The end of the year means that everyone creates their Best of 2010 lists — best movies, CDs, TV shows and of course, books. And so, in keeping with tradition, but with a few twists, here are my choices for the Best Books I Read in 2010.
Best Memoir: “Lit,” by Mary Karr. This is Karr’s third in a series of memoirs (Liar’s Club and Cherry being the first two), and for my money it is the best of the three. it deals with Karr’s life as a wife, mother, literature professor and alcoholic.
She is a poet and her prose is so beautiful and deeply felt. Her attempts to get and stay sober are touching, but it is her search for religion that really moved me. Some of this book is set in Syracuse as she teaches at Syracuse University, and the local angle is interesting.
Best Science Book That Will Appeal to Everyone: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot. This book made many best of lists this year and for good reason. It is the fascinating story of a poor black woman who died of cancer in 1950, and how her cancer cells were used for research in every major scientific study of the past fifty years. Her impoverished family had no idea how important their mother was, and they themselves could not afford health care while her cells created cures for many illnesses. It’s about race, poverty, science, medicine and human dignity.
Book That Every Citizen Should Read: “Zeitoun,” by Dave Eggers. This book was chosen Book of the Decade by Entertainment Weekly and many cities chose it for their One Read Programs. Zeitoun is a Syrian immigrant living in New Orleans with his wife and children.
When Hurricane Katrina hits, Zeitoun stays behind to help people and ends up arrested on vague terrorism charges. His wife doesn’t know if he is dead or alive, and his stint in a makeshift prison is harrowing. It’s a page-turning read and this is the book I gave as Christmas gifts this year.
You’ll Hurt Yourself Laughing So Hard at This Book: “S@&t My Dad Says,” by Justin Halpern. Justin loses his job, his girlfriend and his apartment and ends up living back with his dad.
He tweets the outrageous stuff his dad says, and ends up with a huge following which turns into a best-selling book which turns into a hit TV series starring William Shatner as his dad. We always knew who was reading this book because you could hear them laughing out loud. It’s a hilarious, profane and touching portrait of his dad.
Novel That Will Help You Understand Men and Your Dysfunctional Family: “This Is Where I Leave You,” by Jonathan Tropper. This is a good book to read after spending the holidays with your family. The hero of the book finds his wife in bed with his boss, and then his father dies and he has to go home to sit shiva with his crazy family. Tropper nails the sibling dynamic, and you will laugh and feel for the poor guy. This is a book many writers wish they had written.
Novel That Will Break Your Heart: “Every Last One,” by Anna Quindlen. The novels starts out as the story of a typical suburban family, with the usual trials and tribulations that entails.
Every parent of a teen will relate to Quindlen’s family. When an unthinkable tragedy occurs, the question of how one survives and moves forward is explored. Your heart will hurt as you read this elegantly written novel.
Best Debut Novel: “The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors,” by Michelle Young-Stone. A unique story about a young girl who was struck by lightning three times in her life. Her story is interesting enough, but it is Buckley, the young son of a single mother who captured my heart.
Young-Stone does an amazing job creating characters, including a Vietnam vet who becomes a father figure to Buckley. Her conceit of sprinkling in actual sections of the book Buckley wrote about lightning strike survivors adds a unique dimension to the book.
Best Book I’ve Read in Several Years: “Room,” by Emma Donoghue. This is the book I have been an apostle for since I read it.
Five-year-old Jack lives in a storage shed where he is being held captive with his mother. He has lived there all his life, and his mother has done an incredible job making him feel safe and loved.
The story is told by Jack, so it is not too gruesome and it has one of most harrowing, tension filled scenes I’ve ever read. The story is captivating and Jack and Ma are destined to become classic characters in literature.
And finally, Books from 2010 That Are On My To-Be-Read Pile: “The Confession,” by John Grisham (said to be his best book since A Time to Kill), “The Lonely Polygamist,” by Brady Udall, “Matterhorn,” by Karl Marlantes, “The Passage,” by Justin Cronin and “Roseanne Cash’s Memoir Composed”.
Happy New Year and Happy Reading to all! For more book reviews, go to http:bookchickdi.blogspot.com
Diane La Rue is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Her lifelong goal is to read one book per week; she submits reviews monthly for The Citizen. She can be reached at email@example.com
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