Sorry this is so late this year (and I make that apology with the full knowledge that I am the only one who noticed or cared). But at long last, here it is, my list of the 9 Best Books I Read During 2010 (here are the previous lists: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006).
This was not a banner year for books for me. First of all, when I look at the titles I wrote about here, I'm embarrassed to see how few books I actually read; I do also suspect that I missed writing about a few, so maybe the final total is a little higher, but probably only a little (there were extenuating circumstances to account for my poor showing, but I won't bore you with them). Second, while there were books that I admired or respected, I don't think there were any that really stick with me, or haunt me, or make me wish they had gone on longer. There weren't any that I loved, or that had a big impact on my life. I know, that's a lot to ask of a book isn't it? Yet I continue to ask and hope and wish. I am an optimist at heart, I'm afraid.
The order, as always is pretty loose; they're close enough that most could switch places with each other and I'd still feel the list was a fair assessment of my feelings.
9. The Colony, by John Tayman. The horrifying story of the lepers banished to the desolate island of Molokai. A sad case of good intentions gone horribly wrong.
8. The Bobbed Haired Bandit: A True Story of Crime and Celebrity in 1920s New York, by Stephen Duncombe and Andrew Mattson. It lacks some scope and context, but this tale of the gun-toting girl robber who became a national celebrity and an unwitting symbol of "everything that is wrong with young people today/women today/and our uncaring society today" is an extremely entertaining read.
7. Operation Mincemeat, by Ben MacIntyre. The story of one of the most elaborate hoaxes of World War II proves, once again, that when it comes to tales of espionage, the true stories are always stranger than the fictional ones.
6. Get Capone, by Jonathan Eig. Crime-ridden, corruption-riddled Prohibition-era Chicago comes vividly to life here. As for Capone? He's just a simple guy trying to run a few (illegal) businesses.
5. K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain, by Ed Viesturs and David Roberts. The history of people's fascination with climbing K2, and the dangers and death that seem to accompany almost every attempt. Viesturs does not suffer fools, an attitude that makes him an amusing narrator.
4. The Immortal Lives of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. The author searches for the true story of the woman whose cells, taken from her dying body, contributed to much of the great medical research of the 20th century--and likely beyond. Along the way, Skloot contends with the prickly, suspicious family of Lacks, and their own questions about what happened to their mother.
3. The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, by Richard Holmes. The passionate scientists of the Romantic era become living, breathing individuals in Holmes's book. Great people make great characters.
2. Pearl Buck in China, by Hilary Spurling. This book concentrates on the childhood and early adulthood of Buck, an author whose popularity has waned considerably, but whose prize-winning book "The Good Earth" sold millions of copies in the 1930s. Beautifully written, especially in its evocation of the challenges and enchantments Buck found as the child of missionaries in early 20th century China.
1. The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood, by Jane Leavy. Many books have been written about Mantle, but Leavy, a tenacious and dizzyingly thorough researcher, debunks many of the myths that have ossified into legend after all these years. She finds the true story of a man who millions of little boys wanted to be but who barely even wanted to be himself.