Write It Sideways

Your Top Reading Recommendations from 2010

I read more than 30 books in 2010.

Last year was the first time I made a concerted effort to record the titles and authors of the books I read. In hindsight, I’m so glad I did. I would never have remembered half the titles if I hadn’t.

I’d love to recommend some of my favourite books from last year (that is, books I read, not necessarily ones that were published in that year), and ask you to chime in with your own favourites.

My top five favourites of 2010 are:

1. Crow Lake, by Mary Lawson

Buy Crow Lake from Amazon

Crow Lake is set in a small farming community in northern Ontario, and centres on the Morrison family (Kate the narrator, her younger sister Bo and older brothers Matt and Luke) and the events following the death of their parents.

Kate’s childhood story of the first year after their parents’ death is intertwined with the story of Kate as an adult, now a successful young academic and planning a future with her partner, Daniel, but haunted by the events of the past.

In among the narratives are set cameos of rural life in Northern Ontario, and of the farming families of the region.

(Adapted from: Crow Lake, Wikipedia)

What I loved about it: Crow Lake takes place in northern Ontario, which is where I was born and raised. Lawson’s prose is simple but beautiful, and the story is quiet but powerful. 

2. The Sea, by John Banville

Buy The Sea from Amazon

The Sea is told by Max Morden, a self-aware, retired art historian attempting to reconcile himself to the deaths of those whom he loved as a child and as an adult.

Max returns to three settings: his childhood memories of the Graces—a wealthy middle class family living in a rented cottage home, the “Cedars”—during the summer holidays; the months leading up to the death of his wife, Anna; and his present stay at the Cedars cottage home in Ballyless—where he has retreated since Anna’s death.

(Adapted from: The Sea, Wikipedia)

What I loved about it: The Sea is one of those books where not a whole lot happens, but Banville’s prose is amazing. A must-read for those who aspire to write literary fiction.

3. Amy and Isabelle, by Elizabeth Strout

Buy Amy and Isabelle from Amazon

In most ways, Isabelle and Amy are like any mother and her 16-year-old daughter, a fierce mix of love and loathing exchanged in their every glance. And eating, sleeping, and working side by side in the gossip-ridden mill town of Shirley Falls doesn’t help matters.

But when Amy is discovered behind the steamed-up windows of a car with her math teacher, the vast and icy distance between mother and daughter becomes unbridgeable.

(Quoted from: Elizabeth Strout’s website)

What I loved about it: From its description, you might think Amy and Isabelle is a plot-driven book, but you’d be mistaken. This story is much more about characters than plot, and it’s one I thought about long after I turned the last page.

4. Rush Home Road, by Lori Lansens

Buy Rush Home Road from Amazon

Sharla Cody is only five, but has already lived a troubled life- only to find herself dumped on an elderly neighbor’s doorstep when her mother takes off for the summer. Although Sharla is not the angelic child Addy Shadd had pictured when she agreed to look after her, the two soon forge a deep bond.

To Addy’s surprise, Sharla’s presence brings back memories of her own childhood in Rusholme, a town settled by fugitive slaves in the mid-1800s. She reminisces about her family, her first love, and the painful experience that drove her away from home.

(Quoted from Product Description, Amazon)

What I loved about it: Rush Home Road is the perfect balance between literary writing and a page-turning plot. I really found myself absorbed in both the storylines of the little girl and the old woman.

5. One Day, by David Nicholls

Buy One Day from Amazon

Two students at the University of Edinburgh have a post-finals fling on July 15, 1988 […]which neither wants nor expects, at that point, to lead to anything more permanent (though a clever coda will revise our perception of events).

One Day revisits Emma and Dexter on this day, St Swithin’s Day, over the next 20 years, tracing their lives sometimes in parallel but mostly at moments of charged intersection, when what is obvious to us becomes obvious to them, too: that they are happier, funnier, better people when they are together than when they are apart; that they are meant to be together; that they are in love.

(Quoted from: The Sunday Times Review)

What I loved about it: I really didn’t expect to enjoy One Day as much as I did. It wasn’t without its faults, but I found this contemporary story generally well-written, absorbing, and more profound than I imagined.

What are your favourite books you read in 2010? What books are you looking forward to reading in 2011?

Please share in the comments below. Happy reading!