In the past year and a half when I have been a true stay-at-home mom (before that, I was a SAHM but worked on contract from home a little bit for a social services agency), I have gotten back to reading. Lots of reading.
It's time for "year end" countdowns of the best and worst of 2010, so I thought I'd recap some of the books I read this year that I really enjoyed. *Note: these are books I read in 2010, not necessarily books published in 2010.*
THE TOP TEN
10. "The Samurai's Garden" by Gail Tsukiyama -- Reading this book was like sitting in a quiet garden. It was soothing and very eloquently written.
9. "Slave" by Mende Nazar -- This was a difficult read - an autobiography about a woman who lived through slavery in modern times. While not a pleasant topic, the story is amazing.
8. "Five Quarters of the Orange" by Joanne Harris -- Probably would not have read this one if not for the recommendation of a friend. The themes of the book are the relationship between mother and daughter, past and present. Oh yeah, and there is lots of talk about cooking and food!
7. "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini -- I think I'm the only person in the world who hadn't read this book or seen the movie. Still haven't seen the movie, but I am definitely glad I read this book about friendship, betrayal and coming of age in Afghanistan.
6. "The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton -- Part mystery without being too "mystery genre", this book fell right into my wheelhouse: generations of women and their interconnectedness. Blurbs about the book I read were pretty vague and didn't do much to sell me on reading it, but it was one of my favorite books of the year. I will definitely be reading more Kate Morton in 2011!
5. "Zeitoun" by Dave Eggers -- I love pretty much all of Dave Eggers' work and this is no exception. Zeitoun is a "fact based" novel, basically the novelization of the true story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-American living in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. What starts as a story of heroism in the face of a natural disaster turns into a telling story about the way immigrants and the poor are sometimes treated by our country's officials.
4. "The Heretic's Daughter" by Kathleen Kent -- I tend to enjoy books set in colonial times and this is no exception. Another "relationship between women" book, a young girl struggles to understand what is happening when her mother is accused of witchcraft in Purtian New England.
3. "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein -- I admit, I may have read this at the end of 2009, but I can't remember, so I'm counting it. I am not a fan of gimmicky books, so I was surprised to find I really enjoyed this book narrated by... a dog! It is funny and tender, left me thinking and talking about it for a long time afterward!
2. "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova -- It is not often that a work of fiction changes people, but I believe this is such a book. Narrated by a woman suffering from early onset Altzheimer's Disease, this is fiction that reads as autobiographical. It is deeply moving and really made me think.
1. "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" by Dave Wroblewski -- I know what you are thinking: Did you seriously pick a book from Oprah's Book Club as your favorite book of the year? Luckily, I didn't realize it had been a OBC pick when I read it! This story was fascinating in pretty much every aspect. It was funny, sad, hopeful, interesting. Everything that makes a book engaging and, well, good! Though not hard to read, my brain was completely swamped by the time I finished reading. I wandered around the house for days in search of a "beach read" because I was totally worn out by the emotional toll this book took on me. What's not to love?
THE BEST BOOK YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF...
"The Art of Devotion" by Samantha Bruce-Benjamin -- I won this book on a reading website and was able to participate in an online discussion with the author. This is a first novel that I thought was really fascinating and well written. Another "mystery that isn't mystery genre", this book tells of the story's events from the differing perspective of multiple narrators. As soon as you think you understand the "what" and the "why", perspective changes and you realize that maybe you don't understand any of what is going on at all!