My favorite reads of 2010

Everyone’s been posting their “best of” lists for 2010, so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon. :)  I wanted to wait until I was absolutely sure I was done reading for the year, and as I’m currently reading 4 books and not past page 100 on any of them, I’m thinking I won’t finish anything today.  I decided to just pick my favorites of the year, however many they ended up to be, instead of choosing to list an arbitrary number of books.  I read 203 books this year (the most I can ever remember reading in a year, yay!) and I read a good mix of genres.  When I put my lists together, I randomly ended up with 21 favorites, which is about 10% of my reading, a good number I think!  For simplicity’s sake, I decided to break my favorites up into three categories:  nonfiction, adult fiction, and young adult fiction.  These books weren’t necessarily published this year (in fact, most of them weren’t), I simply read them this year. Links are to my reviews of the books.

Nonfiction:

Everything is Broken: A Tale of Catastrophe in Burma by Emma Larkin – I knew just about nothing about Burma before reading this book, and Larkin just made me want to know more.  The book is sad, disheartening, and upsetting but it does exactly what it needs to do – teach.  I needed to learn about this country and its people, and Larkin taught me, and I’m grateful for that.

The Lunatic Express by Carl Hoffman – This book, about Hoffman’s travels in many parts of the world using some of the most dangerous transportation in existence, really surprised me.  I wasn’t expecting to be so entranced and entertained by this one but I absolutely was.

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon – Chabon is absolutely hilarious, and his observations about life, parenting, families, etc. are just spot on.

There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene – This one is about AIDS orphans in Africa, and about one woman who runs an orphanage there for these children.  My heart went out to her for what she’s done for the kids, for how much of herself she gives up, and for the situation as a whole.  I also learned a lot about the politics of AIDS – I understand so much more about the various things that go into the epidemic than I did before.  Also, I’m now considering adopting an AIDS orphan (not tomorrow, just someday).

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick – I think many people are curious about North Korea because it is such a closed country, the world knows so little about what really goes on there that it’s difficult not to be curious.  Well, this book really delivers on the knowledge front – Demick got into the hearts and minds of real people who lived in North Korea, and this is a book not to be missed because of that.

My Maasai Life by Robin Wiszowaty – Another surprise for me.  The author traveled from her cushy life in the suburbs to Africa to become a member of the Maasai people, and wrote a book about it.  Not only did she go there, but she fell so in love with the culture and the people that she now lives in Africa and organizes student trips for others to experience the same things she has.  I didn’t expect to be so captivated by her story, but I absolutely was.

Columbine by Dave Cullen – No way could I leave this one off the list.  Cullen went beyond the media sensationalism of the tragedy of Columbine and delivered a factual account of what really happened there.  This book is amazing, a must-read.

Fiction:

Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood – One of the best dystopian novels I’ve read.  Atwood is just a brilliant author, she really is.  The writing, the story, the characters – everything just comes together perfectly in this one.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See – This novel, starring two sisters who were forced to move from their fabulous life in Shanghai to the United States, is just gorgeous.  The characters were perfect, the story took my breath away, and I loved every second of this book.

The World in Half by Cristina Henriquez – This book, about one girl’s search to find the father she’d never met, is really beautiful.  I loved the character Miraflores, I loved the setting, and I LOVED the writing.  Another one not to be missed.

The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff – Beyond love for this one.  It is the real-life story (put into fiction, of course) of the first ever person to go through a gender reassignment surgery.  Everything about this book spoke to me and I couldn’t put it down for one second.  It’s possible that this is my favorite of the favorites list.  Not everyone felt so enthralled by this novel as myself, but still I say – a must-read!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – This novel made me remember why I need to read more classics!  I couldn’t believe this one had been sitting on my shelf all these years and it was SO FANTASTIC!  I need to spend more time on my backlist, people!

Finny by Justin Kramon – Finny was one of those books that I just got.  I felt wrapped up in it, like I wanted to live in its pages and never leave.  I loved the character of Finny and reading about her life was a wonderful journey.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the book, and even now I’m surprised by how much it’s stuck with me since I finished it.  But there you have it.

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens – When I think of this book even now, my heart immediately starts to pound.  That’s the way I felt the whole time I was reading it – on edge, waiting for something to happen, nervous and scared for Annie, the main character.  I’m putting this book on the list because it’s unforgettable – I loved reading it for the story itself, and I know it’s one I will keep with me for a long time.

Room by Emma Donoghue – This one really is as good as everyone says.  It’s stunning, amazing, unforgettable, and completely unputdownable.  Literally – I read it on Thanksgiving Day and had to be dragged away to socialize with my in-laws.  I cannot more highly recommend this book.

Young Adult Fiction:

Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan – I read this one very early in the year, and it got my young adult fiction started with a bang.  The novel is about three teens living in New York City in the wake of 9/11, and it’s beyond fabulous.  David Levithan is a genius as far as I’m concerned.

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr – I read this book twice this year, once as an impulse read and then again because it was on the shortlist for the INSPY awards (it won!).  It is about Samara Taylor, a pastor’s kid with a lot going on in her life, and it just so accurately portrays so many aspects of the faith journey of a teen that it is a must-read.  Plus, the writing is great, the characters are extremely complex, and the book itself is just wonderful.

Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters – Julie Anne Peters is another genius in my book.  She so accurately portrayed what it must feel like for a child to be in the middle of separating parents – in this case, two moms – it was absolutely heartbreaking.  But awesome at the same time.

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick – I was lucky enough to be a judge for the Nerds Heart YA tournament this year and Purple Heart is one of the two books myself and my partner, Katie, had to choose between.  It is about an eighteen-year-old Army Private serving in Iraq, and it conjured up so many emotions for me because my youngest brother, at the tender age of seventeen, signed up to join the Marine Corps and is now an active member of our military.  But even if you don’t have a personal connection to the military, I suggest reading this book because it is just so heartbreaking and beautiful.  McCormick is a fabulous writer who really shows her talent in this novel, and Matt (the main character) shines with her writing.

This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas – This novel, about a teen girl being stalked by her priest, was another one I literally did not put down.  It got to me emotionally, I connected with the book on a personal level, and I just loved it.

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness – One of my most anticipated reads of the year, it did not disappoint.  It was every bit as wonderful as I wanted it to be, and completed the trilogy perfectly.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – This was probably my MOST anticipated read of the year, and I was ultimately very, very happy with it.  While I said in my (very spoilery) non-review that it wasn’t perfect, looking back I now feel that it was.  The things I was unhappy with immediately after finishing it have found their way into my heart over the past few months and I feel like Collins wrapped everything up perfectly.  I feel like the book said so much while still being so action-packed – it was everything I could have wanted.  I know many readers disagree, but for me it was absolutely wonderful.

So there you have it!  Tomorrow I will be back with a post about my non-goals for 2011, and hopefully next week I’ll get back to regularly posting most days.  I hope you all have happy, healthy, and SAFE New Years celebrations.  See ya next year!