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06 January 2011

Books of 2010 So what books did you read last year? Going through my list, I see that I probably read the fewest books in any year of my adult life. [More:]
I read 22 books all year. Of these, 8 were fiction, 14 non-fiction.

My favourites? Non-fiction was probably David McCullough's Truman biography, because I love the way he writes. It's a super-interesting time in US history, too.
John Waters's book Role Models was also a very entertaining read, although I did learn that when I bought him a drink at a bar in Baltimore he was already drinking for free there, anyway. Heh.

Fiction favourite is Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, which I know a lot of other MeChazens liked. At the non-literary end of things I really liked Flesh and Fire, the first book in a new fantasy series by Laura Ann Gilman, where magic is wrought by "vinearts" who manipulate it through wine. Original.

What did y'all read last year?
I don't keep a list, and the years all run together. A list would probably be a good idea.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 06 January | 16:10
For those who do keep a list, how do y'all do it? A simple physical / digital list of titles and such, or a fancier online / app-based tracker?

I used to take the bus to work, which meant I had 30 minutes or so of dedicated waking up / listening to music / reading time. Now I drive to work, so I can only read on breaks, or at home. My favorite was The Lost City of Z, non-fiction based on two journeys into the Amazon jungle. I started into Descartes' Bones, though I got distracted and still haven't finished it. I think I read some fiction last year, but it's a blur.
posted by filthy light thief 06 January | 16:24
Sadly and frustratingly, the answer for me is maybe 2. I used to love reading and still love the idea but I just can't ever bring myself to do it anymore. Books sit on my nightstand for months or even years with a bookmark somewhere in the first fifty pages.
posted by octothorpe 06 January | 16:26
I'm really glad I started the habit of logging books I've read on Visual bookshelf through Facebook, because I keep better track now. When i have the energy I even write a review.

I was really blown away by Bronx Primitive, a fantastic memoir about growing up in the gritty immigrant Bronx in the early 20th century. Red House was a really cool combination of history, memoir, and personal essay about peeling back the layers of life in a very old house. I got more interested in Sarah Vowell's work and caught up on all her books. I was as thunderstruck by Mountains Beyond Mountains as everyone else, it seems, who read it, and loved Julia Child's My Life in France a real lot.
posted by Miko 06 January | 16:27
I always forget all my reading,, though I belong to at least one website and have at least one app to keep track. As you know, all the books for the MeTa book club, of which annotated Lolita is by far my favorite so far. (I also keep thinking about Reading Lolita in Tehran, which of course I read around the same time as Annotated, and which really resonated with me.) I'm still slowly polishing off audio version of The Civil War, a wonderful book. Got Cleopatra for Xmas and have been enjoying it. Read a creepy book called Serena on my ereader which I wish I could forget.

Me, I read all the time, in e-book, on my phone (substantially through Remains of the Day there), via audio books on various mp3 players, and in the old fashioned book in the hand form. Its a necessity of life for me, right up there with food and sleep and love.
posted by bearwife 06 January | 16:32
I keep my list on Visual bookshelf too, although I'm annoyed that it doesn't link directly to facebook anymore so I can see what other people read without having to click through to the app.

posted by gaspode 06 January | 16:34
I read "Infinite Jest" this year, so that was something. At times transporting, at times infuriating. I'm glad I did.

The book I remember most is "The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?" by Padgett Powell, a conceit book that is written all in questions. Sounds awful, but it was touching, funny, and addicting.

I also admit I really enjoyed "The Help" - which Hollywood is in the process of probably ruining. Sockett? Kathryn Sockett? Something like that. First novel, I believe.
posted by rainbaby 06 January | 16:41
I do a roundup every year around October, 2010 version is here, with links to all my mini-reviews. Some highlights I mentioned:

Red Plenty by Francis Spufford. Half-novel, half-fact book about that period in the Soviet Union where they sincerely thought they could overtake the West and create a lavish, consumerist paradise. Easy to read, tragic, and informative.

The Time of My Life, Dennis Healey's autobiography fully deserves its reputation as one of the great political biographies: hugely insightful.

King Leopold's Ghost and The Grand Slave Emporium are good history books.

Love of Shopping Is Not A Gene is a brilliant and comprehensive exposé of the myths of sociobiology.

Hans Fallada's contemporary novel about a tiny, doomed resistance against the Nazis Alone in Berlin is certainly worth reading, but not exactly cheerful.

Robert Crumb's comic The Book of Genesis was a surprise: a straight depiction of the powerful founding myths of the Hebrews.

Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series is a fun, gripping fantasy saga, cleverly done with an intriguing magic system.

K.J. Parker continues to write sardonically dark, magic-free fantasy with the standalone novels The Company and The Folding Knife. If you've ever thought the problem with Thomas Covenant was that he was too sympathetic a character, you'll like these.
posted by TheophileEscargot 06 January | 17:06
I read The Company. I really enjoyed it right up to when I predicted the rest of the plot, which was about half-way through.

I do like her writing though.
posted by gaspode 06 January | 17:22
Not sure how much I read, 50 or so most likely. The best:
Non-fiction: The Liars' Club
Fiction: The Source

I've read The Source a few times but always get something new out of it.
posted by deborah 06 January | 17:24
I never keep a list. Two books I read towards the end of the year were both very disappointing. One was Marian Keyes' last novel, The Brightest Star In The Sky. It was like a bad pastiche of a Marian Keyes novel, a far, far cry from the acerbic, funny Rachel's Holiday.

The other disappointment was Sister, a first novel from Rosamund Lupton. She's a TV scriptwriter and the book was quite obviously written with a view to being adapted for TV at some point. It started off being quite interesting but ended up as totally implausible.

Looking at my bookshelves, I realise I read way too much chick lit in the last few months.
posted by Senyar 06 January | 17:42
I've tried to keep a list in the past and always failed. It's kind of embarrassing how much I read, actually, I probably read well over 200 books last year like every year but a lot of them are dreck. Yes, I read a lot of fast paperback crap, mysteries and fantasy/sf and even, gods help me, occasionally what they're calling paranormal romance in the used bookstore now. Ah well there are worse addictions. Like Minecraft, which I also have.

I read everything Jim Butcher has ever written in the last couple months - I liked the Dresden Files books a lot, not as enthusiastic about the Codex Alera. Let's see, in 2010 I also discovered Gail Bowen, a Canadian mystery writer and I like her stuff a lot. And also in mysteries, Meredith Blevins, she's new to me and very good. New books, hmmm, China Mieville's Kraken was marvelous as was The City & The City. And I just read a book by Peter S. Beagle that I'd overlooked, The Innkeeper's Song and it was great too. A couple of Martin Millar's older books were reissued and I snapped them up; he's a genius.

That's all I can come up with offhand except for Books Even I Refuse to Finish (I buy books at the Goodwill on a kind of random do I like the cover basis, which sometimes works and sometimes really does not) which included something called Bubbles, A Broad and another unbelievably awful thing titled The Kitchen Witch. I mean, I read Rita Mae Brown (I don't know why. I can't figure out why I read those things. Why do I do this to myself?) and Janet Evanovich, so it's not like I'm picky, but those two were terrifyingly bad.

Oh and I reread all Gavin Maxwell's deeply tragic otter books - Ring of Bright Water, The Rowan Tree and Raven Seek Thy Brother -as I do every so often. He was a very tortured, unhappy and amazingly talented man. I've always wished our lives intersected somehow but he died when I was very small, so, well, there you are.
posted by mygothlaundry 06 January | 18:10
I was starting to keep a list until I realized how many were trashy romances that I wanted to keep secret. Everything was okay until my brother came to visit and saw a book called "Smooth Moves" on the back of the toilet. (I said I put it there for ironic effect.)

Outlander/Lord John and the Private Matter: intimacy amid historical drama and a wee bit of fantasy (which I normally don't go for)
A Girl Named Zippy: relentlessly cute (yet blessedly un-precious) reminders of what it was like to just plain be a kid
Happy All the Time: somehow abrasively blunt yet cheerful
I'd heard of all of these for quite a while, but for one reason or another thought they wouldn't be to my taste. Happily, I was wrong; I got excited to pick them up every day.

Heat: Oh, man, did I love this. And then my mom went out to Dario's shop! (Protip: don't get in a car accident in rural Italy.)

Her Fearful Symmetry: come ON.
Stiff: the author was overly charmed by herself and all of the cutesy little facts she managed to dig up.

Still loving those Deborah Crombie police procedurals with Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid, though by this point they're so scattered around that I can't remember which one comes next in the series.
posted by Madamina 06 January | 18:27
I maybe read 12 books last year, which is slightly down from 2009. I really enjoyed Franzen's Freedom. I also had an urge to read novels with female lead characters set in contemporary New York, so I read a couple Jennifer Belle novels and one by Kate Christensen. I loved those.

I also got a Kindle finally, which is great.
posted by mullacc 06 January | 18:45
I read close to 45 books in 2010 (I don't have an exact count because I haven't recorded all the books I read for school yet). My favorites were "Russia against Napoleon", "The Virgin of Guadalupe: Theological Reflections of an Anglo-Lutheran Liturgist", and "Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia". Tim Gunn's "Gunn's Golden Rules" was how I finished up the year and I'm glad I did - its all gossip, all the time. I liked it.

And I wish I had a kindle :(
posted by stynxno 06 January | 19:31
On the top of my head (I don't keep a list but want to this year since I have a goal to read more this year):

The Road Cormac McCarthy

Veronica by Mary Gaitskill

The Namesake Jhumpa Lahiri

The Corrections and Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

That is it, I think. I can't remember. I read a lot of non-fiction fluff like nutrition and dieting books and parenting books. I don't generally read these non-fiction books cover to cover so I won't list them.

Madamina, you reminded me, I also read A Girl Named Zippy in 2010. You have to follow it up with She Got Up off the Couch. I *loved* A Girl Named Zippy but I think I enjoyed Couch even more, if that is possible.
posted by LoriFLA 06 January | 19:32
Tim Gunn's "Gunn's Golden Rules" was how I finished up the year and I'm glad I did - its all gossip, all the time. I liked it.

Ha! I read this too. I loved it!
posted by LoriFLA 06 January | 19:35
Hardly any! I keep getting interrupted and re-reading the same page too often.

I have gone through several cook books though.
posted by gomichild 06 January | 19:37
Oh, Heat is great! I'm envious about your mom's trip, Madamina. Very cool...

I'm annoyed that it doesn't link directly to facebook anymore so I can see what other people read without having to click through to the app.

Me too - it's far less useful this way.
posted by Miko 06 January | 22:16
I read 101 books. I think my favorites were the Sandman series and a book about polio. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was awesome, too, and I think someone here suggested it, so - whoever, thank you.

My first book of this year was Sum, by David Eagleman, and I recommend it to anyone who thinks about death too much.

I track my books through the library (yay, libraries that use technology in helpful and accessible ways! I am so impressed.) and a piece of paper taped to the refrigerator.
posted by punchtothehead 06 January | 23:43
I read and blogged about 312 books in 2010 and here were my favorites.
posted by leesh 07 January | 01:56
In the past 70 days I've read more than 40 books. The ipod/iphone platform sucks in a lot of ways but it is a great way to read books. Finally got to Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections and it was a hard slog. Norris Church Mailer's A Ticket To The Circus was good. I burned through Dennis Lehane's entire output in no time. I had seen all of the movies yet had not read any of his books. Re read True Grit. It holds up. I still need to see the movie.

I've re read all the Sherlock Holmes stories and all of James Herriot's books. I worked my way though James Ellroy's stuff and I like the non fiction but I find his fiction turgid and painful to work through. I find I like light mysteries that involve cats but not if they include a lot of description of brand name products and pop culture.
posted by arse_hat 07 January | 04:36
The Time of My Life, Dennis Healey's autobiography fully deserves its reputation as one of the great political biographies: hugely insightful.

True story - I read this when I was 14, after I found it on my dad's bookshelf. I also read Barbara Castle's diaries at around the same time. Yes, I was a weird teenager who was obsessed with 1970s left-wingers. Sometimes feel I ought to read these again, now that I might understand them better.
posted by altolinguistic 07 January | 05:24
Madamina, Laurie Colwin is one of my favorites. I miss her a lot.

Miko, I started Mountains Beyond Mountains years ago at a friend's house, and finally picked up a copy and finished it just before the earthquake. Tracy kidder is a terrific writer, and Paul Farmer is a hero.

MGL, I buy my books at Goodwill, too. I've brought books home just because I felt the need to rescue them. One of the GW stores in my area usually has great fiction. At this point, I need to get reading, because the To Be Read shelf has expanded to to the To Be Read Bookcase.

I didn't read enough this year, and should drop cable because it's far too enticing. However, I've been reading Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnick, and enjoying it as a light read.

This post makes me want favorites, so I could return to it for book recommendations.
posted by theora55 07 January | 09:56
Why Cecco Beppe Does Not Die || Grammar question