Top 10 Nonfiction of 2010

These are my ten favorite nonfiction books of the 35 books read in that category during 2010:

1.  George Washington: A Life – Ron Chernow – I would guess that most Americans do not even realize how little they know about George Washington.  Oh, sure, we all know that silly cherry tree story (an event that never happened) proving that Washington “could not tell a lie.”  We know that he crossed the Delaware River on December 25, 1776, during the Revolutionary War because we are familiar with the historically inaccurate Emanuel Leutze painting from 1851 portraying that courageous decision.  We know about Washington’s wooden teeth, or we think we do since that is another slightly bent story about our first president (the real story of Washington’s dental problems is even more fascinating than the myth about his wooden teeth).

2.  My Reading Life – Pat Conroy – Pat Conroy fans, this one is for you.  Longtime readers of Conroy’s fiction have often wondered why so many years pass between new books, how much truth is really contained in his novels, how his family reacts about seeing themselves in his novels, and whether Conroy’s abuse at the hands of his father has had a long term impact on his head.  In My Reading Life, Conroy answers all of those questions – and many more.

3.  Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones – Her father is James Jones, the National Book Award winner most famous for From Here to Eternity, the first book of his World War II trilogy that also includes The Thin Red Lineand Whistle. Her mother is Gloria Jones, an outrageously full of life woman so beautiful that she was once a Marilyn Monroe stand-in. Like her father, Kaylie Jones is a talented writer and she has spent a lifetime immersed in the literary world. Unfortunately, Jones also shares the alcoholism suffered by both her parents, a problem she addresses frankly in Lies My Mother Never Told Me: A Memoir. 

4.  War – Sebastian Junger – For a long time, I have been fascinated by the breed of reporter/writer so willing to put everything on the line in order to experience warfare alongside American soldiers. It is only from these brave and talented men and women that the rest of us get a decent picture of what is really happening out there and what our young soldiers are enduring for months on end. Sebastian Junger is one of the best of the breed. I am already a fan of Junger’s The Perfect Storm and A Death in Belmont, both of which are excellently written, but I do believe that War is his best effort yet.

5.  Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book – Sean Manning, ed. – All of us, I suspect, have one or two favorite books on our shelves, books that we are as much emotionally attached to as anything else we own.  But, think about that for a second.  One’s favorite books, the ones carried around during a lifetime of relocations, are not necessarily favorites because of what is between their covers.  They are just as likely to be favorites because of all the memories attached to their acquisition, or where they were first read, or what family member owned them first, or because they were a gift from a favorite teacher, relative, or long lost friend.  As the back cover of Bound to Last puts it, we love this kind of book “because of its significance as a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable object.”

6.  Mark Twain’s Other Woman – Laura Skandera Trembley – During his lifetime, Mark Twain was arguably the most famous man in the world. As such, he was very conscious of the public image that guaranteed him a secure income stream on the lecture tour any time he needed to tap into it. And because Twain had a habit of losing money to unwise investment decisions, the money he earned from public appearances was crucial if he was to maintain the lifestyle to which he and his family had become so accustomed. Toward the end of his life, Mark Twain became increasingly concerned about how he would be remembered after his death, and he was determined that nothing would tarnish his image at that late date. He achieved that goal – until now.

7.  Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley, Eddie Dean – When it comes to country music history, Ralph Stanley has pretty much seen it all. Now, at age 82, he has partnered with author Eddie Dean to share some of that with the rest of us. The book they co-authored, Man of Constant Sorrow: My Life and Times, will, of course be especially appreciated by bluegrass fans, Stanley Brothers fans, and fans of the work Ralph has done since Carter’s death on December 1, 1966. Others, even those that are not fans of Stanley or of bluegrass music, will find the book to be a remarkable snapshot of a pivotal period in American music history, a time during which musicians like the Stanley Brothers earned their livings through live radio shows, relatively primitive recordings, and driving countless miles from one paying gig to the next.

8.  At Home: A Short History of Private Life – Bill Bryson – Readers who enjoyed Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything (in which he covered the world of science), are likely to be equally taken by At Home: A Short History of Private Life in which the author turns his attention to social history. At first glance, I feared that Bryson was going to do little more than wander from room to room of his home, explaining along the way the development of the form and function of each of the old house’s rooms. This 19th century-built home, a former parsonage located in rural England, certainly lends itself to that type of discussion. Luckily, however, Bryson had much more in mind for At Home.

9.  Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen – Jimmy McDonough – Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen is some kind of crazy cross between biography and author memoir. I call it crazy because, in theory, it should not work – but the craziest thing about it is how well it does work once the reader clicks to the book’s obvious slant. Author Jimmy McDonough idolizes Tammy Wynette and he is none too thrilled with those who so often made her life a living hell. While he recounts Wynette’s life in detail, McDonough is quick to offer his personal opinion about those details. He never hesitates to ridicule individual songs, hair styles, clothing, or album covers, for instance. McDonough wisely does not even attempt to portray himself as the impersonal biographer. Otherwise, the four or five personal “letters” to Wynette he places throughout the book would be even stranger than they already are. 

10.  Losing My Cool – Thomas Chatterton Williams – It is always easier for an outsider to be objective about an unfamiliar culture than it is for someone totally immersed in that same culture, especially when strict conformity to the accepted norm of the culture serves as a means of survival within it. I recognize, however, that an outsider brings his own baggage and bias into any discussion about a culture foreign to his eyes. And when it comes to the hip-hop culture that so completely dominates overall black culture today, especially the lives of its younger members, I am absolutely an outsider. But, as such, I have long wondered how, and why, American blacks have allowed their culture and their image as a people to be disgraced by something as shallow and destructive as hip-hop. In Losing My Cool, Thomas Chatterton Williams explores how the hip-hop culture came to dominate Black America and what needs to be done to counter its terrible influence on young people.


I am particularly pleased with the quality of the books on this year’s Nonfiction Top 10 list.  I had hoped to read more nonfiction in 2010 than I read in 2009 but finished with only 35 nonfiction titles for the year.  Maybe I was just lucky; maybe I was more careful in my choices.  Whatever the reason, I think this is my strongest nonfiction Top 10 list in the four years I’ve been sharing here on Book Chase.  Check some of these out if you have the time – you won’t be disappointed.

Top 10 Fiction of 2010

These are the ten fiction books I most enjoyed during 2010 of a total of 90 books read in that category:

1.  Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese – Cutting for Stone is one of those novels whose size and reputation could easily intimidate its prospective readers. It comes in at almost 550 pages, after all, and most of the story takes place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, of all places. Its main characters are Ethiopian, Eritrean, Indian, British, or some mix of those nationalities and, even when the action moves to New York City, it is to a part of the city few Americans know anything about. The novel is part history lesson, part love story; it is both a modern novel and a reminder of the kind of thing Charles Dickens wrote on his best days; it is a science lesson and a travelogue. Bottom line: This is a very special novel, a reading experience everyone should at least consider having. Pick up this book; flip through it; read a few pages to see if it is something for you. If not, put it aside and try it again in a few months. Maybe you will get lucky the second time around.

2.  Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes – Matterhorn, a first novel by Vietnam veteran Karl Marlantes, was some thirty years in the making and it was only published after Marlantes cut about 1,000 pages from his original manuscript. Despite the cuts, the book still comes in at close to 600 pages in length and it tells a story that will be stuck in the minds of its readers long after they have turned the final page. This one, too, is a reminder that the written word almost always tells a story more powerfully than the same story can be told on film.

3.  The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim – The Calligrapher’s Daughter is Eugenia Kim’s debut novel and, as so many first novels do, the book tells a story very close to the author’s heart, one, in this case, inspired by her own mother’s life. Set in Korea between 1915 and 1945, it recounts the suffering inflicted upon the country by Japanese invaders that arrived there early in the 20th century. Japanese administrators, determined to wipe out any memory of an independent Korea, allowed only Japanese to be spoken in schools, taught only Japanese history to Korean children, destroyed the Korean royal family, and filled local prisons with those that dared protest. During World War II, when Japan realized its chances of prevailing were slipping away, life became particularly desperate for Koreans because Japan saw Korea as little more than a source of slave labor, food and raw materials to be exploited for the Japanese war effort.

4.  The White Garden – Stephanie Barron – Everyone knows that, one day in 1941, famed British author Virginia Woolf filled her coat pockets with heavy rocks before stepping into the cold waters of the river Ouse. Perhaps because of the extra weight she carried into the water with her, Woolf’s body would not be found until three weeks later. Woolf’s family and friends, aware that she was often in a suicidal frame-of-mind, were not surprised by her end, so the official verdict of suicide was never challenged. Now, in an intriguing piece of alternate history, The White Garden, Stephanie Barron examines the possibilities of what may have happened during the three weeks between Woolf’s disappearance and the recovery of her body in the Ouse.

5.  Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier – Tracy Chevalier’s latest novel, Remarkable Creatures, based on the true story of fossil-finders Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, is a piece of feminist historical fiction that works. Set in the early years of the 19th century, the book is a reminder of how completely women were excluded from the scientific community of the time – regardless of what they might achieve they were unlikely to receive much official credit for their work. It was a time, too, when people still believed that God had created the earth, and human beings, a mere five or six thousand years earlier and any evidence to the contrary was seen as something blasphemous.

6.  Drood – Dan Simmons – Drood is more than a book; it is an experience, a total immersion into Victorian England and the personal lives of two of the most famous authors of the day: Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Either way the reader chooses to experience this Dan Simmons book, by reading it or by listening to the audio book version, requires a major commitment of time and effort. The book itself is almost 800 pages long and the audio version of 24 CDs requires just under 30 hours of listening time. The audio book, read by Simon Prebble, is the route I chose to follow.

7.  Bury Your Dead – Louise Penny – Bury Your Dead is book number six in Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series but, as has so often been the case for me, I am arriving late to the party.  There are several unrelated plotlines in Bury Your Dead and Louise Penny juggles them like a champion, maintaining the reader’s keen interest in each of them as they slowly reach their separate climaxes.  In addition, and an aspect of the book that particularly appealed to me, there is a very painless history lesson at the heart of the murder with which Armand Gamache is most directly connected.  

8.  North River – Pete Hamill – For a book that includes so much actual, not to mention potential violence, Pete Hamill’s North River is at its heart a very gentle novel.  Dr. James Delaney, a WWI medic who was himself wounded in the war, is having a tough time of it in 1934 Greenwich Village. Delaney’s neighborhood patients are suffering the effects of the Depression and cash money to pay for Delaney’s services is hard to come by.  Despite the fact that his wife, Molly, who suffers from depression, has walked out of his life and has not been heard from since, Delaney keeps her room as she left it in hopes that she will walk back into his world one day.

9.  Shadow of the Swords – Kamran Pasha – Few will argue the old cliché that there are “two sides to every story,” or that truth requires consideration of both sides, especially when it comes to the study of written history. The tendency of history textbooks to present only one point-of-view brings to mind the famous Winston Churchill quote, “History is written by the victors.” But the “victors,” unfortunately, tell us only what they want us to know, and the losers generally have lost their right to argue the point.  Kamran Pasha’s Shadow of the Swords is an opportunity for Western readers to look at the bloody Third Crusade of the late twelfth century through the eyes of Saladin, commander of the Muslim forces in Palestine at the time of Richard the Lionheart’s invasion of the region. Note, however, that portions of the book are written from Richard’s point-of-view, although Saladin’s character remains the most influential one throughout the book.

10.  City of Tranquil Light – Bo Caldwell – City of Tranquil Light, Bo Caldwell’s second novel, is a beautiful story set in China just when that country was on the cusp of all the cultural shocks the rest of the 20th century would bring it. It is the story of two young Mennonites who were inspired to return to rural China with the charismatic minister who came to their communities seeking the funds and volunteers he needed to keep his mission there alive.  The saga begins in 1906 when a 21-year-old farmer from Oklahoma and a 22-year-old nurse from Cleveland decide to become foreign missionaries. For Katherine Friesen, the decision is a little easier than it is for Will Kiehn – Katherine’s sister is married to the charismatic young minister with whom she will be traveling to China. Will, on the other hand, has never known a life other than farming and he fears that he is unprepared for what is ahead. He is right about that. But no one could have been prepared for the lives he and Katherine will lead in a remote Chinese village for the better part of the next twenty-five years.


And there you have it: a Top 10 list of the best fiction books I encountered during 2010.  I am pleased with the list, having thoroughly enjoyed all ten of these and, for a change, I think I could have come up with a strong second ten books.  Interestingly (to me, anyway), four of the books are review copies provided by publishers and six came from my county library, including the two audio books that made the list.  Not a single book that I purchased myself made the list.

Best of 2010, Update 29

This will be my last Top 10 lists update until I prepare the final one at the end of December when I will, hopefully, have another nine or ten books to consider. I offer six new books for consideration this time around (three novels and three nonfiction entries): The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (David Wroblewski), Set the Night on Fire (Libby Fischer Hellman), For Love of Country (William C. Hammond), Crime Beat (Michael Connelly), My Reading Life (Pat Conroy),  and Mark Twain’s Other Woman (Laura Skandera Trombley).

None of the three new novels are making the list, so, with just over a month to go and 82 fiction titles behind me, the fiction Top 10 will remain:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)

2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)

3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)

4. The White Garden – Stephanie Barron (literary alternate history)

5. Shadow of the Swords – Kamran Pasha (novel about the Third Crusade)

6. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)

7. Drood – Dan Simmons (historical fiction)

8. City of Tranquil Light – Bo Caldwell (historical fiction

9. Shoeless Joe – W.P. Kinsella (classic baseball novel)

10. Beatrice and Virgil – Yann Martel (novel with a kick to the gut)

But two of the nonfiction titles are cracking the list, My Reading Life at number two and Mark Twain’s Other Woman at number five. Of the 32 nonfiction titles read so far this year, these are my favorites:

1. George Washington: A Life – Ron Chernow (biography)

2. My Reading Life – Pat Conroy (memoir)

3. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)

4. War – Sebastian Junger (about the daily lives of our soldiers in Afghanistan)

5. Mark Twain’s Other Woman – Laura Skandera Trombley (biography)

6. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)

7. At Home: A Short History of Private Life – Bill Bryson (Sociology)

8. Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen – Jimmy McDonough (biography)

9. Losing My Cool – Thomas Chatterton Williams (memoir)

10. Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero (biography)


And there you have the best 20 books of the 114 I’ve read so far this year – with maybe another nine or ten to be read before the end of 2010.  I honestly like the way the lists are shaping up; it’s been a nice reading year.

Best of 2010, Update 28

Wow, just seven weeks left in the current reading year and my list is still evolving.  In fact, I seem to be making changes/additions to the list at a faster pace than I did earlier in the year…a good thing, because it means I’ve been finding some great books.  I offer eight new books for consideration this time around (six novels, one short story collection, and one memoir): Nashville Chrome (Rick Bass), City of Tranquil Light (Bo Caldwell), Shoeless Joe (W.P. Kinsella), Moonlight Mile (Dennis Lehane), Silence of the Grave (Arnaldur Indridason), Zen and the Art of Surfing (Greg Gutierrez), Djibouti (Elmore Leonard), and In Mania’s Memory (Lisa Birnie).

So, with seven weeks to go and 79 fiction titles behind me, two new ones crack the list at numbers 8 and 9:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)

2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)

3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)

4. The White Garden – Stephanie Barron (literary alternate history)

5. Shadow of the Swords – Kamran Pasha (novel about the Third Crusade)

6. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)

7. Drood – Dan Simmons (historical fiction)

8. City of Tranquil Light – Bo Caldwell (historical fiction

9. Shoeless Joe – W.P. Kinsella (classic baseball novel)

10. Beatrice and Virgil – Yann Martel (novel with a kick to the gut)

The lone nonfiction book being considered this time manages to crack the very bottom of the list, a shaky perch, to be sure.  Of the 29 nonfiction titles read, these are my favorites:

1. George Washington: A Life – Ron Chernow (biography)

2. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)

3. War – Sebastian Junger (about the daily lives of our soldiers in Afghanistan)

4. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)

5. At Home: A Short History of Private Life – Bill Bryson (Sociology)

6. Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen – Jimmy McDonough (biography)

7. Losing My Cool – Thomas Chatterton Williams (memoir)

8. Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero (biography)

9. Jane’s Fame – Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen’s reputation)

10. In Mania’s Memory – Lisa Birnie (memoir)


And there you have the best 20 books of the 108 I’ve read so far this year – with only another 15 or so likely to be read before the end of 2010.  Oddly enough, the eight books I considered this time around also included two of my biggest disappointments of the entire year: Elmore Leonard’s Djibouti and Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass.

Best of 2010, Update 27

I think I’m at a logical spot to update my Best of 2010 list for this month.  It’s been three weeks since the last update and I have six new books for consideration (four novels and two nonfiction titles): Arctic Chill (Arnaldur Indridason), Dark Road to Darjeeling (Deanna Raybourn), The Paris Vendetta (Steve Berry), Two of the Deadliest (Elizabeth George, editor), At Home: A Short History of Private Life (Bill Bryson), and  George Washington: A Life (DeRon Chernow).

With just over two months to go in the year, I’m seeing fewer and fewer changes to the lists, especially on the fiction side.  This week the only two changes will be on the nonfiction list.  So, of 72 fiction titles read, these remain my 10 favorites:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)

2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)

3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)

4. The White Garden – Stephanie Barron (literary alternate history)

5. Shadow of the Swords – Kamran Pasha (novel about the Third Crusade)

6. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)

7. Drood – Dan Simmons (historical fiction)

8. Beatrice and Virgil – Yann Martel (novel with a punch)

9. The Secret Speech – Tom Rob Smith (historical thriller)

10. Far Cry – John Harvey (police procedural)

But the nonfiction list, from a total of 28 read, changes way up at the top with both George Washington: A Life and At Home: A Short History of Private Life moving onto the list at numbers 1 and 5, respectively:

1. George Washington: A Life – Ron Chernow (biography)

2. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)

3. War – Sebastian Junger (about the daily lives of our soldiers in Afghanistan)

4. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)

5. At Home: A Short History of Private Life – Bill Bryson (Sociology)

6. Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen – Jimmy McDonough (biography)

7. Losing My Cool – Thomas Chatterton Williams (memoir)

8. Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero (biography)

9. Jane’s Fame – Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen’s reputation)

10. Composed: A Memoir – Rosanne Cash (memoir)


And there you have the best 20 books of the 100 I’ve read so far this year – with only ten weeks to go.

Best of 2010, Update 26

It’s been ten books since my last update and, since the end of September comes in just a two of days, this will represent my Top 10 lists exactly three-quarters of the way through 2010.

To be considered this time are six novels and four nonfiction titles: Crying Tree (Naseem Rahka), The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai (Ruiyan Xu), The Hanging Tree (Bryan Gruley), “S” Is for Silence (Sue Grafton), Land of Ghosts (E.V. Seymour), Todos Santos (Deborah Clearman), The Gettysburg Approach to Writing and Speaking Like a Professional (Philip A. Yaffe), Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen (Jimmy McDonough), Born Standing Up (Steve Martin) and A World without Islam (Graham E. Fuller).

With only three months to go, it is really getting difficult for a new title to crack either list.  This week shows just how tough, with only one of the ten titles gaining a ranking.  So, of 68 fiction titles, these remain my 10 favorites:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. The White Garden – Stephanie Barron (literary alternate history)
5. Shadow of the Swords – Kamran Pasha (novel about the Third Crusade)
6. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
7. Drood – Dan Simmons (historical fiction)
8. Beatrice and Virgil – Yann Martel (novel with a punch)
9. The Secret Speech – Tom Rob Smith (historical thriller)
10. Far Cry – John Harvey (police procedural)

And the nonfiction list, from a total of 26 read, changes just a bit with Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen moving into what should prove to be a secure number 4 slot.

1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. War – Sebastian Junger (about the daily lives of our soldiers in Afghanistan)
3. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
4. Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen – Jimmy McDonough (biography)
5. Losing My Cool – Thomas Chatterton Williams (memoir)
6. Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero (biography)
7. Jane’s Fame – Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen’s reputation)
8. Composed: A Memoir – Rosanne Cash (memoir)
9. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz – (memoir)
10. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)


And there you have the best 20 books of the 94 I’ve read so far this year – with only three months to go, the list is starting to look pretty solid.

Best of 2010, Update 25

It’s been five books since my last update and, since the end of August comes in just a couple of days, this will represent my Top 10 lists exactly two-thirds of the way through 2010.

To be considered again this time are three novels and two nonfiction titles:The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno (Ellen Bryson), Percival’s Planet (Michael Byers), Beatrice and Virgil (Yann Martel), Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero (Tom Claven, Danny Peary) and Identical Strangers (Elyse Schein, Paula Bernstein) .

And, just as last time, only one of the three fiction titles cracks the list: Beatrice and Virgil jumps into the shaky number 8 slot.  So now, of 62 fiction titles, these are my 10 favorites:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. The White Garden – Stephanie Barron (literary alternate history)
5. Shadow of the Swords – Kamran Pasha (novel about the Third Crusade)
6. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
7. Drood – Dan Simmons (historical fiction)
8. Beatrice and Virgil – Yann Martel (novel with a punch)
9. The Secret Speech – Tom Rob Smith (historical thriller)
10. Far Cry – John Harvey (police procedural)

And the nonfiction list, from a total of 22 read, changes a bit with Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero moving into what should prove to be a pretty secure number 5 slot and Identical Strangers entering at an extremely shaky number 10:

1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. War – Sebastian Junger (about the daily lives of our soldiers in Afghanistan)
3. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
4. Losing My Cool – Thomas Chatterton Williams (memoir)
5. Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero (biography)
6. Jane’s Fame – Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen’s reputation)
7. Composed: A Memoir – Rosanne Cash (memoir)
8. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz – (memoir)
9. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)
10.Idential Strangers (memoir)  


And there you have the best 20 books of the 84 I’ve read so far this year – with only four months for others to make the final lists.

Best of 2010, Update 24

I think it’s time for another update while these last five books are still fresh on my mind.

To be considered this time are three novels and two nonfiction titles: The Perfect Reader (Maggie Pouncey), The Fabulous Clipjoint (Fredric Brown), The White Garden (Stephanie Barron), Composed: A Memoir (Rosanne Cash),  and The Peep Diaries (Hal Niedzviecki).

This time around, only one of the three fiction titles deserve to crack the list: The White Garden moves in at a nice number 4 slot.  So now, of 59 fiction titles, these are my 10 favorites:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. The White Garden – Stephanie Barron (literary alternate history)
5. Shadow of the Swords – Kamran Pasha (novel about the Third Crusade)
6. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
7. Drood – Dan Simmons (historical fiction)
8. The Secret Speech – Tom Rob Smith (historical thriller)
9. Far Cry – John Harvey (police procedural)
10. Home, Away – Jeff Gillenkirk (baseball novel)

And the nonfiction list, from a total of 20 read, changes a bit with Composed moving in comfortably at number 6:

1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. War – Sebastian Junger (about the daily lives of our soldiers in Afghanistan)
3. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
4. Losing My Cool – Thomas Chatterton Williams (memoir)
5. Jane’s Fame – Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen’s reputation)
6. Composed: A Memoir – Rosanne Cash (memoir)
7. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz – (memoir)
8. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)
9. Game Change – John Heilemann & Mark Halperin (political nonfiction)
10. Damp Squid – Jeremy Butterfield (on the evolution of the English language)  


That makes these the best 20 books of the 79 I’ve read so far this year, with almost five months still for otherss to make the final lists.

Best of 2010, Update 23

It’s already been almost three weeks since my last update,so here goes.

To be considered this time are four novels and three nonfiction titles: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Seth Grahame-Smith), Shadow of the Swords (Kamran Pasha), Blockade Billy (Stephen King), Ordinary Thunderstorms (William Boyd), War (Sebastian Junger), That’s No Mob, That’s My Mom (Michael Graham) and Me of Little Faith (Lewis Black).

So, after due consideration, this is what the fiction list looks like after 56 fiction books read:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. Shadow of the Swords – Kamran Pasha (novel about the Third Crusade)
5. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
6. Drood – Dan Simmons (historical fiction)
7. The Secret Speech – Tom Rob Smith (historical thriller)
8. Far Cry – John Harvey (police procedural)
9. Home, Away – Jeff Gillenkirk (baseball novel)
10. Whiter Than Snow – Sandra Dallas (historical fiction)

And the nonfiction list from a total of 18 read changes a bit:

1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. War – Sebastian Junger (about the daily lives of our soldiers in Afghanistan)
3. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
4. Losing My Cool – Thomas Chatterton Williams (memoir)
5. Jane’s Fame – Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen’s reputation)
6. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz – (memoir)
7. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)
8. Game Change – John Heilemann & Mark Halperin (political nonfiction)
9. Damp Squid – Jeremy Butterfield (on the evolution of the English language)
10. Unfinished Business – Lee Kravitz (memoir)

It is obviously getting tougher to crack the list because only two of the seven new ones made it this time: Shadow of the Swords, at number 4 on the fiction list and War at number two on the nonfiction one. Both books earned high spots on the list and will probably still be there at the end of the year.

That makes these the best 20 books of the 74 I’ve read so far this year, with another five months to go.

Best of 2010, Update 22

I haven’t done a Best of 2010 update since the night I was sitting in an Owensboro, KY, motel (June 23) waiting on a jam session to get cranked up out by the pool, so let’s see what happens (obviously, I do these on the fly, folks).

Up for consideration this time are 5 novels: Taroko Gorge (Jacob Ritari), Whiter Than Snow (Sandra Dallas), Home, Away (Jeff Gillenkirk), Careless in Red (Elizabeth George) and Running Dark (Jamie Freveletti). I’m a little surprised that my nonfiction reading is down this year but, for a variety of reasons, 2010 is rapidly turning a year of novels for me.

So, after due consideration, this is what the fiction list looks like after 52 fiction books read:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
5. Drood – Dan Simmons (historical fiction)
6. The Secret Speech – Tom Rob Smith (historical thriller)
7. Far Cry – John Harvey (police procedural)
8. Home, Away – Jeff Gillenkirk (baseball novel)
9. Whiter Than Snow – Sandra Dallas (historical fiction)
10.Careless in Red – Elizabeth George (police procedural)

And the nonfiction list from a total of 15 read remains:

1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
3. Losing My Cool – Thomas Chatterton Williams (memoir)
4. Jane’s Fame – Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen’s reputation)
5. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz – (memoir)
6. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)
7. Game Change – John Heilemann & Mark Halperin (political nonfiction)
8. Damp Squid – Jeremy Butterfield (on the evolution of the English language)
9. Unfinished Business – Lee Kravitz (memoir)
10. Top of the Order – Sean Manning, Ed. (baseball essays)

Three of the five books crack the list: Home, Away at number 8, Whiter Than Snow at number 9 and Careless in Red at 10, squeezing The Devil Amongst the Lawyers, A Fair Maiden and Johnny Porno off the list for good. So these are the best 20 books of the 67 books I’ve read so far this year, with almost half a year to go. Now for some nonfiction…

Best of 2010, Update 21

I have six new books to consider since my last update of twelve days ago – 6 books in 12 days is a pretty fast pace for me and I’m wondering how it happened. I decided to update my thoughts on this perpetual “Best of 2010” list while I wait for the big jam session to begin out by the Days Inn swimming pool. It has finally cooled off in Owensboro, Kentucky, and out-of-towners here for ROMP 2010 are determined to make the most of it.

Up for consideration this time are 5 novels and 1 memoir: A Bad Day for Pretty (Sophie Littlefield), The Devil Amongst the Lawyers (Sharyn McCrumb), The Poacher’s Son (Paul Doiron), The Third Rail (Michael Harvey), Mexico City Noir (12 authors), and Unfinished Business (Lee Kravitz). I am to the point that changes to the list are coming less often than before and only 2 of the 6 new books have cracked the list.

So, after due consideration, this is what the fiction list looks like after 47 fiction books read:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
5. Drood – Dan Simmons (historical fiction)
6. The Secret Speech – Tom Rob Smith (historical thriller)
7. Far Cry – John Harvey (police procedural)
8. The Devil Amongst the Lawyers – Sharyn McCrumb (Ballad Novel)
9. A Fair Maiden – Joyce Carol Oates (novel)
10. Johnny Porno – Charlie Stella (noir crime fiction)

And the nonfiction list from a total of 15 read so far this year is:

1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
3. Losing My Cool – Thomas Chatterton Williams (memoir)
4. Jane’s Fame – Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen’s reputation)
5. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz – (memoir)
6. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)
7. Game Change – John Heilemann & Mark Halperin (political nonfiction)
8. Damp Squid – Jeremy Butterfield (on the evolution of the English language)
9. Unfinished Business – Lee Kravitz (memoir)
10. Top of the Order – Sean Manning, Ed. (baseball essays)

So that’s six books and two changes:The Devil Amongst the Lawyers enters the fiction list at number 8, squeezing The Samaritan’s Secret off the list, and Unfinished Business enters the nonfiction list at number 9, eliminating A Time to Betray. So these are the best 20 books of the 62 books I’ve read as of today…now it’s time for some bluegrass.

Best of 2010, Update 20

I have several new books to consider for a place in my real-time Best of 2010 list this time around: The Secret Speech, Republic, Damp Squid, Mr. Peanut and Horns. These are pretty much all over the map. Two are “political thrillers,” one is a literary murder mystery, one fits best in the horror genre, and one is a look at the evolution of the English language.

So, after due consideration, this is what the fiction list looks like after 42 fiction books read:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
5. Drood – Dan Simmons (historical fiction)
6. The Secret Speech – Tom Rob Smith (historical thriller)
7. Far Cry – John Harvey (police procedural)
8. A Fair Maiden – Joyce Carol Oates (novel)
9. Johnny Porno – Charlie Stella (noir crime fiction)
10. The Samaritan’s Secret – Matt Beynon Rees (detective fiction)

And the nonfiction list from a total of 14 read so far this year is unchanged:

1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
3. Losing My Cool – Thomas Chatterton Williams (memoir)
4. Jane’s Fame – Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen’s reputation)
5. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz – (memoir)
6. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)
7. Game Change – John Heilemann & Mark Halperin (political nonfiction)
8. Damp Squid – Jeremy Butterfield (on the evolution of the English language)
9. Top of the Order – Sean Manning, Ed. (baseball essays)
10. A Time to Betray – Reza Kahlili (memoir of Iranian CIA agent)

Five books, two changes:The Secret Speech enters the fiction list at number 6, pushing Not So Perfect off the list, and Damp Squid enters the nonfiction list at number 8, eliminating Goosetown. So these are the best 20 books of the 56 books I’ve read as of today…and the beat goes on.

Best of 2010, Update 19

I think this would be a good time to update my “Best of the Year” list since we are closing out the month of May on a hot three-day weekend, meaning the year is almost half over already. I have been so busy helping to pack my daughter and move her to another house that I’ve done very little reading for the last three or four days – but there are a few changes to the list.

Since the last update, I’ve read A Week in December (Sebastian Faulks), Johnny Porno (Charlie Stella) and Not So Perfect (Nik Perring). I’m also well into Jeremy Butterfield’s Damp Squid (an exploration of the English language) and Republic, by Charles Sheehan-Miles (an alternate history look at what might happen if the Homeland Security agency got “over ambitious”). Two of the books crack the list at numbers 8 and 10.

So this is what the fiction list looks like after 38 fiction books read:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
5. Drood – Dan Simmons (historical fiction)
6. Far Cry – John Harvey (police procedural)
7. A Fair Maiden – Joyce Carol Oates (novel)
8. Johnny Porno – Charlie Stella (noir crime fiction)
9. The Samaritan’s Secret – Matt Beynon Rees (detective fiction)
10.Not So Perfect – Nik Perring (short story collection)

And the nonfiction list from a total of 13 read so far this year is unchanged:

1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
3. Losing My Cool – Thomas Chatterton Williams (memoir)
4. Jane’s Fame – Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen’s reputation)
5. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz – (memoir)
6. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)
7. Game Change – John Heilemann & Mark Halperin (political nonfiction)
8. Top of the Order – Sean Manning, Ed. (baseball essays)
9. A Time to Betray – Reza Kahlili (memoir of Iranian CIA agent)
10. Goosetown: Reconstructing an Akron Neighborhood – Joyce Dyer (memoir)

Best of 2010, Update 18

The last few days seem to have flown by even quicker than they usually do. I took Thursday afternoon off to drive about 35 miles northwest of where I live to attend a rare bluegrass music event. I say “rare” because it is highly unusual for one of the nationally-touring bluegrass bands to include Houston on its schedule. Frankly, the Houston area is not a hotbed of bluegrass fans and, consequently, those of us who are here suffer the neglect of the traveling bands.

So, when a band the caliber of The Grascals comes anywhere near here, you will find me there. And what a show it was: one hour and fifteen minutes from some of the best bluegrass musicians and singers in the business today. These guys keep it fresh and fun while managing to give a respectful nod to some of the bluegrass classics from yesterday.

Friday was spent cleaning out the garage at my dad’s house, the last step I needed to complete before the cleaners came in on Saturday to give the house a thorough going over – now, all I need is to get the carpet cleaners in – and we are done! The house will be ready to be officially put up for sale and the hard part will be over.

The good news is that I’ve had enough “sitting around” time during the last three days that I’ve managed to read a couple of interesting books and finish up a third: John Harvey’s Far Cry and Jane Smiley’s Private Life, plus an amazing memoir on the utter destructiveness of the hip hop life style by Thomas Chatterton Williams called Losing My Cool. The Smiley book left me cold (and more than a bit depressed) but I am adding the Harvey book to the fiction list at number six and the Williams book to the nonfiction list at number three. Now I just need to find some time to get my thoughts about these three down on paper.

So this is what the fiction list looks like after 35 fiction books read:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
5. Drood – Dan Simmons (historical fiction)
6. Far Cry – John Harvey (police procedural)
7. A Fair Maiden – Joyce Carol Oates (novel)
8. The Samaritan’s Secret – Matt Beynon Rees (detective fiction)
9. Homer & Langley – E.L. Doctorow (novel)
10. The Man from Saigon – Marti Leimbach (Vietnam War novel)

And the nonfiction list from a total of 13 read so far this year:

1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
3. Losing My Cool – Thomas Chatterton Williams (memoir)
4. Jane’s Fame – Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen’s reputation)
5. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz – (memoir)
6. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)
7. Game Change – John Heilemann & Mark Halperin (political nonfiction)
8. Top of the Order – Sean Manning, Ed. (baseball essays)
9. A Time to Betray – Reza Kahlili (memoir of Iranian CIA agent)
10. Goosetown: Reconstructing an Akron Neighborhood – Joyce Dyer (memoir)

Best of 2010, Update 17

Things have settled down here a bit – but the planned estate sale is scheduled for early Saturday morning so it will be a fairly hectic weekend. I’m hoping that we have my dad’s house pretty much emptied out by the end of the weekend so that I can arrange for it to be cleaned and otherwise readied for the sales market. Wish us luck…

Up for consideration this time around are two novels and one piece of non-fiction. I’m going to place One Last Thing to Do before I Die on the list at number 10 but The Malthusian Catastrophe does not quite make the cut. The nonfiction book, A Time to Betray, will move onto the nonfiction list at number 8.

So this is what the fiction list looks like after 33 fiction books read:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)

5. Drood – Dan Simmons (historical fiction)
6. A Fair Maiden – Joyce Carol Oates (novel)
7. The Samaritan’s Secret – Matt Beynon Rees (detective fiction)
8. Homer & Langley – E.L. Doctorow (novel)
9. The Man from Saigon – Marti Leimbach (Vietnam War novel)
10. One Last Thing to Do Before I Die – Steven Drew Goldberg (comic novel)

And the nonfiction list from a total of 11 read so far this year:

1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
3. Jane’s Fame – Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen’s reputation)
4. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz – (memoir)
5. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)
6. Game Change – John Heilemann & Mark Halperin (political nonfiction)
7. Top of the Order – Sean Manning, Ed. (baseball essays)
8. A Time to Betray – Reza Kahlili (memoir of Iranian CIA agent)
9. Goosetown: Reconstructing an Akron Neighborhood – Joyce Dyer (memoir)
10. Never Tell Our Business to Strangers – Jennifer Mascia (memoir)

Best of 2010, Update 16

I’m still finding it difficult to snatch even a few minutes a day of any kind of internet time, much less enough time to post something here on Book Chase. It’s times like these I wish I had a blog partner to take up some of the slack. I’ve been so busy lately trying to get my father situated in his new home and shutting down things at his house that my reading time was almost zero several days last week – there were days I read less than 20 pages…can’t remember the last time that happened.

I have managed, though, to read three novels and the book on Jane Austen since my last update of the Top 10 lists. There will be only one change to the fiction list, however, since neither Still Midnight nor Roadside Crosses can beat out any of the books already on the list. Drood enters the fiction list near the top and Jane’s Fame fits nicely into the nonfiction list at number three.

So this is what the fiction list looks like after 31 fiction books read:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)

5. Drood – Dan Simmons (historical fiction)
6. A Fair Maiden – Joyce Carol Oates (novel)
7. The Samaritan’s Secret – Matt Beynon Rees (detective fiction)
8. Homer & Langley – E.L. Doctorow (novel)
9. The Man from Saigon – Marti Leimbach (Vietnam War novel)
10. Lay Down My Sword and Shield – James Lee Burke (1971 novel)

And the nonfiction list is finally a Top 10:

1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
3. Jane’s Fame – Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen’s reputation)
4. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz – (memoir)
5. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)
6. Game Change – John Heilemann & Mark Halperin (political nonfiction)
7. Top of the Order – Sean Manning, Ed. (baseball essays)
8. Goosetown: Reconstructing an Akron Neighborhood – Joyce Dyer (memoir)
9. Never Tell Our Business to Strangers – Jennifer Mascia (memoir)
10. Highest Duty – Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (memoir)

Best of 2010, Update 15

Happy Easter everyone. Here’s hoping that everyone who observes this particular religious holiday has a nice day wherever you might be. It’s a very overcast day in Houston, and here in the north part of the county a light drizzle has been falling all morning. I’m still in “nurse mode” and staying with my father while he recovers from his surgery, but we are going to have lunch with the whole family this afternoon and that will brighten the day.

I have read three novels since my last update of the Top 10 lists but none of them will make a big (nor, I suspect, a long) impact on the list. In fact, one of them will not hit the list at all.

So this is what the fiction list looks like after 27 fiction books read:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
5. A Fair Maiden – Joyce Carol Oates (novel)
6. The Samaritan’s Secret – Matt Beynon Rees (detective fiction)
7. Homer & Langley – E.L. Doctorow (novel)
8. The Man from Saigon – Marti Leimbach (Vietnam War novel)
9. Lay Down My Sword and Shield – James Lee Burke (1971 novel)
10. Blind Submission – Debra Ginsberg (novel)

Numbers 8 and 9 are additions to the fiction list.

And the nonfiction list remains a Top 9 for now:

1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
3. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz – (memoir)
4. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)
5. Game Change – John Heilemann & Mark Halperin (political nonfiction)
6. Top of the Order – Sean Manning, Ed. (baseball essays)
7. Goosetown: Reconstructing an Akron Neighborhood – Joyce Dyer (memoir)
8. Never Tell Our Business to Strangers – Jennifer Mascia (memoir)
9. Highest Duty – Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (memoir)

Best of 2010, Update 14

I’ve neglected Book Chase this week and that’s really starting to bug me. In fact, I can’t remember another time that I’ve gone three straight days without posting here. I have managed to write a couple reviews this week but both are for other sites and I can’t use them here until they’ve been published on those websites. Too, I’m still living at my dad’s house so that I can keep a close eye on his recovery from knee-replacement surgery – you can imagine all the little chores that are eating up my spare time because of that.

I have, though, managed to read three books since my last update of the Top 10 lists, so I’ll do that this afternoon while the books are fresh on my mind and more easily relatable to the ones already on the list.

This is what the fiction list looks like now after 22 fiction books read:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
5. A Fair Maiden – Joyce Carol Oates (novel)
6. The Samaritan’s Secret – Matt Beynon Rees (detective fiction)
7. Homer & Langley – E.L. Doctorow (novel)
8. Blind Submission – Debra Ginsberg (novel)
9. T Is for Trespass – Sue Grafton (detective fiction)
10. Get Out of the Way – Daniel Dinges (novel)

Remarkable Creatures enters the list at number 4.

And this is the nonfiction list, a Top 9 at this point because I’ve only read nine nonfiction titles to date:

1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
3. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz – (memoir)
4. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)
5. Game Change – John Heilemann & Mark Halperin (political nonfiction)
6. Top of the Order – Sean Manning, Ed. (baseball essays)
7. Goosetown: Reconstructing an Akron Neighborhood – Joyce Dyer (memoir)
8. Never Tell Our Business to Strangers – Jennifer Mascia (memoir)
9. Highest Duty – Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (memoir)

Numbers 6 and 8 are additions to the list.

Best of 2010, Update 13

I’ve decided to split my running tabulation of the “Best of 2010” into two lists, one for fiction and one for nonfiction, because I’m a bit surprised at how difficult it has become for me to produce a meaningful, combined list. I am happy to find that my “instant ranking system” produces a truer picture than I’ve ever been able to come up with at the end of a year’s worth of reading, and I think this tweak will help me keep the books in better perspective. I can even see the possiblity of expanding one, or both lists, to a Top 15 later in the year.

This is what the fiction list looks like right now after 21 fiction books read:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. A Fair Maiden – Joyce Carol Oates (novel)
5. The Samaritan’s Secret – Matt Beynon Rees (detective fiction)
6. Homer & Langley – E.L. Doctorow (novel)
7. Blind Submission – Debra Ginsberg (novel)
8. T Is for Trespass – Sue Grafton (detective fiction)
9. Get Out of the Way – Daniel Dinges (novel)
10. Transfer of Power – Vince Flynn (thriller)

And this is the nonfiction list, a Top 7 at this point because I’ve only read seven nonfiction titles to date:

1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
3. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz – (memoir)
4. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)
5. Game Change – John Heilemann & Mark Halperin (political nonfiction)
6. Goosetown: Reconstructing an Akron Neighborhood – Joyce Dyer (memoir)
7. Highest Duty – Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (memoir)

Best of 2010, Update 12


This is starting to get tough. I’ve read six books since the last time I updated my Best of 2010 list and four of the six are really good. As I start to write this, I’m not even sure how many of them are going to make the list, so let’s see where I end up.

The three additions to the list are in bold print.


Top 10 after 28 possibilities:

1. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Lies My Mother Never Told Me – Kaylie Jones (memoir)
3. Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley and Eddie Dean (biography)
4. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
5. The Opposite Field – Jesse Katz (memoir)

6. The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim (novel)

7. The Tennis Partner – Abraham Verghese (1996 memoir)
8. A Fair Maiden – Joyce Carol Oates – (novel)
9. The Samaritan’s Secret – Matt Beynon Rees – (detective novel)
10. Game Change – John Heilemann and Mark Halperin (political nonfiction)


Personal Note: I’ve been spending a huge number of hours sitting with my father, first at the hospital and now in the rehab center, as he recovers from knee replacement surgery. That’s caused me to be slow to respond to comments and I apologize for that. I hope to catch up soon.