Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Favorite Books of 2010

Time for the annual list! Please feel free to tack on your choices. Really I should have done this post a couple weeks ago, to aid in the Christmas shopping, but you can always ship directly to the recipient. Drumroll, please...

Favorite Disaster/Adventure book:
 Ed Viesturs' K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain. Everything I love, all in one book: people freezing to death, people buried in avalanches, people disappearing, mountaineers sniping at each other. Rather than focusing on one disaster (K2 has many to choose from), Viesturs gives a history of expeditions.

First Runner-Up: Timothy Egan's The Big Burn. I liked this history of a forest inferno almost as much as his The Worst Hard Time. But in the end I'll always choose reading about people freezing to death over people burnt to charcoal.

Favorite History/Disaster book:
This might be cheating, since this history book centers on a cholera epidemic in London, but it was fast-paced and really interesting. Especially for armchair epidemiologists like myself. Dude, don't drink from that pump!

First Runner-Up: Just finished Birthright by Roger Ekirch, the story of a young heir sold into indentured servitude by his wicked uncle, and how he fought to recover his name and inheritance. It was a quick read and inspired famous works like Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped and less-famous-outside-of-English-major-circles The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle by Tobias Smollett. The true story could have used a fictional ending, though...

Second Runner-Up: I'm only 1/3 of the way through this book but know very well I'll have forgotten it by December 2011, so Dancing to the Precipice by Carolyn Moorehead deserves a mention. The history of a woman who, Zelig-like, lived from the American Revolution to long after Napoleon and always managed to be in exciting places at exciting times. She hung with Marie Antoinette and the Duke of Wellington!

Favorite Classic:
Although I loved Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South and Edith Wharton's The Reef, the award goes to Anita Loos' Gentleman Prefer Blondes. Stretching the definition of a classic here, since it was written in 1925, but even Edith Wharton called it "the Great American Novel." Follow gold-digger Lorelei Lee to Paris and beyond in her amusing adventures, and then watch the Marilyn-Monroe-Jane-Russell movie as a follow-up. I was reading as research for my cougar-cruise novel because I wanted to do an updated spin on Lorelei.

Favorite Book that the Rest of the World Read Years Ago:
Yeah. You can't really give this one for Christmas because everyone already owns it, but I enjoyed it so much I just had to plug it. The story of a boy shipwrecked with an assortment of animals from his family's former zoo, it combines humor, disaster, and survival--three of my favorite genres, in case you haven't yet noticed. The ending is absolutely perfect. But (re)read it with a friend because you'll have plenty you want to discuss.

Favorite Book that No One Has Picked Up in Years:
When I was a teenager, I went through a heavy-duty Mary Stewart phase (the same time I went through my Daphne DuMaurier phase). This tale of a telepathic woman and her special bond with her cousin is probably my favorite of hers. Mystery, suspense, romance, a goofy cover--what isn't to love?

Speaking of Daphne DuMaurier, the First Runner-Up in the category is The King's General. Missed this one as a kid, but it was lots of fun this summer. Lots of Cavaliers swashbuckling about. It's no Rebecca, but, then, nothing is.

And for my trendier readers who don't like to stray far from bestseller lists,

Favorite Current Bestseller:
For one thing, the cover is gorgeous. The story holds up pretty well, too: an aged ballerina auctions off her jewelry collection and unearths some long-buried personal history. If you like books that alternate between present and past, this one'll be right up your alley. Besides, ballerinas are a hot trend right now--look at Natalie Portman's new movie. I had some questions about the ballerina's first encounter with her husband (do people really behave like that?), but after being assured that this was a case of my sheltered innocence, it was smooth sailing from there.

There you have it, folks. Don't forget my own piddling contributions to the literary world this Christmas, of course, but I've plugged those things from here to eternity. Oh, except to mention that, if you somehow managed to duck all the signing parties and launches for Mia and the Magic Cupcakes, it's isn't too late!!!

***Saturday, January 29, 2011: University Book Store in Bellevue. We'll be having a pre-Valentine signing event, complete with heart cookies and/or cupcakes. Plan to bring your favorite child-at-heart! All three of us will be there to sign and read and answer questions. XOXO***

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