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Books I Read in 2010

January, 2010
The Toss of a Lemon Padma Viswanathan
    Well-told epic tale of an Indian woman and her family's struggles with life and the caste system in a changing society.
Olive Kitteridge Elizabeth Strout
    Pulitzer Prize winner. Insightful stories about the citizens of small-town coastal Maine, especially wonderful, big, old, mean, kind, hating, loving Olive.
Preventing Sibling Rivalry, Six Strategies to Build a Jealousy-Free Home Sybil Hart
    Interesting read.
Let the Great World Spin Colum McCann
    Super job. New York City in well-told stories that share a wide spectrum of intriguing characters and a day in 1974 when a tightrope artist walked a wire connecting the tops of World Trade Center Towers.
March, 2010
The Case for God Karen Armstrong
    Excellent review and analysis of the history of our thinking about God and religion from ancient times to the early 21st century. Religion's task is to help us live well, even joyously, with realities for which there are no easy explanations and with problems we can't solve (e.g., mortality, pain, grief, despair, injustice and cruelty). Religion is a practical discipline that requires significant effort in a dedicated lifestyle - a "compassionate lifestyle that allows us to break out of the prism of selfhood."
The Conservationist Nadine Gordimer
    Strong work. Character portraits and paintings of South African apartheid.
A Mercy Toni Morrison
    Powerful portrayal of slavery and indentured servitude in 17th century America.
April, 2010
The Women T.C. Boyle
    Wow. Very good stuff. Superbly told tale of the women of Frank Lloyd Wright.
May, 2010
The Best American Short Stories 2009 ed. Alice Sebold
    Fine collection. Especially like those by Victoria Lancelotta, Karl Taro Greenfield, Annie Proulx.
June, 2010
About Grace Anthony Doerr
    Almost, but not quite.
The Fire Gospel Michel Faber
    Yes! A real page turner. Publishing a newly discovered Gospel that contradicts the old can be profitable but disastrous.
Zoli Colum McCann
    Wow! Another McCann masterpiece. Gets right inside the beating heart and mind of Romani Gypsy Zoli and her culture.
Lost City Radio Daniel Alarcon
    Very well constructed first novel. Unique, attractive characters whose lives are critically impacted by an impossible war.
Under the Skin Michel Faber
    Amazing, weird, engrossing tale. What sacrifices and soul-searchings might be experienced by a handful of fascinating beings from another world who hunt and butcher us for profit as rare culinary delicacies? Somehow Faber pulls this one off beautifully. Have to wonder if he is vegan.
The Blind Assassin Margaret Atwood
    Very well told and put together mysterious story within a story or stories, connected in interesting and unexpected ways.
Going Away Shoes Jill McCorkle
    Eleven stories, told with sensitivity and humor, about women and men trying, failing and maybe sometimes succeeding to connect meaningfully to each other and their families.
July, 2010
The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood
    A classic.
The Ministry of Special Cases Nathan Englander
    Fine piece of work. Outcast Jew, hijo de puta, Kaddish Poznan and wife Lillian deal with loss of their son, "disappeared" by Argentina's new government.
American Woman Susan Choi
    Wow! A masterpiece second novel by an awesome talent. Exciting page-turner centered around four young American radical terrorist fugitives in the 1970's. (Shades of Patty Hearst.) Irresistible character development exceeds expectations. Although the tragic heroine, Jenny, planted a bomb that blew up part of a building (as planned, no one was killed), you understand her and want her to somehow find peace and happiness. Powerful. Unforgettable.
The Thing Around Your Neck Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Twelve stories. All good.
The Courage Consort Michel Faber
    Three fine novellas.
The Foreign Student Susan Choi
    Entirely superior work. Gripping. Tragic. Powerful. Insightful. Hopeful. Enlightening. Fulfilling. Awesome.
Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut
    Classic. Casual, funny, imaginative, strong anti-war statement, based on the adventures of Billy Pilgrim who was a POW in Dresden, Germany, when U.S. and British bombers killed 135,000 people there.
The Sound and the Fury William Faulkner
    Tale of the tragic fall of an early 20th century southern family plagued by greed, promiscuity, sickness and suicide. Faulkner uses some wonderful, challenging streams of consciousness starting with one from the disorganized mind of the very retarded Ben.
August, 2010
Confessions of a Shopaholic Sophie Kinsella
    Fun read.
Sons and Lovers D.H. Lawrence
    Classic tale (1913) of Paul Morel's difficult, conflicted relationships with his mother and his lovers.
Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel
    Booker prize winning study of the mind and heart of Thomas Cromwell in the time of King Henry VIII.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers
    Classic tale of connection and isolation in a small southern U.S. town in the 1930's.
How to Paint a Dead Man Sarah Hall
    Wonderful. In rotation, Hall introduces us to four appealing artists in four powerful, moving stories, connected in so many ways.
September, 2010
Darkness at Noon Arthur Koestler
    Darkly disturbing look at the last days of Comrade Rubashov, victim of the 1930's Moscow trials.
Under the Volcano Malcolm Lowry
    Classic, timeless masterpiece set in 1938 Mexico. Magnificent control of the language. Rich use of literary allusions. Powerful portrayal of the agonies of alcoholism. One cannot live without love.
The Electric Michelangelo Sarah Hall
    Interesting biography of early twentieth century English tattoo artist.
Little Bee Chris Cleave
    Good, moving story, well told alternately by two interesting narrators: Little Bee, a teen-aged Nigerian asylum-seeker, whose life was saved in a tense scene by the other teller - editor of a London fashion magazine, the about-to-be widowed young mother of a four-year-old who believes he is Spiderman.
Blood Meridian or The Evening Redness in the West Cormac McCarthy
    Bloody masterpiece. Very bloody. Kid joins traveling gang of ruthless, vicious scalp hunters in mid-nineteenth-century wild, wild western U.S. In the end, what horrible thing did the Judge do to the kid? No one will ever know for sure.
October, 2010
Daughters of the North Sarah Hall
    Fine piece of speculative fiction.
Of Human Bondage W. Somerset Maugham
    Classic masterpiece. The unforgettable story of Philip Carey.
Toilet Training: the Brazelton Way T. Berry Brazelton M.D.
    Let the child be the leader. You be the helper.
Incendiary Chris Cleave
    Letter to Osama bin Laden from working class London gal describing her struggle to re-build her life after the sudden violent deaths of her husband and 4 year-old son in an Al Qaeda suicide bombing. Interesting twists: some sad, many hilarious.
The Moviegoer Walker Percy
    Excellent. Young, New Orleans stockbroker searching for meaning, love.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larsson
    Irresistible page turner. Intriguing, unique characters.
November, 2010
Ulysses James Joyce
    Classic tour de force. Joyce proves the master of multiple styles as we spend June 16, 1904, in Dublin, Ireland, getting up close and personal with Leopold Bloom.
The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
    Superior, gripping tearjerker.
Wabash Robert Olen Butler
    Very good. Builds smoothly to gripping climax.
December, 2010
The Girl Who Played With Fire Stieg Larsson
    Second of the trilogy. Even better than the first. Gripping. Couldn't put it down.
War Dances Sherman Alexie
    Collection of poems and good stories. Good sense of humor.
The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
    Classic tale of selected misadventures of the young Holden Caulfield.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest Stieg Larsson
    Trilogy finale. Another real page-turner.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress Robert A. Heinlein
    Classic (1966) science fiction tale of how determined and resourceful Lunar patriots achieved independence from mother Earth in 2076. Tanstaafl!
Stranger in a Strange Land Robert A. Heinlein
    Classic (1961) story of the Man from Mars, Valentine Michael Smith who was born on Mars of human parents, and brought back to earth to learn our ways and then teach us all a better way. Thou art God. Grok it, man.

Greg Gordon MD, CFII