Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

10 Top Books of 2010


In case you feel the need to slap me, I have already submitted the novel revisions to my agent. Despite having a houseful of guests this weekend and childrens’ social calendars to massage, I was a good little writer. And there is a secret to my success: you know how all the famous artistes of history had wives who did all the actual bloody work, while the fellas scratched their bums, sucked their quills and tried to find words that rhymed with orange? Well folks, I have a husband and a damn useful one at that. I have to admit that there was a certain amount of bliss, sitting in my office, hearing the noises of my family and our friends above me, smelling the scent of food being cooked by someone else, knowing that all was well in the world and my only responsibility was to put words in a row.

One of my blog readers recently bemoaned the fact that I no longer keep a list of the books I’ve read during the year and that she and her Swaziland book club would like some top tips. So this post is dedicated to M (how are you, honey?) and the ladies in Piggs’ Peak, Swaziland, who are in need of hot book recommendations.

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten Books of 2010:

The How We Miss You, Stieg Larsson Crime Fiction Award goes to Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman. This is a biting, edgy crime thriller set in a wintery Oslo with jaded cops, evil murderers, lots of corpses, inappropriate sex and heavy drinking. A great read and a page-turner that would make an excellent Christmas present for anyone who loved the Millenium Trilogy.

The Laughing All the Way to the Bank Award for Literary Fiction goes to Emma Donaghue whose novel Room did not win the 2010 Man Booker Prize but which consistently out-sold the other five short-listers. Room, reviewed here, is a brilliant exercise in first-person narration and a stunning depiction of incarceration from the perspective of a five-year-old child. It’s moving, surprisingly funny and very beautiful.

The Maybe I Won’t Emigrate to Australia After All  Award for Difficult Fiction goes to Christos Tsiolkas for The Slap. At a suburban barbeque, someone slaps another person’s child, and the novel tells how family ties and friendships dissolve and unravel as a result. Tsiolkas, dare I say it, does not pull his punches and Aussie society is revealed, warts, prejudices, misogyny, racism and all.

The Beautiful Book in Translation Award goes to Julia Franck for The Blind Side of the Heart. This is World War II written from the German perspective and it is tragic, heart-wrenching and exquisitely written. Read it if you dare.

The I Laughed, I Cried Animal Lovers’ Memoir of the Year Award goes to John Grogan’s Marley and Me. I read this against the background of my family’s debate about whether to get a dog or not. Marley, being a good-natured oaf given to idiotic pratfalls, did not press his species’ case successfully, but it is a delightful book.

The Damn, I Wish I Was this Clever Award goes to Margaret Atwood for The Year of the Flood, part two in her dystopian trilogy. I’m not usually a huge fan of science fiction, but I’m loving this series, and Atwood is of course brilliant, incisive and sharp.

The Put Your Feet Up And Dive In Big Fat Page-Turner Award goes to Stephen King for Under the Dome, reviewed here. The reviewer says he ‘constructs a world so compelling  that you are obliged to keep reading, pressing the accelerator against your more civilised instincts, because you just know the end is going to be ghastly and grim.’

The Makes You Hungry Without Wrecking Your Confidence in the Kitchen Cookbook of the Year Award goes Bill Granger for his fabulous Holiday, a feast of fresh flavours, novel ingredients and charming pictures of the lovely and boyish Bill.

The Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Jane Smiley whose thirteenth novel, the beautiful Private Life was published this year. The tagline reads ‘Marriage can sometimes be the loneliest place’ and in this book she traces the relationship  between two people who really shouldn’t be together, but who survive a lifetime of marriage against society’s expectations of them.

The Wolf Hall Book of the Year Award goes to Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife, reviewed here. This is an ambitious book and I was nervous of reading it, because I don’t much like George Bush and I didn’t want to feel sympathetic to him in any way. However, it is brilliantly done and of course is not really about George or Laura Bush, but about Alice and Charlie Blackwell. It is an audacious attempt to fictionalise the lives of people who are still living, and while my mind swung from the fictitious characters to the real ones and back again, in the end I gave in to the sweep of Sittenfeld’s story. She deserves prizes and paeans for a big, bold novel and quite frankly it is she, not Jonathan Franzen, who the USA should be lauding as the leader of their modern literary canon.

And in case anyone wishes to send me books or give me gifts, here is my remaining wish list for 2010:

Anything by Margie Orford

Tom Vowler’s The Method and Other Stories

Polly Samson’s Perfect Lives

A Million  Miles from Normal by Paige Nick

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

In Search of Adam by Caroline Smailes

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

11 thoughts on “10 Top Books of 2010

  1. You actually made me get up out of my chair (it takes a lot) and find a pen (why it’s not on my desk, I don’t know) to write down The Blind Side of the Heart for my reading list. At some point, I will become exhausted by WWII, but it hasn’t happened yet. This books sounds amazing.
    Congrats on finishing your edits! And your husband sounds like he went to the same “spouse school” as mine. Good men like that are better than chocolate (that’s about the highest compliment I can give anyone).

  2. I don’t know if I love you for all of these wonderful recommendations, or hate you for filling up my “books to read next” queue, which is already horrendously long.

  3. A great list, Charlotte, and I’m looking forward to reading the ones I haven’t yet.

  4. I’ve only read American Wife (and loved it); the rest are books I haven’t got – although I had planned to read Room when it comes out in paperback, and not to read The Blind Side of the Heart as it looked too weepfest-y for words (I’m not always good with books that set out to make me cry). The rest go on the list as I always trust your judgement.

  5. We are of one mind. Without reading this post I downloaded The Snowman at the airport on my way home last night and started it (briefly) before falling asleep….

  6. What a great list – I love the award headings – and it’s so nice to see two Australian books up there! Please don’t let Christos deter you from emigrating though. We’re not like that at all. I hope.

  7. What a great list (and great categories!- thanks for sharing them. I can’t believe it’s basically time for the December wrap up posts – 2010 was one quick year, in retrospect.

  8. How could you go wrong with a list that has Jo Nesbo (I’m in love with Harry Hole, you know), Stephen King (I have Under the Dome on my pile TBR this year…maybe…..), and Marley and Me on it? Love the award titles too, but not as much as I love Hole, and now I have to go read The Redeemer so I can pick up The Snowman for Christmas! 🙂 Lovely post, Charlotte, I like this list of books of the year! I have to read Julia Franck’s book too. Thanks for reminding me about it.

  9. Hi…I am fine, feel much better having read your recommendations – I was so confused and now I know!

    This blog will be printed and circulated at our next Book Club (in January) and we will be sure to try and get a few of these books. I am currently reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls – it is fascinating and you may like it, as well as the predecessor (although not necessary to read it before, but is excellent “Half Broke Horses”). I am also mad about Jane Smiley, she has written some amazing horse themed books – about her own race horses and their lives in the (brutal) fast lane.

    Hope your Monday was good…it is misty and raining here, and you can hear the grass growing…

    Take care.

  10. Thanks! I was also bemoaning your lack of a book list this year! I use it for my library list and was missing it.

    I am waiting for Private Life to come in an order from Amazon.

    Did you ever decide if you are coming to Ams after all? Would be great to see you!

  11. Congratulations on getting your revisions done and submitted to your agent! Though the last couple of weeks haven’t been bad writing-wise, I confess I’m still lagging a little behind with mine, as my last conversation with agent ended up adding another structural/pacing change to the revision list…

    Your husband sounds fabulously supportive though. Mine is still, shall we say, a work in progress?

    Loved your special ‘awards’ for each writer on your Top Ten Books list. I’ll obviously have to read The Slap now as the writer is a fellow Australian.

    Sorry, but I don’t have any of the books on your wish list – otherwise I’d certainly consider sending them your way!

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