Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sandy's Best of 2010: Literary Fiction


This is it, the final list. And I've saved the best for last. I enjoy most genres, but Literary Fiction is what makes my heart go pitter-patter, what makes me keep coming back for more. This was the only category where I really wanted to list more books, but I attempted to practice self-restraint. Here are the literary fiction (printed) books that stood out above the rest this year:






1. Room - Emma Donaghue



Now you there, stop rolling your eyes. I know this pick is predictable - the rave reviews were so thick you couldn't trudge your way through them - but I can't leave it off my list. This novel was sheer genius. For an author to put themselves in the mindset of a five year old who has never left his room of captivity, and narrate a book in this precocious child's voice (an extremely realistic one if I might add based on having raised two of them), you must have some special superpowers. I don't want to hear that you "can't handle" reading about the evils done to children, or you think you might get depressed, or that you are tired of hearing about the book, just read the damned thing. Step outside your comfort zone for oh, about a day or two, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.


2. One Day - David Nicholls





The premise, visiting two friends on the same day every year for two decades, sounded clever. And it was. But what I was unprepared for was the feeling of warmth, familiarity and investment in this couple. I snorted and rolled my eyes at their ridiculous behaviour (but still loved them for it), I cried when they failed, laughed at their wit and mishaps, and wanted them desperately to realize they were meant for each other. Big chemistry here, guys. It felt like When Harry Met Sally, a movie I've watched no less than three dozen times. The ending knocked me off my axis for awhile, but that did not reduce the oozing, almost giddy, obnoxious love I had for this book. The added bonus is that it is coming out as a movie soon. I'll be first in line.




3. The Lotus Eaters - Tatjana Soli




In the homestretch of the year, I find this one. I had pushed it to the bottom of my stack for 10 months, probably because I couldn't believe a book with this kind of cover would tell me anything new. In fact it did. Please, allow yourself to fall into this story of a young woman in Vietnam, a photographer trying to prove herself in a man's world, only to discover her strength, her true love, and a unforgettable country she can't bear to leave. I loved this book so much, I convinced my book club to read it.



4. In the Woods - Tana French



People often say that literary thrillers are far and few between, and might even question if they exist. Those people have not read Tana French. I started out reading The Likeness first, which was a sequel (of sorts) to In the Woods. Shame on me. That did not lessen the tingly glee I experienced while reading this one, all the while my subconscious chanting "this rocks, this rocks, this so ROCKS!". There are murders most foul. There are suspicious characters. There are clues. But oh, the characterization. French draws her protagonists with such realism, with such flaws, with so much tangible chemistry, it is a thing of beauty. I also admire French for not taking predictable paths. Don't expect to find a red bow around this ending.



5. Fingersmith - Sarah Waters



I'm not sure what I would do if I ever came in contact with Sarah Waters. Faint? Giggle? Offer to have her children? Needless to say, with each book I read of hers, the closer I get to a state of irrational celebrity worship. And this is her best. Turn-of-the-century London, passion, treachery, plot twists by the dozens. If I were allowed to take one book with me a deserted island, this would be it. If you haven't read it yet, you must make a resolution to read it in 2011. It is the type of book you want to roll around in.



Other notable books that almost made the list:

* Affinity - Sarah Waters
* Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri
* The Human Bobby - Gabe Rotter
* 84 Charing Cross Road - Helene Hanff
* Stone's Fall - Iain Pears
* How Clarissa Burden Learned To Fly - Connie May Fowler


35 comments:

Nymeth said...

I don't want to imagine *my* reaction if I ever met Sarah Waters :P Probably wide-eyed and awestruck silence. Or, you know, a fangirl attack ;) Great list, Sandy. I've only read one of them, but I want to read all the rest.

Misha said...

If I meet Sarah Waters, I would probably faint haha. Fingersmith is on my list for this year too. I have got both Affinity and Room on my TBR.

Melody said...

Great list, Sandy!
I'm currently reading The Lotus Eaters and enjoying it! I'm still kicking myself for taking such a long time to pick up this book and read it.

JoAnn said...

OK, I'm kicking myself now. Had The Lotus Eaters in my hand at B&N a couple days ago (stocking up for the TBR Dare) and didn't buy it. Maybe I should go back before New Years!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm so glad I already read all of these! It's always with a sigh and pen in hand when I come to your site and get ready to mark down yet more books I just have to read! :--)

Zibilee said...

I so agree with all of your choices!! Room made my best of list, and I am right in the thick of things with The Lotus Eaters and loving it. I also think Fingersmith is one of the best books ever written and am looking forward to trying more Waters this year. Great, great list, Sandy! You read some amazing stuff!

Frances said...

I met Sarah Waters this year too when I read The Little Stranger and really enjoyed it. I look forward to more by her in the new year. And the Tana French titles are in my tbr pile too. Now that I have successfully been triple-dog-dared by our friend with the cute dog, I might actually get to them a little sooner. :)

Trisha said...

Fingersmith made my list too! I toyed with Room, but decided not enough time had passed to truly gauge my love of the book....

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

As usual, you nailed it. In fact, since you put yours up and our tastes are so similar, I get to skip my 10 Best List, lol.

Lenore said...

I soooo need to read Room asap. And Fingersmith is one of my all time faves!

Amy said...

Room made my "best of" too. What an amazing accomplishment that could have been such a hot mess in lesser hands.

Literate Housewife said...

Oh, I am going to put One Day and Fingersmith on my TBR. I'm currently reading Tipping the Velvet right now. I loved the beginning. The middle is getting very strange. I think I'll like it over all, though.

Jen - devourer of books said...

I own all of these except for FINGERSMITH, but I haven't read any of them. *cries in a corner*

Avid Reader said...

I've read 3 of your 5 and the others are on my TBR. I'm with you on Waters. After Fingersmith and The Little Stranger I was left incredibly impressed by her ability to spin a great yarn.

farmlanebooks said...

Well Fingersmith is in my all time top 5 and Room was my book of the year too so I am very excited to be reading One Day and The Lotus Eaters in the next month. What a wonderful conclusion to your 'best of' lists :-)

Marce said...

I am loving the celebrity fan, lol, I never considered reading Fingersmith, I will read your review.

TanaF is on my list to read for sure next year.

Kathleen said...

Of these I have only read Fingersmith. I have all of the others on my list and can't wait to read them. 2011 is going to be a great reading year for me.

Iliana said...

Love the list! I can't wait to read One Day. I'm in the middle of a good book but am tempted to start that one :)

I'm hoping to get to Fingersmith next year. Sarah Waters is just wonderful!

Marie said...

Wonderful recommendations, Sandy. Thanks! Here are my best books of 2010: http://mariesbookgarden.blogspot.com/2010/12/best-books-of-2010.html

Amy said...

Thanks for the great list of books :)

reviewsbylola said...

I am in complete agreement with Room, In the Woods and Fingersmith. All three are exceptional!

Julie P. said...

OMG! How could I have only read two of those books? Of course, they were the first two, but.....

I'm back to the idea that someone should do a challenge based on everyone's 2010 Best of Lists...

Jeane said...

Okay, okay, I'm gonna read Room already! As soon as I make it through the TBR-Dare-until-April thing that is.

Lauren said...

I really need to read ROOM. I've heard nothing but good things. As for One Day, I REALLY waned to like it, but ended up putting it down and not returning to it. Maybe i'll pick it back up next month!

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I've downloaded Affinity on my Nook and am amped to read it - so I'm glad to see it's on the top list for you! I'm also excited to read Room, and I have In the Woods as well. It will be an exciting 2011 for me! :)

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

And I should have included that both Affinity AND Fingersmith onto my Nook! :)

Literary Feline said...

An excellent list, Sandy! The Lotus Eaters made my top list this year. I never did get around to reading Fingersmith like I wanted to. Maybe this coming year. And In the Woods--such a good book! I need to read the others in the series now.

I hope you have a very Happy New Year!

irisonbooks said...

Fingersmith is the only book by Sarah Waters I have read, but I would be in awe if I ever met her.

Happy 2011!

Beth F said...

Yes, I promise to read Sarah Waters....

Darlene said...

Great list Sandy! I've got Room and The Lotus Eaters on the shelf.

Melissa M said...

Room was awesome, I really want to read Fingersmith, and I need to give In The Woods another try. I only made it halfway through...

Alice Teh said...

I plan to read Room one day. I've heard so much about Tana French.

Swapna said...

The only ones on you list I haven't read are One Day (on my TBR list) and The Lotus Eaters (going back to read your review, you might convince me to read it!)

Anna said...

I'm glad to see The Lotus Eaters on your list! Happy new year!

Jenners said...

Great choices ... the only one I didn't read was "The Lotus Eaters" -- and I'm sure I'll read it in 2011.

I finished up "The Likeness" a few weeks ago and thought it was brilliant. I'm saving "Faithful Place" for myself later in the year. She needs to write faster!