Or, that’s what it’s seemed like, and not completely due to the problems with the library’s server. It just seems like I read a lot of disappointers and duds last year. Maybe I expected too much. Maybe was in a mood of some kind. Who knows. Here are a few of the ones I did like:
- Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffeneggar – I loved this book. The characters were complex, the writing beautiful, and the plot riveting. My only problem with this book was Vanessa’s Ridiculously Stupid Idea. After that, the writing was still beautiful, the characters remained wonderfully complex, and the plot, for some reason, kept me clued to the page, but the resonance was wrong. Like an off note at the end of a glorious sonata.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh – One of the greatest stories every written, Gilgamesh continues to captivate. It amazes and awes me that a story composed and committed to writing so many millennia ago reads so smoothly, and continues to be so relevant to the modern reader. I hope that, one day, archaeologists uncover the rest of the epic. Not to mention the implied corpus of poetry about Enkidu.
- Say You’re One of the Them by Uwem Akpan – Or, more specifically, “”Luxurious Hearses” and “My Parent’s Bedroom”. Those two stories were so wonderfully poignant and devastatingly sad and horrifying. The others in the book didn’t capture my heart anywhere near as completely as these. The tragic complexity of Nigerian society and the unimaginably horrific things children are exposed to everyday are showcased beautifully (if that’s the word).
- The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie – Rushdie’s words flow over the page with the smooth storytelling of Scheherazade, captivating us and making us believe, even if only for a moment, the bizarre and the ridiculous.
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett – Not an easy book to read for Southern women, but, still one not to be missed. It was like sitting on a front porch sipping a glass of iced tea and listening to the grandmothers tell stories. I’ve been told that it’s even better in audio. I don’t usually do audio books, but, for this one, I just might.
- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – A Tudor novel that actually makes Thomas Cromwell a hero instead of an arch-villain, Wolf Hall was definitely a change of pace. And a breath of fresh air. I loved this book, and can’t wait for the sequel. How will Mantel reconcile his feelings for Jane Seymour with the King’s desires? Not to mention his son’s marriage. What was also unusual about this novel, it was, oddly enough, the first I’ve ever read that gave Anne a French accent. You’d think that was a given since she spent most of her life at the Burgundian and French courts, but it’s not something most authors take into account.
- Tinkers by Paul Harding – Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize, Tinkers is an odd little book to say the least. Filled with strange, unsettling imagery, and deep thoughts about the inner workings of things. Clocks. The epileptic brain. The soul. It is, at times, disturbing, but, also, richly nourishing. It is sad, amusing, and thought-provoking.
The most disappointing read of the year would probably be The Song of Roland. For a classic of epic poetry filled with bloody battle a time too graphically described, and a gloriously grizzly execution, this song was surprisingly flat. I was bored throughout. Cutting for Stone and The Virgin Suicides would be close behind. Both fell way short of expectations generated by buzz.
There were certainly other books I enjoyed very much (Burning Bright by Ron Rash, Water Touching Stone by Elliot Pattison, The Passage by Justin Cronin) and others I loathed (Insatiable by Meg Cabot, The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk), but these are the highlights, and lowlights, for 2010. May 2011 be better.