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Monday, January 03, 2011

The Best of 2010

As 2010 ran out, media sources issued their lists of "Best Books of 2010." Many of these lists are compiled by individuals, and thus, the list is purely the likes of one person. When you see a book appearing on several of these lists, though, it's time to pay attention. Here are some books that I found on multiple "Best of" lists:

FICTION

Donoghue, Emma. Room. [F DON]
Narrator Jack and his mother, who was kidnapped seven years earlier when she was a 19-year-old college student, celebrate his fifth birthday. They live in a tiny, 11-foot-square soundproofed cell in a converted shed in the kidnapper's yard. The sociopath, whom Jack has dubbed Old Nick, visits at night, grudgingly doling out food and supplies. But Ma, as Jack calls her, proves to be resilient and resourceful--and attempts a nail-biting escape.
Egan, Jennifer. A Visit from the Goon Squad. [F EGA]
Bennie Salazar, an aging punk rocker and record executive, and the beautiful Sasha, the troubled young woman he employs, never discover each other's pasts, but the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other people whose paths intersect with theirs in the course of nearly fifty years.
Franzan, Jonathan. Freedom. [F FRA] This title was on most of the lists that I saw including those of Publisher's Weekly, New York Times, NPR Critic Maureen Corrigan, Library Journal!
The idyllic lives of civic-minded environmentalists Patty and Walter Berglund come into question when their son moves in with aggressive Republican neighbors, green lawyer Walter takes a job in the coal industry, and go-getter Patty becomes increasingly unstable and enraged.
Mitchell, David. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. [F MIT]
The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the "high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island" that is the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay; the farthest outpost of the war-ravaged Dutch East Indies Company; and a de facto prison for the dozen foreigners permitted to live and work there. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, costly courtesans, earthquakes, and typhoons comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée back in Holland.
Shriver, Lionel. So Much for That. [F SHR]
A searing, deeply humane novel about a crumbling marriage resurrected in the face of illness, and a family’s struggle to come to terms with disease, dying, and the obscene cost of medical care in modern America.
Shteyngart, Gary. Super Sad True Love Story. [F SHT]
Thirty-nine-year-old Lenny Abramov, living in a society in which books are not valued, immortality is highly sought after, and America is in a credit crisis, falls in love with twenty-four-year-old Eunice Park and attempts to convince her that holding on to one's humanity in a cruel world is still important.
NONFICTION

Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. [B ZAM]
A biography of Olympic runner and World War II bombardier, Louis Zamperini, who had been rambunctious in childhood before succeeding in track and eventually serving in the military, which led to a trial in which he was forced to find a way to survive in the open ocean after being shot down.
Lewis, Michael. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. [330.973 LEW]
The real story of the crash began in bizarre feeder markets where the sun doesn't shine and the SEC doesn't dare, or bother, to tread: the bond and real estate derivative markets where geeks invent impenetrable securities to profit from the misery of lower- and middle-class Americans who can't pay their debts. The smart people who understood what was or might be happening were paralyzed by hope and fear; in any case, they weren't talking.
Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. [616.0277 SKL]
Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.
Smith, Patti. Just Kids. [B SMI]
American singer-songwriter Patti Smith describes her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, reflecting on how they first met, their pact to support one another, the challenges they faced, the people with whom they socialized and worked, and other related topics.
Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. [304.8 WIL]
Chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
These great books are waiting for you on our shelves. I'm sure one of the above titles will end up on your "Best Books" list!

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