Saturday, January 1, 2011

Top Books 2010

“At the best of times his face was unreadable. Now his face was a book written in a language long forgotten, in an alphabet unimagined. Silas wrapped the shadows around him like a blanket, and stared after the way the boy had gone, and did not move to follow.”

- Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Back in July, I foolishly decided to see if I could read 100 Books in 2010. Here’s the POST .

I only managed a mere 65.

This same blogger did a 50 YA books challenge. Totaling my books, I still come up short because I have too many nonfictions and middle-grades on my list. And two are repeats – I read them on my own and then with my children. It counts, right?

Still, I see meeting this challenge a success. On July 20th I’d only read 20 books since January. But after my push to read more, I added another 45 to the list.

Pretty sweet.

As a teacher, I like to be able to talk about some of the books my students are reading. As a children’s book writer, I’d better be familiar with what’s out there. And reading makes me a better writer.

So as 2010 comes to a close, here are my 10 favorite books of the year:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (middle grade fantasy)

This novel had me hooked in its first pages. He has such a lovely voice both on the page and as the reader of his own audio book. It’s about a boy struggling to figure out where he came from and longing to be free of the graveyard that protects him. I’m impatient for Gaiman to write something new.

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell (nonfiction)

I recommend all his books. Gladwell makes any topic interesting and I always feel smarter for reading them. I’ve referenced him several times on my blog.

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (middle grade to YA fantasy)

I know, I’ve mentioned my adoration of HP before, but rereading the books in a row this summer crystallized what’s so fantastic about them. The stakes get higher in each one. The author strikes a good balance of whimsy, humor, and dark issues. And it has the best ending to a series. Ever. So I can forgive her overuse of dialogue tags and adverbs. (She said, cheekily.)

Girl Coming in for a Landing by April Halprin (middle grade novel in verse)

This was my first novel in poems. Through the main character, the author captured the hopes, fears, and awkwardness of middle school adolescence poetically. Lovely.

On Writing by Stephen King (nonfiction how-to/memoir)

I’ve read several how-to-write books this year, but that was my favorite. It made me want to pick up a King fiction book, which I haven’t done in years. Any recommendations?

Evermore by Alyson Noel (YA Paranormal)

This book had a good balance of mystery, chemistry, and teen believability. It deals with grief and moving on. There’s a “Is he or is he not bad?” boy in it. Sometimes those characters annoy me but this one wasn’t too bad because it wasn’t the only plot device. I finished the book in a day. I don’t know why I haven’t read the rest of the series.

Gregor the Overlander Series by Suzanne Collins (middle grade fantasy)

I loved The Hunger Games, but Mockingjay did not live up to my expectations (Problems: MC didn’t grow, believability, and hastily written hollow ending). After finishing it, I became curious about her other series. I enjoyed these five books from beginning to end. What an interesting world. Collins tackles many of the same issues; who’s good and bad, right and wrong is often complex and murky. She should’ve kept this last book in mind when writing Mockingjay.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (YA Paranormal)

This was a fun twist on the vampires and other creatures. The protagonist is a great mixture of toughness and vulnerability, and it actually has a nice guy/love interest for a change. The clever book held my interest the whole way through. Where is that sequel?

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (middle grade contemporary)

If you like books with a strong voice, the protagonist in this has a wonderful one. After her mother dies, her MIA father sends his Parisian ex-wife to care for her in a western town of 42, but Lucky doesn’t believe the woman will stay. The ten-year-old girl and the characters touched me. I highly recommend this one.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (middle grade fantasy)

Lin's books were for the younger set, but this one is for middle grade. It’s a lovely novel about a girl who leaves her village on a quest to save her family from poverty. It’s woven with Chinese tales that all come together in the end. And it’s a story about selflessness and finding out what’s really important. Beautiful.

Honorable Mentions:

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (I’m not reviewing it because I already gave the author BLOG LOVE).

The Hating Game by Talli Roland (I’m not reviewing it because Talli received plenty of BLOG LOVE too. Hope it’s still selling well, Talli. When it comes out in paperback, I’m buying one for my mom!)

What were your favorite books of 2010?

Please share in the comments section.

FYI: Len Lambert Len Lambert at Conversations with Self is interviewing me on 01/05/11, so be sure to visit. I’ll provide a link on the big day.

I wish you all a Happy New Year! xo

- Theresa


  1. That is a pretty remarkable list! Wanted to wish you a happy new year :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  2. Wow, what a year for you! I'm so glad things worked out for you at school with the boy. I knew it would.

    Congrats on all your reading. I failed miserably on my quest but I did have a kind of good excuse. I was writing. Does that count?

    Happy Happy New Year Theresa! I can't wait for your interview.

  3. I haven't read all of these books, so I'm going to look them up.

    My favorite book was The Sky is Everywhere. I also loved Before I Fall, The Freak Observer, and Louise Rennison's Georgia books.

    Happy New Year!

  4. Happy New Year to you Theresa Milstein!! May you and your family enjoy a wondeful and peaceful year!!!!

    65 books is EXCELLENT!!! I think I read all of er.. 10 books last year and still reading through my 2010 pile (A LORRA LORRA BOOKS on this pile!!LOL!!).

    Well I did read through most of Agatha Christie catalogue of mysteries when I was cooped up in bed but I don't count them cos they were re-reads of re-reads - oh but I did enjoy their complex simplicity (if that's a description). I have no idea how Ms Christie does it - she goes against all the established writing techniques but by golly the plotting is so fiendish, the stories work beautifully and so effortlessly.

    Anyway I am losing the plot (hangover) a little here!! But YAY!! for your amazing reads!! I look forward to your interview!!

    Take care

  5. I think you succeeded! Last year was the first time I ever struggled to read a book. I just wasn't in the mood!

    I did read a few, though. I love The Graveyard Book! And I've read Neverwhere three times....

    I've been reading the Immortal Series, and, though I really like them, I think it's time to wrap it up. I also love Artemis Fowl books.

    Uh oh, this is turning into a I'll leave off here.

    I'll be watching for the interview and be sure to come over and visit me on Monday. I have a surprise!

  6. I totally think your challenge was a success. I have no idea how many I read last year...the only ones I kept track of were the ones by fellow bloggers. 2011 I'm going to track them all so I get a better count...and can remember what I read to make a 'best of' list.

    Happy New Year!

  7. I think you've done a great job with the challenge. 65 books are a lot, even if it isn't quite 100. And I love your list here -- it's very diverse. Mine's full of YA books, which means I need to widen my reading circle more. :)

  8. Happy new year!
    I love the Harry Potter series too - the characters are so vivid and every time I reread I'm more and more fascinated by Snape.
    Isn't King's book great? If you haven't read them yet, I'd recommend The Stand and It - and any of his short story collections.

  9. Happy New Year!

    Great recommendations.

  10. I've read many off of that list--I agree, they're good books!

  11. Ok.. I'm doing the 100 book challenge! I'm praying and hoping that I can achieve it in the next 52 weeks!!!

    I love your books! I admire that you read all the HP books at once. I've been thinking of doing that, but finding the time right now during the middle of school would be impossible. So I definitely think over summer.

    Some of my books - The Keys to the Kingdom Series by Garth Nix is amazing. He just wraps you up in this world of amazing things and people. Also, The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld is pretty amazing!

    I'm all over some YA lit! Hope your New Year is great!

  12. You make me want to read!

    Hope your New Year is a wonderful one!

  13. @ Jules, thank you. Happy 2011!

    @ Anne, yes writing does count. Even starting late, I probably would've reached 80 if I didn't get the full-time job.

    @ Medeia, thanks for the recommendations. I have The Sky is Everywhere, but haven't finished it yet. I want to read Before I Fall.

    @ Old Kitty, thanks. I loved to read Agatha Christie books, but haven't in years. I agree how they all have a good formula and wrap up well at the end. All books count.

    @ The Words Crafter, I'll have to look up Neverwhere. My son liked the Artemis Fowl books until 6. He's left it half-done for months.

    @ Vicki, I may do a count every year because it keeps me more motivated to read. I guess I'm competitive. Stephen King had an impressive list of his books read for the year in the book On Writing.

  14. @ Emy, my list of 65 is diverse, but mostly MG and YA made it on my top ten list. Show where my head is I suppose.

    @ Deniz, I was always fascinated by Snape, and was sure he was a good guy even through book 6.

    I read It years ago, but I don't think I read The Stand. King writes about it in On Writing. Maybe that will be my next Stephen King read.

    @ Nas, same to you. Thanks.

    @ The Golden Eagle, I just bought 2 more books today - motivating myself for the next 100 books challenge!

    @ Katie, I reread the series over the summer - it's much more manageable then.

    Good luck with your 100 for 2011 books challenge!

    I have a few Nix books around here that I've got to get to. Thanks for reminding me.

    @ Bossy Betty, thank you. Happy 2011!

  15. Those are excellent choices!!!

    For me, my favourite was discovering the Percy Jackson series by Ric Riordan - absolutely awesome!

  16. @ Jemi, thanks. My son loved that series. I read the first three, but then lost interest. Maybe I'll continue.

  17. A mere 65?! You are an inspiration to us all! I love Gladwell's books, especially Outliers. I haven't read What the Dog Saw yet but it's definitely on my list. Have you heard of The Wednesday Sisters? You might like that one! Just started it today and am pleased :)

  18. I really enjoyed Evermore, as well. That's the only book on your list that I've read! I've bought The Graveyard Book and Paranormalcy, but I haven't read them yet. I better get on it!

    Happy New Year!

  19. Hi Theresa .. the Graveyard book sounds very interesting. Gladwell's book had good reviews and an interesting take ..

    Good luck with your reading this year .. and thank you for posting the list - have a fun-filled 2011 - Happy New Year .. Hilary

  20. @ Saumya, Outliers was my favorite of Gladwell's books, but I'd read it the previous year. I haven't heard of The Wednesday Sisters. I'll check it out.

    @ Jessica, I think you'll enjoy them both.

    @ Hilary, the problem with Gladwell's books is they take too long to come out. All that research and writing takes time unfortunately. I hope you have a great 2011 too. Happy New Year!

  21. I've really got to read some Neil Gaiman. That's my New Year's resolution. Happy New Year!

  22. Yeah on your challenge! I also signed up for the 100 challenge, but only read 76. But I started last Jan.
    Love your top list here. Gives some great recommendations. Thanks! A few I loved this year - Before I Fall, Matched, The Scorch Trials, Enchanted Ivy.

  23. awesome, and thanks for the heads up on some great books, Theresa! Paranormalcy was already on my list, but Evermore sounds interesting, too! All the best~ :o)

  24. @ Missed Periods, that's a good New Year's Resolution. I've read three of his books.

    @ Terry, 76 ain't too shabby! I just bought Matched on Saturday. As soon as I finish my current one, that's next on my list.

    @ LTM, I think you'll enjoy Paranormalcy and Evermore. All the best to you too!

  25. Great list, Theresa! Several of those are on my TBR list. A few of my favorites this year were:

    the Need series by Carrie Jones Reckless by Cornelia Funke
    Scorch Trials and the 3rd 13th Reality book by James Dashner
    Shiver and Linger
    The Genius Files: Mission Impossible
    Grey Griffins: The Clockwork Chronicles

  26. I agree -- I love the Gregor books more than the Hunger Games trilogy, but even though I didn't like the ending of Mockingjay, what a powerful book. I couldn't put it down. My top two for 2010 were Across the Universe by Beth Revis and Matched by Ally Condie. LOVE those books! In fact, I plan to read them again this year :)

  27. I spent 2010 reading through the list of ALA recommended books for teens. I didn't get to them all but I read a bunch. Among others, I loved A Brief History of Montmaray, by Michelle Cooper, Lost, by Jacqueline Davies, Mare's War, by Tanita Davis, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, by Julie Halpern, and Alligator Bayou, by Donna Jo Napoli. I could go on, but I'd rather catch up on your earlier blog posts!

  28. I'd be happy if I'd read 65 books (I'm a slow reader). I love Neil Gaiman as a writer. His work is fantastic.

  29. @ Shannon, I read three from your list. I'll have to check out the others. Thanks for the recommendations!

    @ Solvang, I flew through Mockingjay too. But at some point, I had a, "What?" moment. And then I had several more in a row.

    I just have to wait a little more than a week for Across the Universe!

    @ Judy, I haven't read any of those. Thanks for the list. I appreciate your dedication to catching up on earlier posts!

    @ Lynda, I'm a fast reader, so I have no excuse. The previous year, I'm sure I read even less. I want to read more Neil Gaiman. I wonder what his adult fiction is like.

  30. Happy New Year Theresa!

    Great list! I haven't been keeping track of all the books I've read this year, but I did read the entire Harry Potter series for the first time, and like you, I read one after the other. I feel like reading them all again right now :)

    Alas, I think Hunger Games is next on the list... I've been sidetracked and waiting a while to start this series.

  31. I think 65 is fantastic.

    The Gladwell book is one that I have considered reading--your recommendation puts it over the top for me.

  32. @ Writing Nut, the first time I read them, they weren't all out yet. Reading them in a row is much nicer.

    Let me know what you think of The Hunger Games series.

    @ Slamdunk, have you read the others? Outliers is my favorite, but they're all good. Hope you enjoy the book!

  33. I adore learning about new books and hearing that others loved the ones I loved as well!!!

    Favorites of 2010: Matched, Firelight, Forgive my Fins, Paranormalcy, Anna and the French Kiss and The Replacement.

    There are so many more to list a few honorable mentions are indeed The Hating Game and Perilous!


  34. That's awesome! 65 books is A LOT. I didn't quite make 100 either. I loved Paranormalcy and The Dead Tossed Waves and The Adoration of Jenna Fox and a whole bunch of others. Here's to another great year of reading!

  35. @ Jules, thanks for the book recommendations. I haven't read a few of those. Everyone keeps recommending Anna and the French Kiss. I almost bought it on Saturday.

    @ Elana, I've gotten a bunch of recommendations through your blog this year. I'll check out The Dead Tossed Waves and The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

  36. Wow! I have read so many books that I cannot even remember all the names. I think it was about 200 when I tried to count them up at the end of summer... and that was months ago!
    My favorite book of 2010?
    Not sure I have one but House Rules by Jodi Picoult was the one that affected me the most. It was one of those that touches something deep inside you that you just cannot ignore. One that makes you think, and rethink, the things that you believe to be true about yourself and the life you live.
    For me, it was an antagonist that made me re-evaluate the way I deal with my family, and with myself, although that does sound odd, it is true. It has made me re-visit the happenings of my youth and, after a 6 month hiatus, start to work on my novel once again.
    So yes, House Rules is my favorite of 2010... for both it's wonderfully insightful story, and for the painfully insightful look at myself it instigated.
    Man- am I wordy today?
    Here's to a wonderful new year filled with great reading!

  37. @ Dawn, how fast do you read? I'm impressed! I'm going to have to read House Rules. Thank you for the recommendation and review.

  38. Lovely list!

    I'm very tempted by the challenge. I read about 2 books a week or thereabouts anyway :)

  39. @ Damyanti, you could definitely do the challenge. You should!

  40. I was SOBBING at the end of Edward Tulane - I can still get emotional just by recalling (verbatim) the words between Edward and you know who (no spoilers here) when they finally see each other. Oh there I go

    I've been enjoying your sub teacher saga posts - I'm about to finish my last week of class (although I teach after school and test prep) and my darlings are adorable.

  41. @ Sophia, that part is beautiful. But the part that had me sobbing was the one with the sick girl.

    I'm glad you've been enjoying my posts. Enjoy your last week of class. Thanks for commenting!