Sunday, December 5, 2010

Best Books of 2010: An Insight

Okay, it's time to confess.  I have more than 24 hours in a day.  That's how I watch more than 200 new movies a year (that's a later post), keep up with more than 20 TV shows, and have managed to read 50+ books a year for the past 3 years, I'm currently at 45 with 4 weeks to go.  And I realized I've never done my yearly top list of books (First Annual, Rachel?).  So I thought I'd give it a go.  These are definitely not all books that came out this year.  They are books I read for the first time in 2010.  Some are best-sellers, some were best sellers, and some will never be read by more than a few people.  In not much of a particular order except that I liked #1 the best, here are 5 I highly recommend.

1. The Help (Kathryn Stockett) - This is an absolutely amazing book that takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s and tells the story of a group of black women who work as maids and nannies for white families.  This description doesn't do it justice.  One of the white women, Skeeter (who is going to be played by Emma Stone in the new movie) decides she needs to do something about the way racism is starting to revert backwards and enlists the help of some of the maids to tell their own stories.  It's beautifully written with an edge because the violence that accompanies the time is never far off.

2. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)- I know, I'm a little late to this phenomenon, but I'll catch up quickly.  This is the story of a teenage girl, Katniss, in a reborn post-apocalyptic society where the Capitol, to remind the 12 Districts of who's in charge, demands a tribute of a young boy  and girl every year who compete to the death in The Hunger GamesKatniss is from one of the poorer districts and has spent most of her life trying to find her next meal, so figuring how to stay alive is not new for her.  The book stays close to Katniss, but you see the fantastical nature of this new society through her eyes.  The "celebration" that is the Games has a macabre twist to a beauty pageant.  While purported to be for young adults, everyone should definitely check this series out.

3. Oliver Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout) - The Pulitzer Prize winner from last year, this is a series of related short stories that take place in the rural Northeast (think I can relate) and involve at some point this curmudgeonly old woman named Oliver Kitteridge.  We see her life through all the people around her, and while she's not particularly likeable, you have trouble blaming HER for it.  Short, but good. 

4.  The Ridiculous Race (Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran)- This is a non-fiction hilarious book written by two TV writers who challenge each other to a race around the world.  The original rules involve not using planes, and there are two ways to win - being the first back (they start of going different directions) and having the best adventure.  They have an amazing time.  It's hard to read in one continuous setting, but if you like their humor (and who wouldn't - one guy tries to buy a jetpack to fly across the ocean) it's a brilliantly conceived idea that I'm surprised hasn't become a movie.

5. The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barbery) - I waited much too long to read this, stupid library list, and the hype around it probably didn't help, but I have a weakness for all things French, and this book was translated from French so you can see the twist of phrases that aren't quite common English, but since I can see the French it's coming from, I liked it even more.  It's the story of an older woman who is the doorman of a wealthy building in a posh neighborhood in Paris.  It's also the story of one of her 10-year-old neighbors.  What they unknowingly have in common is that they're both much smarter than anyone around them realizes.  The woman tries to keep it a secret so people won't bother her with more tasks, but the girl suffers because her family is a bunch of idiots.  Then a Japanese man moves to their building and outs them for who they really are.  Very funny, philosophical, and timeless.

What were your favorite books this year?  What should I add to my 2011 list or try to fit in before the new year?  Leave comments if you think of anything.

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