With the end of the year upon us, it seems that everyone is publishing their Best Books of 2010 lists (Huffington Post has quick links to 13 lists!). Here at the Writers’ League, we thought we’d share our staff favorites. So here’s my list. I tend to read locally (books by Texas authors) or specifically for events and programs, so I don’t always get to the big books on The New York Times or Publishers Weekly lists.
Fiction: The Passage, by Justin Cronin. I was delighted that this stunning literary thriller lived up to the hype (it was one of the big books flogged at Book Expo). I had sworn off vampires, but when this book came out and I had the chance to interview Justin at his BookPeople appearance, I dove right in and devoured it in less than a week. It’s one of those books that continues to haunt you in between reading sessions; I half-expected to turn around and be in that post-apocalyptic world. Even better, by taking his time unfurling the story via various back story lines and developing some amazing characters, Justin managed to write a story that was something of a throwback, a cross between Michael Crichton and The Road.
Nonfiction: On the Outskirts of Normal: Forging a Family Against the Grain, by Debra Monroe. First off, Debra and I are friends, just so you know. Reading memoirs by friends does make me a bit nervous. What happens if I don’t like the book or I learn some intimate detail that I really wish I didn’t know? But that was not the case at all with Debra’s amazing book. Brave girl that she is, she opted to tell her story of adopting her daughter, Marie, as a single woman while rebuilding a house out in the boonies of Wimberley. Oh, and I did I mention she was teaching full time, dealing with family issues, a tumultuous love life, and then some serious health scares? Not to mention the fact that Debra is white and Marie is African-American. Anyway, Debra executed this perfectly and wonderfully. When I finished reading it, I was changing planes in Chicago and wanted to jump up and down, shouting, “YES!” Instead, I texted Debra immediately.
Young Adult: I Will Save You, by Matt de la Peña. By a most happy accident, I was one of the first people to read this stunner. Kidd tangles with his best friend, Devon, over Olivia. On paper, that sounds like a typical teen love triangle, but it’s so much more than that. Not only is Matt a poet at heart (he might laugh at that, but his prose sings), but also he deftly constructed a brilliant structure for the story. It could have been like Jenga — one false move would have brought the whole book crashing down. But Matt pulled it off spectacularly. Read this for an amazing read — and if you’re a writer looking at structure.
Books I Really, Really, REALLY want to read: So many wonderful books came out this year, but here are the three I would love to see under my Christmas tree (hint!):
- Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff: Inveterate Egyptophile that I am, I MUST READ THIS BOOK!
- Life, by Keith Richards: He’s always been my favorite Stone and the prototypical bad boy. Who can resist him?!
- Lord of Misrule, by Jaimy Gordon: This “dark horse” winner of the National Book Award has piqued my curiosity.
Posted by Cyndi Hughes