All of us at What Women Write are compulsive readers as well as writers. As 2010 comes to a close we thought it may be fun to share the books we loved most this year. Have you read any of the books we mention? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Inspired to run to your nearest bookstore and pick one up? We’d love to hear that, too.
For fiction, our readers probably already know I loved Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell, Days of Grace by Catherine Hall, Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin and Room by Emma Donoghue. A few more that I did not review were Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, and the one I am currently reading, The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields.
Carl Ahrens, was NOT reduced to a mere footnote as he so often is in art history books. I was pleasantly surprised that King turned the myths back into men, exposed their flaws, and did so in an entertaining way. (Note that Joan also recommends one of his books in her list.)
This year I read far fewer books than normal, so my basket from which to pluck a favorite is pretty small. My fiction reading tends to be mostly middle grade, spending time each evening curled up next to my daughter as we share her recent selection. (I'll spare you the titles unless you're a fan of books featuring horses or sassy eight-year-olds.)
As far as adult fiction, my favorite for 2010 is The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle. My sister recommended Kittle, a Dayton resident like her, and I quickly read three titles of Kittle's. The Blessings remains my favorite. (There's a horse on the cover, so no wonder, right?)
I See You Everywhere by Julie Glass is about two very different sisters who become closer over the years, even as geography pulls them further apart. Compelling, well-written, I have no negative comment for this book. A+. Got from library, will likely add a copy to personal library.
Me and Emma, by Elizabeth Flock shows an amazing mastery of craft in addition to just terrific writing.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender - Eating the chocolate frosted lemon cake her mother makes for her ninth birthday, a young California girl discovers she can taste emotions in the food people make, and cannot escape the gift. Her brother is an oddity, and her mother sad and driven to an affair, her father remote. This was a weird, compelling read, and the end made me cry. Brilliant work, I thought, beautifully written as well. Will likely purchase a copy and be on the lookout for her next.
I read a few this year, and the best, and most thought-provoking, too, was this:
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Four meals traced back to their roots, from industrial to “organic” and another kind of organic sans government sanction and labeling, to hunted and gathered. Really made me think, a lot. Started at my friends' house while on vacation (they are vegetarians). Engaging voice and though probably an agenda, very fair. Will likely seek out more of Pollan’s work. A meaningful read, an important book, and timeless, at least for the time being.
For fiction, it was even tougher to choose. I’d have to say All Other Nights, Dara Horn’s brilliant civil war spy thriller was the page-turner of the year. Two others blew me away; the tragic, yet beautiful Caspian Rain by Gina B. Nahai and Away by Amy Bloom. I book-ended the year with two novels from one of my favorite authors, Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden and The Distant Hours.
Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr. A brilliant writer. She simply writes beautiful sentences and is a joy to read.
Looking back at my list of books I’ve read this year, I was surprised to see how many I loved. It was hard to choose. I attempted to branch out in my reading this year, not only to expand my own personal horizons, but also to study the writing in books beyond the usual suspects. I fell hard for a few. Like Susan, I was blown away by Chris Cleaves' Little Bee and Incendiary, and like Joan, I loved Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden.
One of my very favorite professors from college, Dr. Delores Washburn, continually challenges me since we reconnected on Facebook. She mentioned Carson McCullers’ Member of the Wedding in response to my post about the Dog Days of Summer, which inspired me to pick up a copy. Thanks to Delores’s influence, I can’t get enough Southern fiction, but I also love discovering or rediscovering classics that still have much to teach us. This story was no exception.
I didn’t read much nonfiction this year, but I’m in the process of reading Donald Maass’s The Fire in Fiction. The timing couldn’t have been better as I’m diving into revisions on my recently completed manuscript, All the Things You Are, and am already finding so many ways I will be able to improve my story. I’m about four chapters in and can tell this hands-on resource is going to be another one I keep in my writer’s toolbox.
So what are your favorite reads of 2010?