Friday, December 17, 2010

Ten best books of 2010

Last year I could only come up with my top five books of the year. This year I had a number of beloved books, but only three really stood out for me as being THE BEST. So I've narrowed my list down to Seven Goodies and the Top Three.

So now I bring you, in the order I read them, the Critically Yours Seven Goodies of 2010:

1. The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgwick (my thoughts here)
2. Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos
3. Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls (my Goodreads review)
4. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (my Goodreads review)
5. Going Bovine by Libba Bray (my Goodreads review)
6. White Cat by Holly Black (my thoughts here)
7. Young Samurai series by Chris Bradford (my thoughts here)

And here are the Critically Yours Best Books for 2010:

1. When I Was Joe by Keren David
I first read this book in January. I read it again, along with its sequel, Almost True, in July.

Excerpt from my blog review:

"WHEN I WAS JOE by Keren David... is a thriller of a teen novel: a child's dream and nightmare rolled into one. Ty goes into the witness protection program to become Joe. He gets a new look, money for stylish clothes, even colored contacts. He's pushed back a grade at his new cushy school, so he's head of the class, tall, muscular, and the boy every girl wants. Except he still carries a knife, sees the blood over and over again in his mind, and quickly discovers "the gangsters will stop at nothing to silence him"... Every chapter ends on a cliffhanger, so I tore my way through the book, stopping only to check how many pages I had left (thankfully JOE's over 300! Thankfully there's a sequel coming out this year!)."

Can you hear my excitement?

Click here for my full blog review.

2. Stolen by Lucy Christopher

My Goodreads review:

Wow. One of the most powerful, complex YA books I have ever read. A chilling and gripping account of a teen girl's kidnapping and the progression of her feelings towards her captor. I will be thinking about this book for years to come. Also a beautiful rendering of the Australian outback, setting as character, making me dream of sand, sun and sky.

For more of my thoughts on Stolen, others thoughts on Stolen, and the trailer, click here.

3. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Blurb from Goodreads: "Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding."

I didn't write a review of The Sky is Everywhere when I first read it. Partly I was immersed in classwork at the time, but partly there was just so little to say that hasn't been said before. One of my friends on Goodreads summed it up best: "Quite simply the most breathtakingly beautiful book I have read in forever. Inspiring stuff."

I'm re-reading it at the moment and falling in love all over again. It's one of the only books I've ever read where I find myself laughing, then tearing up, all on the same page.

Last year, I had a revelation when I listed my top books. Though I profess to love fantasy, none of my favorites were fantasy. In fact, the novels had numerous things in common, and I wondered if I was getting close to a definition not only of my perfect read, but the type of book I'd most like to write.

So what do my favorites tell me this year?

Again, no fantasy. All three of the books are contemporary, realistic novels. All three are dark, sad stories. They're all young adult novels, they all have an element of romance. Two of the three are filled with danger and violence. Thankfully
The Sky is Everywhere bucks that trend and has a completely soppy, over-the-moon happy love story. All three have memorable, evocative settings. Again, the commonalities (and their similarities to Project Sparkle!) are surprising.

And, because I do love my book stats, here's a few for my top ten list overall:

1 adult book (Fingersmith)
3 middle grades (Joey Pigza, Ways to Live Forever, Young Samurai--technically probably ya, but it has a very middle grade vibe)
6 young adult
60% British authors (Sedgwick, Nicholls, Waters, David, and Christopher (Australian, but living in Wales).
3 historical fiction--that surprises me, I wouldn't say I read much historical fiction! (Foreshadowing, Fingersmith, Young Samurai).
3 with fantasy elements (Foreshadowing, Going Bovine, and White Cat, though all of them are based in the real world with only small fantasy twists).
6 with children dying--what a depressing genre! (Foreshadowing, Ways to Live Forever, Going Bovine, Young Samurai, Joe, Sky is Everywhere)
2 with children with incurable diseases--??!!! (Ways to Live Forever, Going Bovine).
4 male narrators (Joey Pigza, Ways to Live Forever, Young Samurai, Joe)

I keep saying I want to write a funny, adventurous middle grade book. Except everything I start writing turns dark. It's funny, looking at my list, there isn't a single purely fun middle grade book on it. Hmmm... Perhaps it says something about me, but perhaps I need to start reading more in that area, too. Any recommendations for next year?

And speaking of recommendations (I think I need to stop blathering now!), what are some of your favorites for the year?


  1. Your list includes a couple that I'd already earmarked for my "to read" list, and now I have to check out "The Sky is Everywhere" as well!

    I read a fair amount of MG this year, some adventurous, some funny, but none that I would characterise as both funny and adventurous.

    My top three middle grade reads for the year would be "Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree" by Lauren Tarshis, "Penny From Heaven" by Jennifer L. Holm, and "Love, Ruby Lavender" by Deborah Wiles.

    Very interesting to do an analysis of the themes, plot elements, and mood of the books that you've read and liked. I've never done that before! I have noticed something similar to your findings for myself, in that I love to read dystopian, but I don't write in that genre.


  2. I don't know that these are the best, but these are a sample of what draws me in: A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck, The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles, and what look to be a series of mysteries, The Book of Elsewhere: The Shadows by Jacqueline West. The first two were strong books that captured me and kept me reading. The third, not always.

  3. Elisabeth: Do let me know if you read any of my picks and enjoy them! I'm sooo happy to get your middle grade recs. I'd only even heard of Emma Jean Lazarus, none of the others. But they're now all on my reading list!

    Thinking about what I read and really enjoy for the past few years has done a lot for me to cement what kind of writing I want to do. Isn't it funny how we might enjoy certain genres, but can't imagine writing them? I'd love to write more fantasy, but I think I need to develop a bit as a writer, first.

    Andrea: Wow! A second Deborah Wiles rec. Guess I better move her up my reading list! All of your books are new to me, and sound fantastic. Thank you!

  4. It looks as though I have some reading to do over the summer! I love the stats you've compiled too - so interesting to see these kinds of trends emerging I think.

  5. Thanks, Anna! Yeah, the stats are kind of silly, but I think it is interesting to see the trends.


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