The Book Thief, Shantaram, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Anniversary Man—I read a variety of books across a range of genres in 2010. But which of them made it into my second annual Top 3 Books of the year?
Note: Any book I read during the year, regardless of the date of publication, can (and does) feature on the list.
So, in reverse chronological order:
3. No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay
Cynthia Bigge wakes up one morning to find her whole family—mother, father and brother—have disappeared. So begins Canadian Linwood Barclay’s thriller—an engrossing, easy read that moves along at a great pace. 25 years have passed by and Cynthia is still none the wiser as to what became of her family. Then the jigsaw pieces begin falling into place, leading Cynthia and her husband, Terry, on a thrilling quest to solve the mystery. If you like Harlen Coben, give Linwood Barclay a try. An enjoyable page-turner and the best crime fiction I read in 2010.
2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief will be familiar to many readers—it was the best selling debut literary novel of the year in 2007 (according to Amazon.co.uk).
It’s an unusual book (narrated by “Death”) that tells the story of a young girl, Liesel, who is fostered by a couple in Nazi Germany after her parents are sent to a concentration camp and her bother tragically dies. The newly discovered world of literature soon offers Liesel a way to forget her problems, and she begins stealing books whenever the opportunities arise.
Meanwhile she makes new friendships, most notably with her new foster parents, a boy called Rudy and a Jew hiding in the basement of her house. Life continues around Liesel despite the feeling—for the reader at least—that tragedy is but a moment away at any given time.
The Book Thief’s biggest strengths—and there are many—is undoubtedly the characters. Zusak makes you care about the believable and likeable characters he has created, and the book manages to tug at your heart strings on a number of occasions.
Thoroughly recommended and—in my view—a superior read to the similarly-themed The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
1. The Average American Male by Chad Kultgen
I reviewed this book back in July and raved about it on a number of levels—from its observational humour and raw honesty to its veiled intelligence and laugh-out-loud moments.
But this book is my top read of 2010 due to its downright addictiveness and entertainment value. True, The Average American Male isn’t the longest of novels (256 pages), but I simply could not put it down when I began reading. A lot of highbrow literature—the merits of which are plentiful—simply cannot entertain in the same way that Kultgen does with this contemporary piece of fiction. And while The Average American Male won’t be for everyone (for a start, it’s sexually explicit and very crude) it’s a book that many will relish and reread in the future. I recommended it to a work colleague recently, he subsequently bought it, and he hasn’t stopped raving about it since.
Read my full review and then make up your own mind. The Average American Male—best read of 2010!
Overall, 2010 was somewhat disappointing in terms of my book choices. Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts) nearly lost itself in philosophical babble (keeping it out of my top 3), and The Anniversary Man (RJ Ellory) was a solid read that paled in comparison to my favourite book of 2008 by the same author (A Quiet Belief in Angels). I read several biographies and memoirs—most of which were good, but none heralded classic status (like 2009’s Hitman).
2011 will hopefully yield some enjoyable reads.
I’m particularly looking forward to The Angel’s Game (by Carlos Ruiz Zafón) as well as new books from old favourites such as Jeffrey Deaver, and books I didn’t get to in 2010, including Lord of the Flies.
Until next year, over and out. Have a great Christmas.
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