Jamie at Perpetual Page Turner posted this survey about books and blogging at the beginning of December but I felt I had to wait until the official end of my year’s reading before posting my answers. You just never know when a brilliant (or terrible) book is going to jump out at you. I’ve got three books on the go at the moment that are likely to be my last reads of the year but as I seem to have completely abandoned reading as my preferred entertainment this week I’m unlikely to finish any of them.
Best Book of 2010: Adrian Hyland’s Gunshot Road tops my ‘best of’ list this year. Its combination of beautiful writing, great storytelling, heart-wrenching characters and humour won me over completely. All that and Australian too. The rest of my top ten (or so) will be revealed later in the week when I have whittled it down from its current 30-ish.
Worst Book of 2010: I don’t talk about the books not finished anymore (after a run-in with a grumpy author whose book I didn’t finish) so of those that I finished Luis Miguel Rocha’s The Last Pope stands out as the most egregious waste of dead trees.
Most Disappointing Book of 2010: I think it has to be Tom Rob Smith’s The Secret Speech. It wasn’t terrible but it just didn’t hook me in or make me care about its characters in the way its predecessor did.
Most Surprising (in a good way) Book of 2010: Jo Nesbo’s The Redbreast. I had abandoned the book a year earlier and only picked it up again after responses to my poll forced me into it. Happily I managed to get past the things that had made me abandon the book and I fell in love with its main character Harry Hole.
Best Series You Discovered in 2010: I thought I should probably have read more than one book for a series to qualify for this list so these are my two top picks
- Elly Griffiths’ books featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway are entertaining, intelligent and funny. What’s not to like? This year I read the first two books in the series (The Crossing Places and The Janus Stone) and have ordered the third book, The House at Seas End, to be on its way to me as soon as it is published in early January.
- I also read two books from Nevada Barr’s series featuring American national parks ranger Anna Pigeon this year. Borderline and Hunting Season were both excellent books, evoking a wonderful sense of their location and teaching me a thing or three about American history. I listened to both in audio format by an award winning narrator Barbara Rosenblat and have added several more of the series to my audible download queue for next year.
Honourable mentions go to the following writers whose first book in a series I read this year and in each case I am eagerly awaiting the next installment. It probably says a lot about me and my preferences that there is a political edge to all of these stories that I am looking forward to seeing explored further in future books:
- Barbara Fister whose first book featuring Chicago private detective Anni Koskinen, In the Wind, combined politics and entertainment in a very satisfying way
- Sulari Gentill’s A Few Right Thinking Men used a wealthy amateur sleuth and his friends to explore the fascinating political events of New South Wales in the 1930’s
- P M Newton’s first book to feature a Vietnamese/Australian police woman Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly was called The Old School and it captured early 90’s Sydney to perfection
- Teresa Solana’s A Not So Perfect Crime is about non-identical twin brothers who are private detectives (of a sort) in Barcelona and manages to be funny as well as thought-provoking
Favourite New Authors Discovered in 2010: 82 of the books I read this year were by new (to me) authors and I discussed these at length a few days ago (although since that post I read Martyr by Rory Clements which I hadn’t intended to read yet). I’m not sure yet which of the authors will become long-lasting favourites but I suspect that Ariana Franklin, Belinda Bauer, Hakan Nesser, Jo Nesbo, Kwei Quartey, Martin Edwards, Rob Kitchin and Shona MacLean are going to stick with me in addition to the authors mentioned above.
Most Hilarious Read of 2010: (Colin) Bateman’s Mystery Man which was responsible for me becoming one of the (many) crazies on public transport (though I maintain that my giggling is less annoying than someone shouting into their cell phone about what they’re having for dinner).
Most Thrilling Unputdownable Read of 2010: Both of the South African thrillers I read by Deon Meyer (Dead at Daybreak and Thirteen Hours) were heart-stopping page turners as were Linwood Barclay’s Never Look Away and Alex Scarrow’s Last Light. I would happily recommend any of these to anyone (except insomniacs).
Books You Most Anticipated in 2010: After being captivated by his first novel in 2009 I was very much looking forward to Swedish author Johan Theorin’s second book The Darkest Room this year. Happily it did not disappoint and though a quite different tale to his first was equally absorbing.
Most Memorable Character of 2010: The aforementioned Harry Hole (from Jo Nesbo’s series) and Ruth Galloway (from Elly Griffiths’) are definite highlights and people I will revisit often. But I think it might be Belinda Bauer’s creation, 12-year old Steven Lamb who appeared in Blacklands who sticks in my mind the longest as a standalone character. He is a wonderful creation: starved for affection and determined to ‘fix’ his broken family he is a truly compelling and memorable character. I also keep reflecting on Garbiel Alzira, a man who has been told by a psychic that he will kill someone before he turns 30, and his mother who is obsessed with him from Luiz Garcia Alfredo-Roza’s Southwesterly Wind.
Most Beautifully Written Book of 2010: two Australian writers snag this title for me. Adrian Hyland’s Gunshot Road and Peter Temple’s Truth (which I never did manage to write a sensible review of). The writing in both is very different but both are brilliant examples of their craft.
Book That Had the Greatest Impact on You in 2010: Books impact me for different reasons but A Thousand Cuts (also published as Rupture) by Simon Lelic is truly a superb piece of writing about bullying and the impact that even innocent-seeming words and actions have on those around us. Every time there is some kind of shooting or incident that appears impossible to explain on the news I am reminded of this book and I wonder what events in the perpetrator’s life led to them carrying out their actions. I also wonder if there was a point at which such a thing could have been averted if the right words had been spoken. Or not.
Book You Can’t Believe You Waited Until 2010 to Read: Roseanna by Swedish husband and wife team Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo was written and published two years before I was born so I could have gotten to it much earlier than 2010. Happily it is not dated at all and was as good a read this year as I’m sure it was 45 years ago and if the nine subsequent books in the Martin Beck series are as good then I have lots of treats ahead.
Book with the best ending: Ken Bruen’s The Dramatist. It’s like being punched in the stomach by a heavyweight boxer and though horrid is the perfect ending for the story. I am utterly fed up with good books being spoiled by rubbishy endings that wrap things up neatly and/or fancifully that I am in awe of Bruen for doing it the hard way.
Strangest reading phenomenon This is my own category prompted by the fact I have met 4 great characters called Harry this year. We’ve talked about Harry Hole (who I am in love with from the Jo Nesbo books) but there is also DCI Harry Nelson from the Elly Griffiths books. In The Janus Stone in particular he shines as a really engaging, well-rounded character. I’m also reading about two new (to me) Harry characters right now: Harry Devlin is a lawyer in Liverpool in England and though I’ve only just started Martin Edwards’ Waterloo Sunset I can see I am going to enjoy this Harry’s sense of humour and I have finally gotten around to meeting Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch in The Overlook and think I might be able to see what all the fuss is about. So it’s the year of the Harry for me 🙂
Feel free to tell me your books in any (or all) of these categories.