Favorite Books of 2010

19:52 Sun 12 Jun 2011
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2010 wasn’t a great reading year for me.

55 books, which is fine, but of those 55, 24 were by just four authors: Neal Asher, Henning Mankell, Dennis Lehane, and Lawrence Block. Looking over the list, I have a hard time picking out a fiction work that I really regard as outstanding. While I don’t have a tremendous regard for genre as a marker of quality, I do find it odd that I only read one work that would be considered “literary fiction”: Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis—which I thought was a pretty bad book, despite my appreciation for Ellis.

Of the 43 fiction works I read, all but 3 are in the detective/crime, science fiction, or fantasy genres—and the remaining 2 are both horror. I re-read quite a few books, too, something I’ve been trying to do less for the last several years. All in all, I feel that much of the year’s fiction reading was unchallenging.

The preponderance of comfort reading, and perhaps the genre focus, clearly affected the gender mix of authors, resulting in my reading a rather shocking one book by a female author. Further, that one book was Programmers at Work, a collection of interviews by Susan Lammers. While it was excellent, the voices in it were primarily of the interviewees—who were overwhelmingly male. I do care about the gender balance of authors I read, and while it’s always been biased on the male side, it’s rarely been so biased. I’m pretty sure this is the result of my not thinking much at all about book selection; more than any other year since I started tracking my reading, 2010 seems to have been full of reading that I selected on impulse.

Programmers at Work was excellent, with some really interesting interviews that illuminate the beginnings of the software industry. Those interviews are apparently all available to read online.

Brad Gilbert’s Winning Ugly and W. Timothy Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis were excellent, in very different ways. While both are worth reading if you play tennis, The Inner Game of Tennis is probably worth reading if you’re engaged in any athletic or competitive endeavor; it’s also a book I think I should re-read, perhaps on a regular basis, as it had a calming and noticeably positive effect on my tennis game right after I read it.

Neal Asher’s Agent Cormac series was interesting. I hesitate to call it great, but I’d say it was solid plot-driven science fiction with some good ideas and a compellingly dark setting; it’s like a cross between Ian Fleming and Iain M. Banks.

I read the last two volumes in Larsson’s Millennium trilogy in 2010, and liked them. It’s a good series, and I don’t think the latter two fell off in quality from the first one.

I highly recommend both Cialdini’s Influence and Ariely’s Predictably Irrational. They both cover similar ground, but with different enough perspectives.

I read the first seven books in Henning Mankell’s Wallander series, which is very good. There’s something about the personality of Wallander and the atmosphere of the setting that works extremely well, although it must be said that they’re not exactly optimistic or uplifting.

Impro, by Keith Johnstone, was a fantastically bood book. Ostensibly about the art of theatrical improvisation, it actually covers all kinds of ground about creativity, education, status, and group dynamics. I recommend it to anyoen who works with groups or is engaged in almost any creative enterprise. I read it coming from two directions: one, an interest in improvisation coming from my running roleplaying games; two, an interest in the notion of status, as Impro was recommended by Venkatesh Rao.

Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open was amazingly good. Compelling, funny, touching, and disturbing, I’d rank it as one of the better biographies I’ve read.

I read all of the Kenzie-Gennaro novels by Dennis Lehane, and liked them. Some of them were really good, especially Gone, Baby, Gone.

The book I enjoyed reading most last year was Surface Detail, by Iain M. Banks. In honesty, I can only say that I suspect it was very good—I was so busy enjoying it that it was hard to tell. It felt like another classic Culture novel to me, and despite one or two off-notes I loved it and didn’t want it to end.

Thunderer and Gears of the City were very interesting city fantasy novels by Felix Gilman, with a fascinating shifting setting; my one criticism is that the ending involved a “man behind the curtain” scenario I found ultimately disappointing.

The books I read in 2010:

  1. Empire in Black & Gold; Adrian Tchaikovsky 03/01/2010.
  2. Starfish; Peter Watts 04/01/2010.
  3. Maelstrom; Peter Watts 08/01/201.
  4. What the Dog Saw; Malcolm Gladwell 10/01/2010.
  5. Programmers at Work; Susan Lammers 18/04/2010.
  6. Infectious Greed; Frank Partnoy 05/05/2010.
  7. The Scar; China Miéville 09/05/2010.
  8. Perdido Street Station; China Miéville 29/05/2010.
  9. Winning Ugly; Brad Gilbert 03/06/2010.
  10. The Inner Game of Tennis; W. Timothy Gallwey 04/06/2010.
  11. Gridlinked; Neal Asher 14/06/2010.
  12. The Girl Who Played with Fire; Stieg Larsson 14/06/2010.
  13. Influence; Robert Cialdini 19/06/2010.
  14. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest; Stieg Larsson 19/06/2010.
  15. The Faceless Killers; Henning Mankell 21/06/2010.
  16. The Line of Polity; Neal Asher 03/07/2010.
  17. The Dogs of Riga; Henning Mankell 05/07/2010.
  18. Predictably Irrational; Dan Ariely 23/07/2010.
  19. Impro; Keith Johnstone 27/07/2010.
  20. The Fade; Chris Wooding 29/07/2010.
  21. The White Lioness; Henning Mankell 29/07/2010.
  22. The Man Who Smiled; Henning Mankell 01/08/2010.
  23. Brass Man; Neal Asher 04/08/2010.
  24. Shutter Island; Dennis Lehane 14/08/2010.
  25. Open; Andre Agassi 14/08/2010.
  26. Polity Agent; Neal Asher 15/08/2010.
  27. Sidetracked; Henning Mankell 21/08/2010.
  28. Line War; Neal Asher 22/08/2010.
  29. A Drink Before the War; Dennis Lehane 27/08/2010.
  30. Drop Shot; Harlan Coben; 29/08/2010.
  31. The Fifth Woman; Henning Mankell 29/08/2010.
  32. One Step Behind; Henning Mankell 02/09/2010.
  33. Hit Man; Lawrence Block 04/09/2010.
  34. Darkness, Take My Hand; Dennis Lehane 05/09/2010.
  35. Sacred; Dennis Lehane; 05/09/2010.
  36. A Stab in the Dark; Lawrence Block 06/09/2010.
  37. Even the Wicked; Lawrence Block 07/09/2010.
  38. The Sins of the Fathers; Lawrence Block 12/09/2010.
  39. In the Midst of Death; Lawrence Block 12/09/2010.
  40. Imperial Bedrooms; Bret Easton Ellis 18/09/2010.
  41. Gone, Baby, Gone; Dennis Lehane 11/10/2010.
  42. Prayers for Rain; Dennis Lehane 13/10/2010.
  43. Surface Detail, Iain M. Banks 13/11/2010.
  44. The Strain; Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan 22/11/2010.
  45. Moonlight Mile, Dennis Lehane 22/11/2010.
  46. The Fall; Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan 23/11/2010.
  47. Thunderer; Felix Gilman 28/11/2010.
  48. The Hunter; Richard Stark 28/11/2010.
  49. Gears of the City; Felix Gilman 03/12/2010.
  50. Last Call; Tim Powers 14/12/2010.
  51. Peace; Gene Wolfe 17/12/2010.
  52. Blood, Sweat and Chalk: The Ultimate Football Playbook: How the Great Coaches Built Today’s Game; Tim Layden; 18/12/2010.
  53. Take Your Eye off the Ball; Pat Kirwan 21/12/2010.
  54. The Games that Changed the Game; Ron Jaworski 24/12/2010.
  55. The Hangman’s Daughter; Oliver Pötzsch 30/12/2010.

One Response to “Favorite Books of 2010”

  1. Jeff Fry Says:

    Hey Tadhg,

    As always, your annual books post was a fun one to read. That said, I found a few bugs in this one:

    Didn’t you read Kindred? It’s missing from the list (and consequently Octavia Butler is missing from your list of female authors).

    I know you and I have very different opinions of Wolfe, but when you say “All in all, I feel that much of the year’s fiction reading was unchallenging.” I find I want Peace (which I found to be a delightful challenge) called out in some way. It didn’t impress you as it did me, but it’s certainly a complex, challenging novel.

    Minor, but since I’m noting the omissions above, I’ll point out a couple typos: “bood” and “anyoen”

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