Cindy Orr looks back at the top novels of the year in her monthly blog post
‘Tis the season to look back at 2010 and remember the most enjoyable novels of the year. There are an unbelievable number of Best Of 2010 lists out there, but I think most library patrons are just desperately looking for a great read from among the tens of thousands of novels that came out this year. With that in mind, here is a list of 25 readable, enjoyable novels from the past year. (Not all publishers will sell their digital books to libraries, so we’ll limit this list to those that are available to us.) Please chime in with any we might have missed.
- Aimee Bender – The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
A 9-year-old girl bites into her birthday cake and discovers she has a gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake.
- Justin Cronin – The Passage
If you like to be scared, this is the book for you. Stephen King says “Read fifteen pages and you will find yourself captivated; read thirty and you will find yourself taken prisoner and reading late into the night.”
- Emma Donoghue – Room
The unique voice of the little boy in this novel is what sets it apart. The premise is awful—he has spent his entire five year life in a single room where he and his mother are prisoners.
- Jennifer Egan – A Visit from the Goon Squad
Egan tracks members of a 1970s San Francisco rock band over the decades.
- Tom Franklin – Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
This mystery by Edgar winner Franklin brings two former boyhood friends, one white and one black, back together in adulthood when one is implicated in a crime similar to one that was committed when they were children.
- Jonathan Franzen – Freedom
Some consider Franzen the best writer of our time. This story of several friends from their lives in the 1970s to their present day struggles with children and modern life deals with the major issues of the past twenty years.
- Tana French – Faithful Place
Back in 1985 Frank was going to run away with Rosie, but she didn’t show up at their meeting place. Now, years later, her suitcase is found.
- Gail Godwin – Unfinished Desires
Fifty years later, the headmistress of a girls’ school ponders a pivotal night that affected many lives for decades.
- John Grisham – The Confession
When Travis Boyette is paroled because of inoperable brain tumor, for the first time in his life, he decides to do the right thing and tell police about a crime he committed and another man is about to be executed for.
- Adam Haslett – Union Atlantic
A young banker tries to save a company while fighting with a retired schoolteacher who has a claim on the land where he built his mansion.
- Guy Gavriel Kay – Under Heaven
The award-winning author evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of 8th-century China in a story of honor and power, as a general travels to claim a gift of horses.
- Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
Nearly everyone who has read the three books about Lisbeth Salander raves about these stories of an incredibly strong, unbelievably smart heroine who seems to defeat all the terrible bad guys who are after her. This time she does it from a hospital bed.
- John Le Carré – Our Kind of Traitor
A couple on vacation in Antigua are recruited by a money launderer to help him, and find themselves in deadly danger. By the master of spy thrillers.
- Laura Lippman – I’d Know You Anywhere
Eliza was kidnapped in 1985, and now the man who did it contacts her from death row wanting forgiveness.
- Karl Marlantes – Matterhorn
Critics say this is absolutely the best novel ever written about Vietnam.
- Sue Miller – The Lake Shore Limited
A woman who is planning to leave her lover finds out that he’s on a hijacked plane…on September 11, 2001.
- David Mitchell – The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Set in 1799 Japan, a clerk for the Dutch East Indies Company is trying to root out corruption and get the books in order when he finds himself involved in much more serious intrigue than he expects.
- Julie Orringer – The Invisible Bridge
An epic novel about three Hungarian Jewish brothers set in 1937 Europe.
- Adam Ross – Mr. Peanut
Described as a “police procedural of the soul” by the publisher, this book is about a man who has been obsessively thinking about the death of his wife even though he loves her and can’t imagine living without her. Then she dies and he’s the prime suspect.
- Lionel Shriver – So Much for That
Shep has been dreaming of leaving Brooklyn for a tropical paradise. He sells his business for a million dollars, but his wife can’t go with him…she’s sick and needs his health insurance. Despite the depressing subject, this is a page turner.
- Gary Shteyngart – Super Sad True Love Story
A hilarious story of a near future Russian immigrant who moves to a crumbling, and largely illiterate America. Despite the National Guard tanks on the streets and the Chinese about to call in their loans, he refuses to be depressed and vows to love his new homeland.
- Helen Simonson – Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
In a small English village, retired Major Pettigrew falls in love with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, they find their friendship turning into something more. But the villagers view Mrs. Ali as a foreigner and think she is not a suitable match for Major Pettigrew.
- Jane Smiley – Private Life
The story of a marriage over several decades including World War II. Margaret makes a great match, marrying the most famous man in their Missouri town when she is 27, but over the years, her husband’s devotion to science and the changes in his personality make her question her life.
- Scott Spencer – Man in the Woods
Characters from Spencer’s earlier Ship Made of Paper return in this psychological thriller about a man whose life changes when he interferes with a man beating a dog.
- Susan Straight – Take One Candle Light a Room
A successful African American artist tries to help her nephew, a good student who is being pulled into the violence of his neighborhood.
What are some of the top novels of 2010 at your library?