Top 10 Books of My Year

Top 10 Books of My Year

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Every blog and paper on earth is doing a year’s best book list, which is awesome. Except my to-be-read pile is so ridiculous I almost never get to a book in the year it was written unless the author happens to be one of my best-est pals (in which case I got to it right away. I swear.)

So here, in no particular order, are ten books I read recently and loved and recommend regardless of when they were originally published.

1. Hoodtown
by Christa Faust
Let’s be honest. I have on my shelf this very minute books with talking animals in them. I was not Ms. Faust’s target audience for an alternative-universe noir centering around Mexican wrestling. You probably aren’t that audience either. Read this book anyway. No, really. ‘Cause it’s not about Mexican wrestling. It’s about race and class and gender, and it’s really well done.

2. The Great Man
by Kate Christensen
I loved this book. It won the PEN Faulkner Award for a reason. The central character, a famous painter, is dead on page one as we follow two biographers as they interview his wife, his mistress and his also-ran painter sister.

3. Into the Beautiful North
by Luis Alberto Urrea
Mr. Urrea may be one of the five best American writers alive today, and this may be his best book yet. It should be required reading not in just literature classes but in social and political science classes. A group of young women leave their Mexican village to sneak into the U.S. and bring back their community’s men. Race, immigration, gender and humanity so, so beautifully done.

4. Secondhand Spirits
by Juliet Blackwell
A new witch series by the author of the art forgery mysteries, who also writes as Hailey Lind. I read this book in one big gulp. I adored the characters (pot bellied pig as a familiar!) and loved wandering about familiar San Francisco neighborhoods. She may have made up Coffee for the People, but I’m still pretty sure I’ve been there.

5. Shanghaied
by Eric Stone
The latest and last of the Ray Sharp series. He has said it himself in interviews, so I’m not telling tales out of school. Mr. Stone kills his protagonist, who is also the narrator, halfway through the book in first person. I swear I am not making that up, and it is something. Narration is taken over by Ray’s sidekick, Wen Lei Yue, who will continue the series.

6. The Coroner’s Lunch
by Colin Cotterill
Set in Laos in 1976, it’s part travelogue, part history lesson, part magic realism, part damn good mystery. I loved every word and am busily working my way through the rest of the Dr. Siri books.

7. The Language of Bees
by Laurie R. King
This is the latest in the Mary Russell series. Mary is married to the much older, semi-retired Sherlock Holmes and is unquestionably his intellectual equal. Holmes is Holmes and is lovely, but these are Mary’s books. Ms. King can’t write them fast enough for my taste.

8. Eat, Pray, Love
by Elizabeth Gilbert
Yep, I read it along with every other woman on the planet and for a reason. If you’ve ever woken up and wondered how you got where you are and how to get someplace else, this might be the book for you.

9. Trouble
by Kate Christensen
Two best friends have two very different mid-life crises and fly away to Mexico City together to drink and love and eat their problems away with two very different results. I love everything this woman writes. If she’d like to send me her grocery lists, I’ll read those, too.

10. Some Buried Caesar
by Rex Stout
Of all the classic mystery authors, I will always love Rex Stout best. Even though the first mystery I ever read was Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Even though I always sorta-kinda had a crush on Sherlock Holmes. Rex is my man forever and ever, and this is a good one.

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