On our way to church this morning, our family discussed whether it's more appropriate to celebrate New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. Which day should be the holiday? I argued for New Year's Day saying that I felt this time of year should be more about looking forward than looking back. And yet... today I've found myself reading a very good book, which led me to think about the year in books, 2010. I referred back to my goodreads list and meandered my way through the books I read last year. My original list had twelve or fifteen books on it, but when I found I read only 81 books this year, I felt that was too high a percentage. So I've scaled it down to a top ten. If you'd like to start 2011 with a good book, a fun book, an engaging one, here's what I would recommend (separated into categories for your convenience - and mine):
The Underneath: It's not often one of my daughters recommends a book to me. It works the other way pretty frequently. I know what books A enjoys and which ones thrill B's heart. But B read this book first and new it would be a book I would like. She read me a passage or two aloud and she had me hooked. I enjoyed The Underneath so much that I debated whether to include it as a young adult book, or a contemporary one. I decided to include it here since it is written for a younger reader, but it's a book I would recommend for anyone wanting a good read.
The Alchemyst: This more recent read is the first in a series, but it got off to a great start. I've not read the other books yet, but will be heading to the library this week to pick up the others. This is a series I can share with my daughters and do so not simply for the shared experience, but because I also enjoy the book. This one is a fast-paced read that still takes time for character development.
Persepolis: I don't read a lot of graphic novels. I'm all about the words, if you haven't noticed. But the blend of recent history and well-written story made this a winner. If you're interested in exploring this genre a bit, I think Persepolis is a good place to start.
Blackout and All Clear: These books are a great blend of historical fiction and sci-fi and while I initially had them categorized here as sci-fi, I decided what I loved about them was the historical component. These books made me really think about and appreciate what life during Germany's WWII blitz of England would have been like. I am not a huge fan of modern history, so my knowledge of the world wars is not extensive. These books took me to a time and place that has shaped our world today, but in a way that was enjoyable, not drudgery.
Sacred Hearts: Have you ever wanted to be a nun? It's crossed my mind. Not because I don't love my husband and children - I very much do - but because I think I would enjoy the rhythm of the life. Sacred Hearts takes you to a lovely country (Italy) during an interesting time (the Counter Reformation) and it gives you characters that you'll enjoy getting to know. Those are the components of great historical fiction, in my opinion.
Voice of the Heart: If you know me, you may be surprised that I read a non-fiction book this year, much less am recommending one. But Voice of the Heart has helped me understand emotions and their God-given role in our lives. So if you find yourself, like me, suppressing emotions in yourself or others, this book is very helpful. I love that it tells you the gift of each emotion and illustrates some of the unhealthy forms each emotion can take. This has helped me tremendously in accepting my emotions instead of casting them aside.
Love in a Time of Homeschooling: I loved this book because it is one of the most balanced takes on homeschooling I've encountered. Many who homeschool and write about it are (rightly so) passionate about their choice. But Brodie's approach is more akin to my own. Specifically, she asks what is right for her child for that season. I don't know how long our season of homeschooling will last, but Brodie made me feel like it was OK to see homeschooling as part of a sequence of learning, not the only right choice for education. An author who can make me feel sane and less scared about a new venture is worth reading.
Room: A brilliant (if disturbing) concept, fascinating characters and a gripping plot. This is a book worth reading.
The Man from Beijing: I heard an interview with the author of this book on NPR that made me want to read this book. It was far better than I anticipated. It had components of a thriller, but was far meatier in its subject matter. I loved the European perspective on China and think this was one of the most unique books I read in 2010.
Broken for You: And finally, a book I read in January of 2010. Maybe I loved this book for its timing: I had recently had surgery and was stuck in bed. Maybe I loved the art component. Or the historical references. Whatever it was, I thought this book was a rare gift: a book that made you think without beating you over the head with its themes. If you want a book that will challenge you, encourage you and uplift you, Broken for You should be your first choice.
So what did you read in 2010 that you'd recommend? Do tell.