Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My top ten books

One of my favorite end of the year traditions is the top ten lists.  Top Ten Movies!  Top Ten Books!  Top Ten Crazy Celebrity Moments!  Today I was even sucked in by the Top Ten Senate Races!  And of course this year is even more fun because it's the end of a decade, so everyone feels the need to reflect. So since the only thing I'm a semi-expert on in terms of making lists is books, I decided to make one of my own.  The disclaimer: this isn't a scientifically tested list, it's entirely based on personal preference and is meant, basically, to just give you a few ideas for reading over the holidays (namely around the 23rd when the increasing number of family members and the plummeting of your self-esteem seem to be meeting at the same point on the graph and all of the presents you have yet to wrap are oddly shaped and you start really counting the number of calories most likely consumed in your thrice-daily hot chocolate breaks that you've been taking since Dec. 9th) when you decide to escape to a quiet place, shut the door, burrow under a blanket and escape into a book.

So, my list of Top Ten (17, because for the life of me I couldn't narrow it down) Books I've Read This Decade (or just lately), in no particular order, and without regard for their publication dates (as in, some were published way before this decade).  I included the year I read them (as best I could remember) just for nostalgia's sake.

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett, read in 2009 -- Just a good old-fashioned good story.  Characters you love, characters you hate; truly one I felt like I had stepped inside of and didn't want to leave. (About race relations in the 1960s South.)

2. The Romantic by Barbara Gowdy, read in 2003 -- Plain and simple, what it's like to be terribly in love.

3. Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx, read in 2004 -- Still the best collection of short stories I have ever read.  Stories that made me realize how deeply I cared about rodeo riders in Wyoming.

4. Fay by Larry Brown, read in 2001 -- Possibly the best book I have ever read.  Just please read it and then we will discuss the religious experience as only true believers can.

5. You Remind Me of Me by Dan Chaon, read in 2006 -- A beautiful tale of intersecting lives and why it's so interesting and important when lives do intersect.

6. The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan, read in 2009 -- A memoir about the pain, yes pain, of trying to be a grown-up when your childhood was so happy and nice that you have no reason to want to leave it.

7. A Hole in the Earth by Robert Bausch, read in 2003 -- No one just writes about families anymore.  Just a wonderful story about a family.

8. Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It: Stories by Maile Meloy, reading now -- I'm going to bed at night thinking about the characters in these stories, seriously agitated that I don't know what they're doing right now (or maybe haunted by the fact that I do).

9. How to Be Good by Nick Hornby, read in 2001 -- A book that taught me about enduring...for the sake of someone else.

10. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, read in 2007 -- Oft cited on best lists, but my heart was legitimately filled with pain and worry for every word of this book.

11. After the Plague: Stories by T.C. Boyle, read in 2003 -- I always admire stories that take me into places I adamantly don't want to go, and then when it comes time to leave, I'm begging to stay.

12. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, read in 2009 -- Must be read to truly understand Hurricane Katrina.  You think you understand it before you read it, but you really don't.

13. Evening by Susan Minot, read in 2007 -- Beauty embodied in a book.

14. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, read in 2004 -- I still can't get over the scope of this story--I think about the characters still, they live and breathe in my mind as they were described on the last page.

15. When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka, read in 2004 -- Again, read it to understand something you think you already do: World War II.

16. American Pastoral by Philip Roth, read in 2001 -- I read this in the last month of my senior year of high school, and I think it was the first time I truly understood desperation and what it meant to want more than life itself to help another person, but to not be able to.

17. The Waves by Virginia Woolf, read in 2003 -- When I think about this book I return to the pose I maintained while I read it: mouth wide open in awe.

Now tell me yours!

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