Favorite books, 2010

It’s time to make my list of favorite books from 2010 before we get too far into 2011. This time I will use categories rather than simply a top ten list, since my favorite books are all so different.

  • Book I enjoyed most of any genre: David Foster Wallace’s  A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. I love his essayistic style.Love it.
  • Favorite fiction: Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist. Yes, this book was on my favorites list from last year, but I liked the book so much I read it again, and the second time was in 2010. Yay! Also, Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies, Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End, Rosamund Lehmann’s Invitation to the Waltz, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, May Sarton’s A Small Room, and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad.
  • Favorite mystery/crime novels: Patricia Highsmith’sThe Talented Mr. Ripley. That book is still freaking me out. Also, Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely, not for the plot (at all!) but for the writing. Best funny mystery novels: Sarah Caudwell’s Thus was Adonis Murdered and David Markson’s Epitaph for a Tramp and Epitaph for a Dead Beat.
  • Biggest surprises in fiction: I didn’t expect to love Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd as much as I did, but I really did love it. And Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars was good in a thoughtful way I didn’t expect.
  • Favorite classics: My reread of Emma was awesome, of course, and I really enjoyed The Perpetual Curate by Margaret Oliphant. It was great to finally read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis as well.
  • Best nonfiction: For biography, Richard Holmes’s Coleridge: Darker Reflections. I missed Coleridge when I finished reading. For essays, finishing Montaigne was great, of course, and Lawrence Weschler’s Vermeer in Bosnia was wonderful. I enjoyed Emily Fox Gordon’s Book of Days: Personal Essays greatly as well. Also in nonfiction, Jenny Diski’s book The Sixties was really good.
  • Poetry: I read only two volumes of poetry this year, but they were both memorable: Faber’s 80th anniversary edition of Ted Hughes, and the poems of T’ao Ch’ien.
  • Other books I liked: Samuel Beckett’s novel Molloy, I Too Am Here: Selections from the Letters of Jane Welsh Carlyle, Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, and John Williams’s Stoner.
  • Biggest challenge: Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. A challenge indeed.
  • Biggest disappointments: I didn’t enjoy Balzac’s novel Cousin Bette at all, and I thought I would. Also, Alicia Gimenez-Bartlett’s Death Rites was a disappointment. I didn’t dislike it as much as my book group did, but still, I hoped to like it better.

I like doing my favorites this way, because I can name lots more books!

Now for a word about my year in cycling. I rode a grand total of 6,597 miles during 2010 and a total of 409 hours (more than an hour a day!). All those miles were outdoors. My mileage in 2009, which was a record at that time, was 5,097. The funny thing about this year is that I didn’t set out to ride a lot of miles. I would have been perfectly happy riding fewer than I did in 2009. I wanted to ride exactly what I felt like riding. That’s just what I did, but apparently what I wanted to do was to ride an awful, awful lot. It was training with my Ironman friend that made the difference; she needed to go on 3,4,5,6-hour rides, and I was happy to go along. She’s not training for an Ironman in the upcoming year, so I may ride less, although I do have two other friends who will be training for an Ironman, so maybe I need to do some rides with them!


Filed under Books, Cycling, Lists

13 responses to “Favorite books, 2010

  1. ‘Olive Kitteridge’ was one of my favourite books of all times. The power of Stout’s writing simply stunned me. Have you read ‘Abide With Me”, which is equally moving? ‘Amy and Isabelle’ arrived just before Christmas and I’m torn between reading it NOW and savouring the thought that it is there to read for a wee while longer.


  2. Love the books you highlighted here! Of your favorite fiction that I’ve also read, I’d also consider many of those books superb, so I should really check out the other titles you list! I actually have a copy of The Anthologist but have been slightly daunted by it as poetry is not much my thing…


  3. What a fun year of reading and I’m amazed by your cycling mileage!! I was also surprised by Full Dark, No Stars, which I just started so I can’t say I’m all the way through yet. The opening line is one of the best hooks I’ve ever read .. “This is my confession…” You just can’t stop reading, can you?
    Happy biking and booking this year, Dorothy!


  4. Do love the best-of lists and feel like I should just write yours all down! In fact I have several of those authors to read this year, including Emily Fox Gordon and Margaret Oliphant. I really must get around to David Foster Wallace too. Oh and I adored The Anthologist but somehow it never got on my favourite books list although it should have done.


  5. Congratulations on the mileage! I’m so glad you mentioned The Perpetual Curate again. It was one of the reasons I got a kobo (which I’m reviewing tomorrow). I couldn’t find it at the library, and I wanted to download it. After I got the kobo though, I couldn’t remember the title! Thanks!


  6. You read some great books Dorothy. Books that I admit some of them I’m a bit intimidated by!

    Glad to hear you really liked Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I haven’t read many Christie’s but so far that’s my favorite. And, one of these days I’d love to read Patricia Highsmith.

    Congrats also on all those miles! Wishing you a great riding and reading year.


  7. Annie — isn’t it great? I listened to Abide With Me, and that’s what got me interested in her. I enjoyed it a lot. I have a copy of Amy and Isabelle, but haven’t gotten there yet. I’m looking forward to it!

    Steph — The Anthologist is PERFECT for people who aren’t that into poetry! You don’t have to know a thing about it to enjoy the book, and you will finish the book wanting to read some! He explains lots of things about poetry in a very entertaining way.

    Melissa — I’m curious to see what you will make of the King book! I hope you enjoy it. You’re right — I had trouble putting the book down until I’d finished each section.

    Litlove — I hope you enjoy the Gordon and the Oliphant. And I put the Baker on my best-of list twice, so I’ve got us both covered! 🙂

    Lilian — I do hope you enjoy the Oliphant, and also your new Kobo. I read your review of it with interest.

    Iliana — thanks! I think you will enjoy Highsmith when you get there — just be prepared to get freaked out! I’m glad we agree on the Christie; I’ll have to read more of her soon.


  8. Wow–that’s a lot of hours cycling! It’s so good for you, though, you must feel very fit! You have lots of good books on your list–I especially want to read Skippy Dies and Olive Kitteridge. I really enjoyed the Christie book, too, and will definitely be reading more of her work.


  9. zhiv

    Hey D.
    Happy New Year! Great work. A little chagrined that Stoner didn’t make favorite fiction honorable mention, but it did get a general honorable mention/shout out. DFW is a king, I want to read the May Sarton book and Oliphant. Cycle effort: amazing! But curious about yoga/pilates progress. Trying to get going again over at zhiv, and I’m wondering if you have any notes or faves in WWI Lit. Am excited about tapping a new vein that seems quite promising. Have a great year.


  10. We share some faves (Ferris, Lehmann, Strout, Egan, Sarton); I’m eyeing Cousin Bette for this year and I hope I’m not disappointed, but it is my first Balzac novel, so I’m a bit uncertain. I’m quite looking forward to exploring David Foster Wallace, but even more uncertain about that, having a sense that I’m going to be overwhelmed, in a good way, but still: y’know?


  11. Danielle — I hope you like Skippy Dies and OK if you end up reading those. I think as far as cycling muscles and heart/lungs go, I’m fit, but there are other ways I’m not so much, such as upper body strength. Oh, well. I can’t do everything!

    Zhiv — it’s so hard to rank books, and I did my list pretty haphazardly. Definitely Stoner was up near the top somewhere. As for yoga, not doing it these days; I stopped last fall after feeling so overwhelmed by the time commitment. I’m on a short pilates break as my studio shut down for a bit, but I’ll be starting that up soon, and I’m looking forward to getting back into it. I’m afraid I can’t help much with WWI lit; I can only think of the obvious ones you’ve already thought of. I guess it’s an area I need to explore a bit more.

    BuriedinPrint — if you’re worried about being overwhelmed by DFW, I recommend starting with his essays, if that sounds appealing at all, rather than with Infinite Jest. The essays are definitely manageable. I hope you like Balzac! I’d like to try again with him at some point. I don’t think I did him justice.


  12. What a good year, and all those good books! I saw someone on the train the other day reading Skippy Dies and she had this I-like-this-so-much-I-don’t-want-to-stop-reading look on her face.


  13. Stefanie — oh, yes, that’s how I felt, and how Hobgoblin did as well, since he read it too.


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