Saturday, January 1, 2011

My Favorite Books of 2010

In 2010 I got an iPad plus the Kindle App for it.  These two things go together like peanut butter and chocolate.  Discovering and reading new books is too easy now.  My reading list gets longer but since they're all digital the stack of books on my nightstand stays the same size. 

Here's a few of my favorites with a brief comment on each. Note, not all of these books were published in 2010.  I just got around to reading them in 2010.

Spies of the Balkans - Alan Furs
This book needs a movie adaptation even though it could never be as good as the book.  Spies of the Balkans is a WWII spy thriller set in Greece in the 1940's.  If that doesn't sound interesting to you than you should still read it.  It's a great 'atmosphere' book and the main character, Costa Zannis, is fun to read.

Super Sad True Love Story - Gary Shteyngart
There are no aliens, no world wars, only an explosion or two but this is the scariest description of how America ends.  It's disturbing because unlike most books where life as we know it ends, in this book you the reader can actually see how we might get there from here.   

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean - Susan Casey. 
A must read if you're a fan of any ocean water sport, mother nature, ships, earth science, the ocean, and especially surfing. The book takes you all over the world to meet big wave surfers and scientists and learn about their common field of study: Waves.  I guarantee you'll learn something new about the ocean. 

Freedom - Johnathan Franzen
I liked it a lot even though Oprah did also.

Set to Sea - Drew Weing
Highly recommended! A brilliant graphic novel that I've been pushing on every kid in my family.  I bought several copies as gifts this season.  It's  pocket sized but thick and full of old fashioned crosshatched style art work like this.  
It's the story of a nameless oaf of a man that spends his days dreaming of being a poet while mostly just being a bum.  Then one day he is shanghaied for a journey across the ocean to Hong Kong.  I think the moral is great for kids which is  - get off the couch and go do something, even if it sucks sometimes or you get shot in the eye and stabbed you'll still have great adventures and live a full life. 

The Good Soldiers - David Finkel
I've read a few war books and this is the best by far.  The opening page sets the tone for the entire book and still gives me chills when I think about it.  
Washington Post reporter David Finkel was embedded with the 2-16 battalion as they executed "the surge" in 2007 Baghdad.  This is one of those war stories like "Saving Private Ryan" or "Band of Brothers" where after you read it you're convinced it should be required reading in high school history class.  ( The NY Times review 

The Millennium Trilogy: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest. - Steig Larson
What can I say, it's a guilty pleasure.  It sold millions of books and movie tickets for a reason.  The US versions of the movies are being made right now with Daniel Craig as Kalle Fucking Blomkvist.  Should be pretty good.

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
Like "Set to Sea" above it's about a guy (a boy) that reluctantly leaves behind his comfortable world and ends up having great adventures.  Recommended for your little readers.

At Home - Bill Bryson
A room by room history of the household.  I'm only about a third of the way through this book but I've already read more historical facts than most history books have in their entirety.  Seriously, Bill Bryson crams so much detail, trivia, and factoids onto every page it's like reading an encyclopedia without the narcolepsy.  I fully agree with the Publishers Weekly review: "Bryson shows us how odd and improbable our own lives really are."

Cleopatra - Stacy Schiff
Like At Home above I am still reading this book but so far it is fascinating.  The level of detail the author gives of the ancient city of Alexandria is amazing.  This isn't the Hollywood, Elizabeth Taylor version.  Think of it as the "if a National Geographic Channel film crew had a time machine" version of Cleopatra's story.

Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
The most original book I read all year.  It is set in "London Below", a very unpredictable and entertaining world.

The Unnamed - Joshua Ferris
A guy suffers uncontrollable fits of walking.  He walks miles and miles unable to stop until he collapses in exhaustion.  It's a sad hopeless tale that I couldn't stop reading.

Solar - Ian McEwan
Murder, a frost-bitten penis, and the promise of unlimited free energy makes for a good book.

Point Omega - Don DeLillo
"How many beginnings before the lie of your excitement is revealed?"  
At only 128 pages this book is full of little nuggets like that, just don't expect a nice tidy ending.  Significant plot points happen and are never explained or resolved.  They just happen, embrace it.

Books I'm reading now or plan to read soon:

Thrive: Finding Happiness The Blue Zone Way - Dan Buettner
Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way

The Thousand Autumns of JAcob De Zoet - David Mitchell
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas: A Novel

The Imperfectionists - Tom Rachman

The Imperfectionists: A Novel

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