Though I didn’t read many novels actually *published* in 2010, I did read avidly over the year. Here are my top ten picks:
10. Her Fearful Symmetry-Audrey Niffenegger
I was disappointed that I didn’t love this as much as The Time Traveler’s Wife. However, Niffenegger creates sympathetic and complex characters capable of holding your attention and gaining your empathy. This novel is deftly plotted and fast-paced, making it a great beach read; there are a fair amount of ghosts, a good deal romance, and a plot twist that an experienced reader can see coming midway through the book. Also, Niffenegger’s name is fun to say!
9.The Absolutely True Confessions of a Part Time Indian-Sherman Alexie
8.The Liar’s Club-Mary Karr
7.Letters to a Young Teacher-Jonathan Kozol
Some of my teacher friends dislike Kozol because they feel he is too angry and too radical. This book was my first experience with him and validated the above criticisms. However, Kozol’s anger and his desire for progressive education reform endeared him to me even more. Kozol’s advice is sound and his personal experience as a teacher in Boston during a period of extreme racial turmoil is invaluable (his memories of corresponding with Fred Rogers are also very sweet). He writes not only with an authentic voice and absolute sincerity, but with the intelligent and shrewd eye of a veteran teacher, putting this text a step above other entries in the “inspiring teacher” genre such as Educating Esme.
6.The Age of Innocence-Edith Wharton
Rich bitches throw down over an undeserving guy. Gossip Girl of the 19th century.
4.Old School-Tobias Wolff
I like to think of Wolff’s slim novel as what would have happened if Holden Caulfield were a well-adjusted but ambitious young writer instead of a phony-hating poseur. Though I don’t know what it’s like to be a young man, to attend boarding school, or to have lived in the 1950’s, I was totally drawn into the world of Wolff’s hero. Worth reading for the scene with Ayn Rand alone.
3.Gertrude and Claudius-John Updike
Marvelous. Updike separates this retelling of the Hamlet story into three different iterations, each more poignant than the last. I was sad to leave Gertrude behind when I finished the novel: a witty, passionate, and vibrant woman.
2.The Wordy Shipmates-Sarah Vowell
One of my male friend’s girlfriend’s explained to me once that the only woman that he would be allowed to fantasize about beside her would be Sarah Vowell. I didn’t really get this at the time because I had no context for who Vowell was, but after reading The Wordy Shipmates, I definitely see the fantasy appeal. This was one of the most fun books about history that I’ve ever read. Endlessly fascinating with an eye for the obscure and quirky, this should be required reading for anyone studying American history.
1.The Great Gatsby-F. Scott Fitzgerald
I read Gatsby at least three times a year since I teach it so frequently. Each time it just gets better and better. I dare you to read the final chapter without having your breath taken away by Nick Carraway’s vision of New Amsterdam as seen by the first European explorers. Also: Daisy Buchanan remains the character that I most love to hate.
Honorable Mention: How Did You Get This Number?-Sloane Crosley; Me and Orson Welles-Robert Kaplow
Of Note: I also read most of the Sookie Stackhouse books. If you love werepanthergeniemagic sex, you’ll love these.
Dishonorable Mention: Sarah’s Key-Tatiana de Rosnay. Treacly mess about the Vél’ d’Hiv’ roundups of 1942. This was an interesting subject that deserved better than this chick-lit treatment.
What were your favorite books read in 2010?