A Year in Reading 2010

December 1, 2010 | 15 books mentioned 32 4 min read


There are many ways to measure a year, but the reader is likely to measure it in books. There was the novel that felt as fresh and full of promise as the new year in January, the memoir read on the bus to and from work through the grey days of March, the creased paperback fished from a pocket in the park in May, the stacks of books thumbed through and sandy-paged, passed around at the beach in August, the old favorite read by light coming in the window in October, and the many books in between. And when we each look back at our own years in reading, we are almost sure to find that ours was exactly like no other reader’s.

The end of another year brings the usual frothy and arbitrary accounting of the “best” this and the “most” that. But might it also be an opportunity to look back, reflect, and share? We hope so, and so, for a seventh year, The Millions has reached out to some of our favorite writers, thinkers, and readers to name, from all the books they read this year, the one(s) that meant the most to them, regardless of publication date. Grouped together, these ruminations, cheers, squibs, and essays will be a chronicle of reading and good books from every era. We hope you find in them seeds that will help make your year in reading in 2011 a fruitful one.

As we have in prior years, the names of our 2010 “Year in Reading” contributors will be unveiled one at a time throughout the month as we post their contributions. You can bookmark this post and follow the series from here, or load up the main page for more new Year in Reading posts appearing at the top every day, or you can subscribe to our RSS feed and follow along in your favorite feed reader.

…Wrapping Up a Year in Reading

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

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created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.


  1. The Room, A reliable Wife, Await Your Reply, Little Bee, The Zookeeper’s Wife all tie for first in the best reads of the year.

  2. Is it the best I read in 2010 or books published in 2010? Well, here’s the best of what I read–minimum 3 stars out of 4 with a few 4 stars–and I still have a full month to go (Cynthia Ozick is up next, and then….The Finkler Question, Tsolkas’ The Slap (thanks to review here), To the End of the Land, Unbroken, Sunset Park. The Room and more all await me!)

    The Humans Who Went Extinct-Clive Finlayson (does it have to be fiction?)
    Great House
    ditto The Zookeeper’s Wife (read it and then listened to audio a few months later)
    Almost Dead – Assaf Gavron
    Shadow Tag – Erdrich
    The Love Song of A. Jerome Minkoff – Joseph Epstein
    97 Orchard Street – Jane Zeigelman
    Origins-Anne Murphy Paul
    The Last Dog on the Hill – Steve Duno
    Girl in Trranslation – Jean Kwok
    A Pigeon and a Boy – Meir Shalev
    The Man in the Wooden Hat – Jane Gardam
    Heroic Measures – Jill Cement (may have found this here, not sure)
    Blooms of Darkness- Appelfeld
    The Film Club (found this here for sure)
    A Gesture Life and The Surrendered – Chang Rae Lee
    Ghost Map – Steven Johnson

    read 140+ books and my best list has 18 titles. I must be doing something wrong. 13 percent makes me think I am wasting a lot of time on mediocrity, but I really do try to search out wonderful books.

  3. The Good Soldiers – Finkel
    Europeana – Ourednik
    Hangover Square – Hamilton
    Annihilation – Szewc
    Hard Rain Falling – Carpenter
    Beside the Sea – Olmi
    Old School – Wolff
    Speak, Memory – Nabokov
    In A Strange Room – Galgut
    Her Privates We – Manning

  4. The Pickup – Nadine Gordimer (x2)
    Great House – Nicole Krauss
    The Cellist of Sarajevo – Steven Galloway (x2)
    The Frozen Ship – Sarah Moss
    Gotz and Meyer – David Abilari
    Falling Free – Barry Targan
    The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yoko Ogawa
    Triangle – Katherine Weber
    Proust was a Neuroscientist – Lehrer
    St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves – Karen Russell
    Desertion – Abdulrajak Gurnah
    Friendly Fire – A.B. Yehoshua
    The 25th Hour – David Benioff (x2)
    all the Wyoming stories of Annie Proulx
    Great War in Modern Memory – (x2 decades later)

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  6. 5 STARS:
    Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
    The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy
    Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
    Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen
    Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern
    Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
    The Prodigal God by Tim Keller
    Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller
    The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
    Bad Childhood, Good Life by Dr. Laura Schlessinger

    4 STARS:
    Open House by Elizabeth Berg
    The Copper Beech by Maeve Binchy
    Rain Gods by James Lee Burke
    Summer Crossing by Truman Capote
    South of Broad by Pat Conroy
    God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo
    Berniece Bobs Her Hair by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Barefoot by Elin Hildebrand
    Stationary Bike by Stephen King
    The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
    A Separate Peace by John Knowles
    Fat Girl: A True Story by Judith Moore
    The Last Mile Home by Di Morrissey
    Red’s Hot Honky Tonk Bar by Pamela Morsi
    Songs Without Words by Ann Packer
    Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos
    In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms by Dr. Laura Schlessinger
    Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
    The Pearl by John Steinbeck
    The Shack by William P. Young

  7. The most delicious first-time read for me this year was Mary Anne Shaffer’s ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’. It’s several years old already but, like I said, a first for me. Loved it.

  8. My favorite read this year is Iris Murdoch’s “The Sea, The Sea.” Honorable mention goes to “True Grit,” “A High Wind in Jamaica,” by Richard Hughes (NYRB Classics); Jennifer Egan’s “Look at Me,” (as recommended by Emily St. John Mandel); and “Panopticon” by David Bajo, Unbridled Books.

  9. Nonfiction:
    The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński
    Kabloona by Gontran de Poncins
    Broadsides from Other Orders: A Book of Bugs by Sue Hubbell

    Almost Nonfiction:
    Everything by W.G. Sebald
    I Love Dick by Chris Kraus

    Recollections of Things to Come by Elena Garro
    The Confusions of Young Törless by Robert Musil
    Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
    The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
    Sun City by Tove Jansson
    The Time of the Doves by Mercè Rodoreda
    Skylark by Dezső Kosztolányi
    Pan by Knut Hamsun
    Selected Prose of Heinrich von Kleist

  10. …At the close of each year for the past several years, the blog TheMillions has published the lists of books read by a wide variety of people whom they invite to share their year’s readings. In that spirit, here are the books I read this year (and I don’t pretend that these are by any means high-brow but, for the most part, they are good entertainment)…

  11. Merle’s Door and The Zookeeper’s Wife are two completely different genres and styles of writing but both remain in my consciousness, ringing true, true, true.

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