Best of 2010: Books

29 Nov

Here’s my favorite best of category! Books! I don’t get to read as much as I would like, but I have gotten my hands on some great, thought-provoking material this year. As we are entering the holiday season, I hope you will find yourself with more time to sit back and read (if that’s your thing, and I hope it is). And maybe you are like me and you haven’t sent your letter to Santa yet. Whatever the case, here are a few great books to consider for your 2010 Christmas list. Happy reading!

War & Peace, Leo Tolstoy*

Are you impressed that I read this super long book? I thought so. But the length, although daunting, was thankfully not the most striking aspect of the book. The characters, the glimpse into Napoleonic Russia and Tolstoy’s questions about the truth of history continue to echo in my thoughts months after I finally crossed the finish line. I love the quote Richard Pevear includes in his introduction. I think it is one of the best ways to describe Tolstoy’s work. “If the world could write by itself, it would write like Tolstoy.” (Isaac Babel). So many times while reading this book, I had to stop and think about how well Tolstoy captured human nature. I loved it. So, read the book or miss out. Just keep a light novel handy. I took a Stephen King intermission and the break gave me the strength to trudge on with Napoleon across Russia.
* = I recommend the Pevear & Volokhonsky translation – wonderfully smooth and from what I’ve read, most consistent with the original. I will turn to them for my future Russian novel adventures. Oh yes, there will be more.

East of Eden, John Steinbeck

East of Eden was my second Steinbeck. I’m now convinced he is a pretty great author (are you catching my subtle literary understatement here? Good.). This novel covers the history of two families in the Salinas Valley, Steinbeck’s childhood home. Beyond the autobiographical aspects of this novel, it alludes repeatedly to the Cain and Abel story. The characters learn that although some people seem more predestined to evil, they have the power to choose the direction of their lives. And as a bonus, Steinbeck creates one of the most evil women I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet in a book. I recommend reading the Cathy passages during the day instead of at night (scary!). I know someone who did and it helped her.

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides

Ok, this book is rated R. And that wasn’t hard to award that rating considering the incest, the confused teenage hermaphrodite, and the short burlesque show career featured in the book. But Middlesex offers so much more than the racy premise. Similar to East of Eden, this book pays homage to the author’s homeland. In this case it is Detroit. The unique voice of the book Cal (formally Callie), enriches the experience as he shares his family’s history leading up to how he was born the way he was. I loved taking his historic journey from a tiny Grecian village to the US, and from there getting a taste of early Ford assembly lines, Prohibition bootlegging, the Nation of Islam, and race riots. A much recommended journey for my book loving pals out there.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larson

Well, this book may be rated R too, but for different reasons (umm rape, serial killers, and many hook ups, to name a few). However, Stieg Larson gives the world another fascinating heroine in his action series. Lisbeth Salander is tough, brilliant, socially inept, and always interesting to follow around. The book is titled “Men Who Hate Women” in the original language, and Lisbeth is both a victim and fighter of the prevalent violence against women in her Scandinavian home. And since the setting is the icy and beautiful home of IKEA, this book is a perfect compliant to a chilly day and a warm beverage. Once the plot starts rolling (and admittedly it takes a while) this book is nearly impossible to put down or to stop thinking about. So take off a few days from work, don’t talk to anyone else, and immerse yourself in Larson’s world. You may want to read certain chapters of this book during the day as well, again it helped my friend.

Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

Ok, this may be my guilty pleasure addition to the list. But this is yet another addicting read. I am currently hungry to read the next 2 books in the series (those are going on my Christmas list, hint hint friends, family, and random acquaintances). Collins also offers a strong and independent female lead character. Katniss lives in a totalitarian country that has replaced the US. She is the protector and provider of her family at the ripe age of 16. To protect her little sister, she is forced to join the annual Hunger Games where kids from around the country are forced to kill each other until only one is left standing (while all the action is covered on TV). All right, it’s a little bleak, but so interesting! The reading level and flow is similar to the Twilight series, so this is a quick action packed escapism read. I want the next 2 for Christmas. Oops, did I already say that?


Those are just some of the interesting books I read this year. I’ve included others that I’ve read just in case you love my taste and want to copy my every move.
Other 2010 Reads:
Stephen King: Duma Key
Margaret Atwood: Oryx & Crake
Stephen King: Carrie
William Golding: Lord of the Flies
Stieg Larson: The Girl Who Played with Fire (oh yeah, I want the 3rd one for Christmas too)
John Fowles: The Magus
In progress-JRR Tolkien: The Silmarillion

7 Responses to “Best of 2010: Books”

  1. Becky November 30, 2010 at 7:13 am #

    Great list. Have read all except for “Middlesex.” Another great one that I found to be really good (not mentioned on your list), is Peter Hoffmann’s latest book titled, “Carnal Weapon.” It is a fun romance/spy book that takes place in the 50’s – 60’s, where the French government hired young women to seduce American engineers and scientists in order to obtain their trade secrets. It was a little R rated too, but I loved it!

    • Becky November 30, 2010 at 7:14 am #

      In fact, just found the link if you would like to check it out…

      • alexispeters December 1, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

        Thanks for sharing Becky! I will have to check Carnal Weapon out. Always great to meet fellow book lovers. And if you think of any more recommendations, send them my way!

  2. Chrissy December 6, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    I read the girl with the dragon tattoo and I’m so glad you agree with me it was hard to get into at first. For the first while I’m actually saying to myself…what did i get myself into?? But you summed it all up pretty well. I’m very glad I read it and even though it took me a very long time, it was truly a great book. Do you think you will read the rest of his series?

    • alexispeters December 6, 2010 at 8:51 pm #

      I did read the second one, “The Girl Who Played with Fire.” I’ll be honest, it me took even longer to get into that one than the first. It deals with a lot of unconnected content for a while. But, by the end, I still felt like it was worth it. And I just got my dad the 3rd one for his birthday (which means I can borrow it when he’s done:) So, yes, I will finish the series.

      • Chrissy December 6, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

        Awesome, i think the 3rd one is the girl and the hornets nest or something I believe… I think I will continue the series then. I also have the movie to watch to see if anything is different. have you watched any of the movies yet?
        All I know is the gifl with the dragon tatoo is out so I’ll be watching that soon.
        Talk soon! Take care!

  3. alexispeters December 7, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    I Redboxed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was pretty good (and of course, graphic). I think the movies may be on Netflix watch instantly as well. And in my opinion, the book is better (surprising, huh?), but worth the watch if you are into the stories.

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