister's THE OTHER LIFE. I am so proud of and amazed by my fellow Girlfriends! I can't wait until I've had the chance to read books by every single one (which is my goal for 2011!).
I loved GIRL IN TRANSLATION by Jean Kwok an almost-true story about a young brilliant Chinese girl working in the sweatshops of NYC in the 90s and living in a roach-infested apartment with no heat. Impossible to put down.
In the lighter fiction category, I enjoyed LOVE IN MID AIR by Kim Wright. The premise is nothing new-dissatisfied wife has extramarital affair- but the voice and pacing of this novel will draw you in. Also, in the same vein, if you haven’t discovered Katherine Center yet, you’re missing out. Her GET LUCKY about a woman who agrees to be a surrogate mom for her sister brims with clever humor. Center writes Mom-Lit, which I normally wouldn’t cozy up to, but I like her voice so much that she could write a grocery list and I’d read it.
ROOM by Emma Donoghue is a stunning achievement and my favorite novel this year. I shouldn’t work at all: It covers a grim topic (a long-term abduction of a young woman) and a five-year old child narrates it, but don’t let either of these things keep you a way. It’s a redeeming, beautifully written page-turner.
The funniest book I read this year was JENNIFER JOHNSON IS SICK OF BEING SINGLE by Heather Mcelhatton. Every bit as laugh-out-loud funny as BRIDGET JONES DIARY.
WHEN I FALL by Lauren Oliver is a riveting YA book about a teenager who has to live the last day of her life over and over until she gets it right. The structure is brilliant and it’s paced at a breakneck pace.
What are your favorites?
Sarah Pekkanen’s upcoming novel SKIPPING A BEAT has sold in Italy.