Monday, January 24, 2011

BEST BOOKS of 2010

These are the best books I read in 2010.
The summaries are from Amazon. My comments follow.

10) THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

“In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch.”

This is a great YA book, a little slanted toward girl readers, but a great story that keeps you wondering how it could possibly turn out well.

9) THE MASTER’S WALL by Sandi Rog

“After watching Roman soldiers drag his parents away to their death, David, a young Hebrew, is sold and enslaved to serve at a villa outside of Rome. As David trains to become a skilled fighter, he works hard to please his master and hopes to earn his freedom. However, an opportunity to escape tempts him with its whispering call. Freedom beckons, but invisible chains hold him captive to the master's granddaughter, an innocent girl with a fiery spirit. David vows to protect Alethea from his master, the murderous patriarch, and contrives a daring plan—sacrifice his own life to save hers.”

Several times, I forgot that the author is a friend of mine. Definitely a romantic historical fiction that will appeal to women, but filled with great characters unpredictable enough to keep any reader turning pages.

8) MUSICOPHELIA by Oliver Sacks

“Neurologist and professor Sacks, best known for his books Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, dedicates his latest effort to the relationship between music and unusual brain disorders.”

This is not an easy read, but it is extremely fascinating. It will make you realize how deeply music effects you and make you wonder how significant these effects might actually be.


“An undergraduate course in the history of technology led Brende to enroll in a graduate program at M.I.T. that contemplated the social effects of machines on human life. He then decided to test his idea that the more advanced the machine, the bigger the downside, by moving to the country to farm and live cheaply without electricity for 18 months.”

For anyone who has a sneaking suspicion that the society we are living in right now is missing something vital as far as allowing anyone to live a real life. This experiment reveals not only quirky aspects about an Amish-ish society, but it also reveals the quirky aspects of our own.

6) NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro

All children should believe they are special. But the students of Hailsham, an elite school in the English countryside, are so special that visitors shun them, and only by rumor and the occasional fleeting remark by a teacher do they discover their unconventional origins and strange destiny.
(warning: PG-13)

This is the grown-up’s version of UNWIND. The story gradually stirs up an uneasy feeling as you begin to realize exactly what is going on. Very memorable and disturbingly realistic.

5) WHO MOVED THE STONE? by Frank Morrison

“The author began to write this book with the intention of disproving the Resurrection but found instead that the evidence supported the biblical story. This recognized classic is an examination of his research and the evidence he found.”

I didn’t agree with all of this author’s conclusions concerning the resurrection of Jesus, but the book has an incredible amount of insight, sometimes veering off into conjecture, but always using a steady logic that makes you consider implications of the event you may have never thought of before.


“Langan's tales celebrate supernatural fiction's antiquarian and visionary past with as much eloquence and acuity—and terror—as they explore the dark heart of the 21st century. The richly atmospheric title story evokes the weird fiction of both Henry James and M.R. James in its account of a family cursed with a demonic familiar with a ravenous appetite for disobedient children. On Skua Island, a relentlessly creepy monster story, pits a team of modern espionage operatives against an implacable creature of the living dead out of Norse legend.”

I am recommending only about a third of this book. There are five stories here, but only the first two are really worth reading. The first two were great. They were well written, intellectually enjoyable and just downright creepy.

3) THE BELL AND THE CROSS by G. K. Chesterton
“In this comical clash of cultures, a passionate Christian and a dogmatic atheist battle each other against the backdrop of an unbelieving and indifferent world.”

This is challenging to read, but it is hilarious and thought-provoking. It deals with a perpetually postponed duel between two people who hate each other and as they search for a quiet place to kill each other, their conversations reveal great truths and results in a strange friendship.

2) MARGIN by Richard A. Swenson, M.D.

“This book is for anyone who yearns for relief from the pressure of overload. The benefits can be good health, financial stability, fulfilling relationships, and availability for God’s purpose. Reevaluate your priorities, determine the value of rest and simplicity in your life, and see where your identity really comes from.”

This book planted seeds in my head that will ultimately result in big changes in my life. I am currently teaching a Sunday morning class based on this book and several others. This examination of the reality of our busy lives stuffed with activities and possessions is a startling wake up call. But it sure is nice to be finally waking up.

1) CHINDI by Jack McDevitt

“Humanity has expanded to the stars and found very few other intelligent races--all but one extinct, with the survivor none too impressive. Humanity has resigned itself to being alone. Then an alien satellite is found, orbitting a distant star and beaming an unreadable signal across the galaxy. Academy starship Captain Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins finds herself piloting a motley crew of eccentrics from the idealistic, ridiculed Contact Society, seeking the signal's destination. Their quest turns deadly as it takes them far beyond the borders of explored space to an impossible planetary system--and a vast and terrifying alien artifact.”

Jack McDevitt is probably one of the top SciFi writers alive. His novels are so underplayed, they put off many readers who are looking for over the top galactic warfare. These stories are subtle and build up slowly, giving them a tone of reality that is hard to find in any genre. I enjoyed every page of this book. If Hollywood ever finds Jack McDevitt, we are in for some really cool movies.

1 comment:

Malcolm said...

Nice summaries and observations, Bret! I'd love to hear longer takes on some of the books you really loved.