Books read in 2010

As part of keeping up with Post Every Week in 2011, here’s one I’m duplicating from my LiveJournal: a list of books I read in 2010. Some of them are linked to reviews I posted on my book review blog, Beyond the Blurb.

Fiction
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
Say You’re One of Them – Uwem Akpan (short stories)
Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk – Boris Akunin (mystery)
The Hakawati – Rabih Alameddine
The Toughest Indian in the World – Sherman Alexie (short stories)
Girls of Riyadh – Rajaa Al-Sanea
Night Train – Martin Amis (thriller/mystery)
Burn – Nevada Barr (mystery)
Mattaponi Queen – Belle Boggs (short stories)
Cryoburn – Lois McMaster Bujold (SF)
To the Bright and Shining Sun – James Lee Burke
A Ghost of a Chance – Bill Crider (mystery)
Persona Non Grata – Ruth Downie (mystery)
The Foreign Correspondent – Alan Furst (suspense/thriller)
Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
Pompeii – Robert Harris (mystery)
Then Came the Evening – Brian Hart
Sylvester, Or the Wicked Uncle – Georgette Heyer
Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion – Regina Jeffers
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – N.K. Jemisin (SF)
The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver
Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence
A Bad Day for Sorry – Sophie Littlefield (mystery)
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
The Gutter and the Grave – Ed McBain (mystery)
When Christ and His Saints Slept – Sharon Kay Penman
The Black Book – Ian Rankin (mystery)
The Years of Rice and Salt – Kim Stanley Robinson [started reading in ’09] (SF)
Final Account – Peter Robinson (mystery)
The Legatus Mystery – Rosemary Rowe (mystery)
The Holy Thief – William Ryan (mystery)
Gaudy Night – Dorothy L. Sayers (mystery)
Last Rituals – Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (mystery)
*One Was a Soldier – Julia Spencer-Fleming [I also re-read all the earlier books in the series] (mystery)
The Space Between Us – Thrity Umrigar
Mila 18 – Leon Uris
Bruno, Chief of Police – Martin Walker (mystery)
Savages – Don Winslow (thriller)

Non-Fiction
Women in Early Medieval Europe – Lisa M. Bitel
Notes From a Small Island – Bill Bryson
Living in the Tenth Century – Heinrich Fichtenau
Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 – Chris Wickham

In all, a mixed bag. Lots of mysteries, which is no surprise; some were from series I’ve read before while others were standalones or new to me. Though I’ve read several of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux mysteries, To the Bright and Shining Sun was one of Burke’s earliest, and written before Robicheaux came into being. I’m giving up on Peter Robinson, because I can’t take any more of his lead’s manpain. Burn was deeply disturbing, so much that I wish I hadn’t read it, and I didn’t care at all for the way Sophie Littlefield’s main character was written. In contrast, I love Ruth Downie even despite the way she pings my anachronism radar and Ed McBain, Ian Rankin, and Dorothy L. Sayers are always so very, very good.

I also read a fair amount of historical fiction. Rosemary Rowe and Ruth Downie both set their series in Roman Britain (although Persona Non Grata takes place in France). The Holy Thief is set in Moscow in 1936, while The Foreign Correspondent takes place mostly in Paris shortly before WWII. Mila 18 is about the Warsaw uprising, and Pompeii takes place in the days leading up to and on the famous Vesuvian eruption (Pliny the Elder is a major character). When Christ and His Saints Slept, about the the war between the Empress Matilda and Stephen of Blois following the death of Henry I, was one of the most disappointing books I read in 2010. Another was The Lacuna, about a young cook for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera who becomes Leon Trotsky’s secretary; Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors, so that one was a real letdown. On the other hand, Wolf Hall, about Thomas Cromwell, was one of the best books I read in 2010 – all the accolades are well-deserved.

I wanted to try to read more books by authors of color, in particular non-western authors of color, in 2010. Achebe and Akpan are both Nigerian, Alameddine is Lebanese, Rajaa Al-Sanea is from Saudi Arabia, and Thrity Umrigar was born in Mumbai, India. Girls of Riyadh was translated from Arabic, but the others are, as far as I know, originally English-language publications. Sherman Alexie and N.K. Jemisin are both American authors of color.

Worst book read in 2010? Hands down, Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion. DNF and thrown against a wall.

ETA: * I noticed someone found their way to this post by way of searching for “spencer-fleming,” and thought I’d better explain this. One Was a Soldier is NOT out yet; I read an ARC sent to my mother by a publicist at the end of 2010. I’ll be writing and posting a review soon. The book itself is due to be released in April this year (at last!).

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About Laura

Former single parent adjusting to an empty nest, moving back in with my parents, and returning to the workforce. Student of medieval history, fandom dabbler, and perspiring writer.
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3 Responses to Books read in 2010

  1. What did you reckon to the Bitel book? I’ve heard very mixed views on it. Some seem to be glad it exists and prepared to forgive whatever flaws they admit because of its subject matter; some think it’s unusably odd; and some seem to think it’s fine. So I’ve always been slightly chary of moving it up my reading list…

    • Laura says:

      I read it several months ago so my memory is somewhat fuzzy, but I have/had mixed feelings about it. I think it’s a useful book and worth reading, and would probably be a good text to use in an undergraduate course (upper-level) that focused on women in the Middle Ages. However, I couldn’t escape the impression that Bitel’s previous studies on Ireland were skewing her assumptions and conclusions – all too often it seemed as if she was holding up this or that Irish woman as the ideal or the paradigm and women elsewhere in Europe fell far short.

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