Sadly, 2010 was a slow year for my leisure reading. I probably should have made this my Top Ten Text Books of 2010, because that list would have been much more extensive. But between the graduate school reading and forced reading of an elementary teacher, I managed to fit in a few solid books before the dawn of the new decade. If you’re interested, you can check out my 2009 list right here and see how much more fun I had reading last year. If you’re not interested in my 2009 list, click here because it’s not an active link.
While you’re at it, click here to check out my brother’s favorite literature from this year.
Now without further delay, my top ten books of 2010.
The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French
I try and keep up with at least one or two new children/young adult books a year, as children’s literature is a pretty big part of my vocation. Last year’s discovery was The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. This year I found a story that, while not quite as prolific at Gaiman’s tale, was entertaining none-the-less. The Robe of Skulls is the first book in the Five Kingdom series and focuses on the Cinderella-esque tale of Gracie Gillypot, who grows up under the abusive thumbs of her mean stepfather and wicked, but stunningly beautiful, stepsister. This book is a fairly simple story and an incredibly quick read. For the most part, it’s also a very lighthearted tale, contrasted only by the operatically evil family members and the main antagonist, Lady Lamorna.
Vivian French did a great job of creating some interesting and fun characters. While not overly dynamic, they each have a unique voice and the story moves along fast enough that you don’t really care about the lack of depth. The world she created to surround those characters is another interesting facet in this story. It’s a place where werewolves roam and walkways behave like they’re man’s best friend.
In short, if you have no reason to delve into children’s literature in the first place, this book probably won’t keep you entertained with its arrow-straight plot. However, I would highly recommend this book to anyone with kids or any other teachers looking for new, fun stories to share with their students. If you’re a fan of Roald Dahl, Philip Ardagh, or Neil Gaiman, you’ll probably be a fan of Gracie Gillypot and her tale.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
If you don’t already know, Benjamin Franklin wrote his autobiography. One of America’s most influential and interesting figures wrote this book as a letter to his son William to recollect and reflect on his life in the hopes that William (or others who read his work?) could see how a man who grew from such humble beginnings could rise to a level of esteem and prosperity. I’ll give you a hint: it involves a lot of hard work.
It puts an interesting spin on the life of Franklin, and if you read very carefully, you get a taste of that razor-sharp Franklin wit that makes the story really enjoyable.
“For even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.”
Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary Wolf
Filled to the brim with noir clichés, Who Censored Roger Rabbit? is a fun romp through a land of ‘noids (humans) and ‘toons (cartoons). It sincerely is a stereotypical detective drama, with the added fun of dealing with comic strip characters like Dick Tracy and other elements that accompany the ‘toons, like how they talk through comic bubbles or how their eyes bulge out of their heads.
Oh, did I mention clichéd lines?
“Funerals, weddings, they’re all the same to me. The only difference is whether you walk or ride down the aisle. Either way you wind up six feet deep in misery.”
Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
I really like the Showtime series ‘Dexter’, so I thought I’d go to the root of the television show and see just what Jeff Lindsay was cooking up. It was an enjoyable read that I would recommend to anyone who’s a fan of the show.
“Whatever made me the way I am left me hollow, empty inside, unable to feel. It doesn’t seem like a big deal. I’m quite sure most people fake an awful lot of everyday human contact. I just fake all of it.”
The Stand by Stephen King
One more important Stephen King novel taken down. I was most interested to read this because I remembered the shitty made-for-TV movie with Rob Lowe. The book was much better than the miniseries. However, I was most interested to read this book because of its infamous Dark Tower reference.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: An Unauthorized Autobiography by Chuck Barris
If Chuck Barris’s life is half as interesting as he makes it out to be in this book, I wouldn’t be surprised if those Dos Equis commercials were based on his life.
For those of you who may be too young or really don’t care, Chuck Barris was the host of a once popular talent show back in the ’70’s called The Gong Show. If you take his word for it, he was also a man of international intrigue and a nefarious black ops agent. Whether it’s true or not, I didn’t really care because, as far as narratives go, it was an incredibly entertaining and interesting story.
Factotum by Charles Bukowski
Sit down with the family some day, curl up next to the fireplace, and enjoy the tale of degenerate alcoholic, womanizer, and all-around low-life Henry Chinaski as he works his way across the country from cesspool to cesspool, living off of the few remaining dollars of his last paycheck. Chinaski is an R-Rated Andy Capp with absolutely no moral or professional compass whatsoever. That being said, once I picked up the book, I literally couldn’t put it down. Bukowski weaved a tale of an amoral wanderlust that is incredibly captivating in its simplicity. Chinaski is 100% id, and his take on life is almost refreshing, in a weird, sadistic way.
Oh, and once you’ve learned that Herny “Hank” Chinaski is the inspiration for Hank Moody, you realize that the book is certainly worth a read.“Manny, what are you doing working in auto parts?” “Resting. My ambition is handicapped by laziness.”
The Mental Game of Baseball by Harvey Dorfman and Karl Kuel
This is the most influential of any book about baseball I have ever read. Dorfman revolutionized the mental aspect of baseball and how to approach the game.
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
I felt obligated to read this as Chabon started writing this story as an undergrad at Pitt before submitting it as his thesis for his Master’s and catapulting himself to literary fame.
The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
A Halloween classic and a very quick read. It’s light and fun and had an almost Terry Pratchett-like feel to it. At one point I started looking around the pages for Rincewind.
The Trail of the Tramp by Leon Ray Livingston
If you only knew how interesting Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania was at one point…
Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan
My favorite book of the year. It’s a modern day Bukowski. This book truly is a work of art and I hope over time it’s appreciated for what it is: a tremendous story of a sarcastic, apathetic working stiff. It literally had me laughing out loud at various points.
“I just wasn’t sure I could handle a deaf gangbang, all the howls and moaning like a bag of kittens drowning in a river.”
So that’s my 2010 list. If you have any further recommendations, leave ’em in the comments below.