Goodreads 2010: My Favorite Books

A selection from the to-be-read pile.

This Christmas, between the four of us, we added 33 new books to our overflowing bookshelves, and then returned from a short trip to Virginia on Thursday with 10 more new books!

One of my goals for 2010 was to read more books and review them — including ebooks and sampling new genres and authors — and even though I only managed to read 20 books and my to-read-pile is twice as large as it was last January (not counting a slew of public domain ebook classics), it was a pretty good year of reading for me.

While my preferences lean heavily towards genre fiction and graphic novels, I’m a pretty eclectic reader, open to trying just about anything as long as the hype isn’t too much to live up to (eg: it will be a long time before I read Freedom or The Passage.) I’m not a big bestseller, hardcover or literary fiction reader, though, and have only started to embrace ebooks recently, so most of what I read is unlikely to appear on any mainstream “Best of 2010” lists.

Of those 20 books, these five stand out as especially remarkable and highly recommended, listed in the order I read them:

You Are Not a Gadget: A ManifestoYou Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

YOU ARE NOT A GADGET is the 21st Century’s AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH, shining a bright light on the dark side of Web 2.0, “open culture” and the dehumanizing effects of technology for technology’s sake. Jaron Lanier is a thought-provoking genius and his manifesto is a must-read, especially for my digitally minded publishing colleagues.

FinchFinch by Jeff VanderMeer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A bizarre, brutal mix of noir and fantasy that hits all the right notes; leaves you breathless, wanting more.

I can’t really do FINCH justice, so read Hindmarch’s review which sums up my own thinking on it:

The Black MinutesThe Black Minutes by Martin Solares

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Calling The Black Minutes, Martin Solares’ debut novel, a “quixotic adventure” is an understatement; it features a compelling cast of colorful characters and his loose, almost stream-of-consciousness style reminded me a bit of Richard Price’s excellent Lush Life. I’m not sure if it’s a real genre, but halfway through I began referring to it as Tropical Noir, though Solares’ emphasis on vivid characters and imagery over plot makes it all feel more literary than you’d typically expect from noir.

A great, if somewhat challenging read, and recommended for fans of literary detective novels.

ZeitounZeitoun by Dave Eggers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In ZEITOUN, Dave Eggers does an excellent job of weaving Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun’s compelling backstories and Katrina experiences together, shaded by post-9/11 xenophobia, and delivers a powerful documentary of what will most likely be looked back upon by history as one of this country’s most tragic eras/errors.

In its final pages, I was most struck by the proverbial banality of evil and the limited resiliency of the human spirit. When I first heard about this book, I fully expected to be infuriated after reading it, but it simply left me feeling something more like a deep, hollow sadness.

TumorTumor by Joshua Hale Fialkov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Joshua Fialkov delivers a solid noir with a Christopher Nolan meets Quentin Tarantino vibe, and as with their excellent Elk’s Run, Noel Tuazon nails the atmospheric tone with his sketchy, gritty visuals. Their lead, Frank Armstrong, is a sympathetic character put through the wringer, and the bittersweet ending satisfies.

The book itself is another great package by Archaia, from the ragged edges of the thick, off-white paper stock, to the multiple extras, including a tight short story that fleshes out one of the key sub-plots of the main story. Recommended!

View all my reviews at Goodreads.

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3 thoughts on “Goodreads 2010: My Favorite Books

  1. I like to recommend a biography/memoir, available in e-book, soft cover and hard cover. Forever Laced, A Journey Through Two Centuries.

    It has received from very positive comments:
    Stuart Fergeson, former journalist for the Wall Street Journal – I read “Forever Laced” a couple of weeks ago, cover to cover and loved it! I think you did a great job–and what a fascinating family you have, both in Florida and Wisconsin! I mean it–you’re a wonderful writer.

    Patricia Youngs, Idaho – Loved reading your book, it was like taking a walk back in time. It just blew me away, excellent job.

    Penny Sawyer, Massachusetts 11/17/2010- Kathryn, I just finished Forever Laced and want to compliment you on your work. What a journey and what a wonderful researcher you are. Truly a great story.

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