Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Roundup: Favorite Books of 2010

Some people have been posting their lists of favorite books for weeks now...but I'm a bit of a procrastinator. Besides, I read a book less than a week ago that has definitely earned a place on this list (even if I haven't had a chance to review it yet - a week long vacation to Phoenix wrought havoc on my blogging plans!), so today was pretty much the earliest I could post and not feel like I was in danger of leaving a critical title off the list.

Not all of these are strictly 2010 titles - that's why my tag for tracking many of these books is best read in 2010, because sometimes I missed a book when it was first published and didn't pick it up until I saw it on people's 2009 best-of lists, or it wasn't even published until the end of '09. I'm sure the same thing will happen when I put together a list at the end of next December.

So without further ado, here's is my list of my favorite books read in 2010. I make no grand claims about the being the highest quality or most important books of the year - rather this list reflects one blogger's opinion on her favorite titles of the year. These also aren't all of the titles in my best read in 2010 tag - my opinion has evolved over the course of the year and while I still maintain that all of those are great books, some haven't stuck with me as much as others have and thus aren't highlighted here.

Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill. Soul Enchilada was one of my favorites of 2009, and as I said in my Black Hole Sun review, Gill proved in 2010 he's not a one hit wonder - and he's pretty flexible to boot. Both books have witty and sarcastic protagonists, but that's pretty much where the similarities end, as Black Hole Sun is hardcore sci-fi, with an excellent balance of character and world-building as well as alien landscapes and action-packed shootouts.

Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz. I loved this book so much I recommended it to my dad - who re-read it about half a dozen times in six months. I don't know if my dad has ever re-read a book, let alone asked for a book for Christmas (he requested Gratz's previous book, Samurai Shortstop, which I was happy to give him). Truly a book that appeals to people on multiple levels - great for the sports geek, history geek, NYC lover or nostalgic dad.

Efrain's Secret by Sofia Quintero. Street lit has been getting a bit of attention this year, online at least, in a campaign that I believe has been spearheaded by Megan Honig. I'll confess that I'm one of those people who generally looks askance at the genre for many reasons that Honig has mentioned (specifically misogyny, homophobia and transphobia). However between blog series like Honig's and awesome books like Efrain's Secret, I realize I'm just as guilty of bias as people who write off YA as a whole, or science fiction, etc. Efrain's Secret doesn't necessarily tackle any of my general street lit concerns head on, but it still seems to present a realistic look at life in the Bronx (I say "seems to" because my experience with the Bronx is limited to a few days a month hanging out at a friend's apartment - I am by no means an expert!). I'm looking forward to reading more from Quintero, and expanding my street lit knowledge in general in 2011.

Every Little Thing in the World by Nina de Gramont. This one has stuck with me in part for its novelty - not a whole lot of YA titles tackle the subject of abortion - but also because it's a genuine well-written book with a lot of interesting supporting characters. I'm so happy one of the few YA books featuring discussion of abortion is a legitimately excellent book - I hate it when a book does fill a void but is lacking quality somewhere else. Definitely one of my "must reads" of 2010.

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John. This is the novel I read last week and haven't had a chance to review yet. OMG, I couldn't put this one down, and I'm totally confused as to why this one hasn't gotten more blog-love yet - I actually found out about this one through my library's "teen scene" e-newsletter, which I usually ignore because I've usually read everything they're recommending. I'm SO GLAD I opened December's message! An awesome grrl-power message, without actually being message-y, some rock music history, and an unlikely hard rock band manager - a girl with severe hearing loss. Also some epic family drama. This one was published in November, so I don't think it's eligible for awards this coming January, but I hope this isn't forgotten when the next awards season rolls around!

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey. I am SO EXCITED this was nominated for the Morris Award (for a debut author of YA), as I've loved it from the moment I picked it up. Excellent use of an unfamiliar (to many US readers, anyway) mythology in an action packed story with so many feminist elements I had to rest to using bullet points in my original review. I haven't gotten much more coherent over the last seven months either - if you haven't read it yet there's not much more I can say to convince you that you need to get on this now.

King of the Screwups by K.L. Going. I'm not a big music person, but I have to admit I have an affinity for glam rock, so I knew Liam's glam rocker uncle was going to be right up my alley. Going does an excellent job portraying class issues, as well as creating a well-rounded supporting gay character that could have easily devolved into horrendous stereotypes (the aforementioned glam rock uncle).

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. A haunting look at addiction and recovery in an 18 year old. I also loved the real and raw emotions presented throughout the novel - and even though this is an almost all-male cast, no one is disparaged for their emotional state. Everyone has problems here, and most of them are committed to fixing those problems, to whatever extent its possible.

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell. This one didn't initially make it into the "best read in 2010" tag, but gets added to this list because it's one of the books I will randomly think of fondly even months later. I love that this title seems to straddle the MG/YA line, and could easily be one of those "clean" books parents (and teens) sometimes look for that isn't condescending or bending over backwards to avoid tough topics. It's a light, fun story about a family's stay at an immersive 19th century summer camp that I think has a wide range of appeal.

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. I still want this one to win the Newbery. I absolutely loved it. The writing is beautiful and takes you on an emotional roller coaster. I don't read enough MG to make a fully informed prediction on this one - the Heavy Medal blog posters clearly know more about MG than I do and they seem to have problems with the story that just never even occurred to me. So maybe it's an outside shot at actually winning the award, but I still found it to be a compelling read.

Rampant and Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund. Still kicking myself for not picking up Rampant when it was first published. So much to love about this series so far - the action and camaraderie among the primarily female cast tops the list, along with some overtly feminist elements. Even non-fantasy fans like me find tons to love.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. The other excellent hard sci fi novel of 2010. I read this when the Gulf Oil spill was underway and it was excellent timing. The real life environmental catastrophe underscored just how plausible Bacigalupi's dystopian future really is. As a bonus, the cast is fabulously multi-cultural with some excellent class reflections between Nailer and Nita.

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. This is just about the only werewolf novel out there that I can tolerate. Of course, I much more than tolerate Sisters Red - I absolutely adore it. With the two very different sisters sharing the narration, it's almost like two stories in one - a paranormal romance when Rosie's narrating, and an action-horror story from Scarlett. More fairy tale retellings need to take this approach!

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. This is such a chick book it's kind of ridiculous how much I like it. But it's haunting and beautiful and even though I'm so not a poetry person, I love all the found-poetry that's incorporated into the text as Lennie writes out her pain about losing her sister at such a young age.

Sprout by Dale Peck. One of the few times where my tastes and an award committee's fall in line - Sprout won the 2010 Lambda Literary award for young people's literature. I was able to read four out of five of the nominees (my library never did receive In Mike We Trust, grr) and this was definitely my favorite of the bunch.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan. I'm still waiting on the Tiny Dancer libretto, gentlemen. It needs to be written. Also now that I think about it, I think Tiny Cooper and Lennie's uncle from The Sky is Everywhere would get along famously, since they're both so in love with love as well as sharing an interest in various illicit substances.

So...17 titles in all. That's not a random number at all! Oh well. What about you - what were your favorites this year? Did I totally miss something? Do I have crappy taste in books? Let me know in the comments!
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