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31 December 2010

My 2010 Bookshelf

As expected, the end of my thrice weekly commute to Nowheresville in January meant that I only read 127 books this year compared to last year's 182. It is still a pretty impressive total compared to that of most other people, I suspect. When I add a book to my list, I will star it if I think might make my top five; this year, the long list included seven books. I was tempted to pick the five whose titles start with the definite article, for feng shui purposes, but my non-articled #2 choice was always going to make the top five. Here, then, are my top five books of 2010:

  1. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. I waited for ages for this book about the trials and tribulations of the staff of a fictional (and ailing) international newspaper in Rome to come out but it was worth the wait. Each chapter tells the story of a different staff member of the paper, from investigative reporter to editor-in-chief (as well as a loyal reader), some chapters focus more on the character's personal life than his or her job and others involve repeat appearances from characters we've already met. Because I am a pedant and a language geek, my favourite chapter was that of the corrections editor.)
  2. New York by Edward Rutherfurd. The size of this book, particularly in hardback form, predisposed me to dislike it but how could I hate a book about my favourite city? I enjoyed Rutherfurd's earlier tome London too but New York was much better.
  3. The Lessons by Naomi Alderman. A tale of Oxford students in the mid-'90s and more specifically, the loner narrator's friendship with the charismatic but troubled Mark Winters. Although it was the other half of Oxbridge and set ten years earlier it took me back to my university days and unusually for a "loser" narrator, he didn't irritate me too much. 
  4. The Privileges by Jonathan Dee. Another book for which I had a long library wait (although not as long as Jonathan Franzen's Freedom) and another New York book. Dee's story of a young, loved-up New York couple who marry soon after graduating college and then begin to play out their charmed lives reminded me a lot of Jay McInerney's Brightness Falls and The Good Life.
  5. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. As with Monsters on my film list, I considered leaving this book off my list of top five books because I only finished reading it recently. The romance between average Joe, Lenny, and gorgeous, young Eunice in the scarily recognisable, very-near future is told through the medium of his diary entries and her instant messenger chat logs. This is the kind of sci-fi I like.
The two that didn't quite make the final cut? The Last Weekend by Blake Morrison and The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I enjoyed both but each had its own series of niggles that, well, niggled me. As for the rest of the books I read this year, here is the full list:
  • No Laughing Matter--Angus Wilson
  • Her Fearful Symmetry--Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest--Stieg Larsson
  • Too Much Happiness--Alice Munro
  • Paths of Glory--Jeffrey Archer
  • The Ice Age--Margaret Drabble
  • The Lady in the Tower--Alison Weir
  • A Reliable Wife--Robert Goolrick
  • Wicked Whispers--Jessica Callan
  • The Message--Julie Highmore
  • The Seventh Son--Reay Tannahill
  • Tulip Fever--Deborah Moggach
  • When Will There Be Good News--Kate Atkinson
  • Crazy As Chocolate--Elisabeth Hyde
  • New York--Edward Rutherfurd
  • Think! Before It's Too Late--Edward De Bono
  • The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid--Bill Bryson
  • Leviathan--Paul Auster
  • The Opposite of Love--Julie Buxbaum
  • Washington DC--Gore Vidal
  • The Decisive Moment--Jonah Lehrer
  • The Child in Time--Ian McEwan
  • Spoiled--Caitlin Macy
  • Shutter Island--Dennis Lehane
  • Chinese Takeout--Arthur Nersesian
  • Brooklyn--Colm Toibin
  • Love and Obstacles--Aleksandar Hemon
  • The Emperor's New Drugs--Irving Kirsch
  • One Fifth Avenue--Candace Bushnell
  • Suite Francaise--Irene Nemirovsky
  • The Shakespeare Curse--JL Carrell
  • The Rehearsal--Eleanor Catton
  • The Ice Age --Kirsten Reed
  • Success-Martin Amis
  • Vagueness--Kees van Deemter
  • The Old Men at the Zoo--Angus Wilson
  • Must You Go?--Antonia Fraser
  • London--Edward Rutherfurd
  • Little Gods--Anna Richards
  • Coronado--Dennis Lehane
  • Labyrinth--Kate Mosse
  • House Rules--Jodi Picoult
  • On the Beach--Neville Shute
  • Election--Tom Perrotta
  • The Brain Changes Itself--Norman Doidge
  • American Adulterer--Jed Mercurio
  • To Kill a Mockingbird--Harper Lee
  • The Hucksters--Frederick Wakeman Sr
  • Money--Martin Amis
  • Katherine Swynford--Alison Weir
  • The Lessons--Naomi Alderman
  • It's Only a Movie--Mark Kermode
  • Unseen Academicals--Terry Pratchett
  • The Last Weekend--Blake Morrison
  • The Invisible Gorilla--Christopher Chabris & Dan Simon
  • East of Islington--Sam Taylor
  • 1599: A year in the life of William Shakespeare--James Shapiro
  • The Imperfectionists--Tom Rachman
  • The Upside of Irrationality--Dan Ariely
  • Wonder Boys--Michael Chabon
  • The Collaborator--Gerald Seymour
  • Imperial Bedrooms--Bret Easton Ellis
  • Bonk--Mary Roach
  • Meltdown--Ben Elton
  • This Is Your Brain on Music--Daniel Levitin
  • Ellis Island--Kate Kerrigan
  • The Big Short--Michael Lewis
  • Micka--Frances Kay
  • Girl in Translation--Jean Kwok
  • The Group--Mary McCarthy
  • Gone for Good--Harlan Coben
  • The Almost Moon--Alice Sebold
  • The Poison Tree--Erin Kelly
  • The Slap--Christos Tsiolkas
  • Long Lost--Harlan Coben
  • Hold Tight--Harlan Coben
  • Picture Perfect--Jodi Picoult
  • The Steep Approach to Garbadale--Iain Banks
  • Eat, Pray, Love--Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Play Dead--Harlan Coben
  • Just One Look--Harlan Coben
  • The Innocent--Harlan Coben
  • Promise Me--Harlan Coben
  • More Sex Is Safe Sex--Stephen Langsburg
  • Waiting for Columbus--Thomas Trofimuk
  • The Red Queen--Philippa Gregory
  • Katherine the Queen--Linda Porter
  • A Murderous Procession--Ariana Franklin
  • The King of Madison Avenue--Kenneth Roman
  • The Privileges--Jonathan Dee
  • Caught--Harlan Coben
  • Neverwhere--Neil Gaiman
  • The Rational Optimist--Matt Ridley
  • A Vision of Loveliness--Louise Levene
  • Darkest Secret--Harlan Coben
  • The Captive Queen--Alison Weir
  • 1536--Suzannah Lipscomb
  • E Squared--Matt Beaumont
  • Tamara Drewe--Posy Simmonds
  • The Facebook Effect--David Kirkpatrick
  • What the Dog Saw--Malcolm Gladwell
  • Intuition--David Myers
  • Accidental Billionaires--Ben Mezrich
  • Cheerful Money--Tad Friend
  • The Woods--Harlan Coben
  • The Soloist--Steve Lopez
  • GB84--David Peace
  • Holidays on Ice--David Sedaris
  • Gemma Bovery--Posy Simmonds
  • Innocent--Scott Turow
  • Bouquet of Barbed Wire--Andrea Newman
  • The Help--Kathryn Stockett
  • Jump!--Jilly Cooper
  • The Three Marriages--David Whyte
  • Fall of Giants--Ken Follett
  • Freedom--Jonathan Franzen
  • The Confession--John Grisham
  • And Thereby Hangs a Tale--Jeffrey Archer
  • Super Sad True Love Story--Gary Shteyngart
  • Full Dark, No Stars--Stephen King
  • The Other Family--Joanna Trollope
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe--Douglas Adams
  • Life, the Universe and Everything--Douglas Adams
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish--Douglas Adams
  • One Day--David Nicholls
  • Heartstone--CJ Sansom
  • The Drunkard's Walk--Leonard Mlodinow


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