To say that books can make a difference in a person’s life would be a huge understatement. I find, that nearly every time I read a book, there is something within it that speaks to me.
Liking a book is not even a requirement for me. There are plenty of books out there that I didn’t like that still managed to say something to me. If an author manages to do that and I find myself thinking about the book for days or even weeks on end, then I consider that book a success.
If the book manages to make me think about the way I live or what I’ve become (or haven’t for that matter), then that book becomes a favorite.
With that said, these are the books that were important to me in 2010:
Finn proved to me that an author can build on a beloved classic without destroying the said classic. I was struck by the awfulness of the main character. Not so much what he was about, but that I could relate to him at times. This disturbed me to no end. There’s something very comforting in admitting that.
Let the Great World Spin hit me on so many different levels. The storytelling was different from what I’ve encountered before. The chapters are really almost separate stories that come together to form the novel. Somehow though, McCann manages to give you that sense of spiraling out of control. The sense of tragedy and loss in this novel stayed with me for a very long time but there was a fragile beauty to it, too. Being able to watch it unfold from afar, without getting your hands dirty in the process.
Many of you who’ve read the book may recall that part of the story is told from a prostitute’s point of view. Well, I grew up in Hollywood, California with parents that could not take care of themselves, much less me, so those sections took me back to my childhood. No, I was never a prostitute, but I had a few friends that were. These girls were very young, ten or eleven years old and they looked out for me. There was also a priest that took me under his wing… Let’s just say that the book took me back to my childhood which is something I don’t choose to visit too often.
The Glass Room I liked for completely different reasons. The novel was inspired by the Tugendhat house. I love stories that center around a home, whatever it may be. In this case, it’s a sterile, steel and glass number that on the surface is open to all, but still houses secrets of its own. I played the voyeur with this one. I watched these characters within their glass room and felt all of their insecurities. It was uncomfortable but enjoyable at the same time. The transparency of the room, the cold steel, the large areas of emptiness all made me want to run my hand along its surfaces.
As cold as it seems, there was warmth to be had too but not the type you’d find in any traditional sense.
I read Atonement many years ago and then again recently for my Contemporary Lit class. The first time around, I considered it a good book. The second time though, I had the luxury of picking it apart over the course of several weeks and found all sorts of treasures within it. The consequences of doing something horrible and then never being able to fully atone for it seemed like such a tragic premise for a novel, and it is, but I reveled in all of the internal conflict. McEwan is known for his attention to detail and some may take issue with the amount of detail he chooses to include in his novels, but I hand myself over to him fully and never have a problem with it.
Although it’s been around for a while, and it occupied space on my bookshelf since the day it was published, I was hesitant to pick-up Middlesex. In my head I heard “family saga” which translated to long and boring. Boy, was I wrong about this one! Yes, it’s a multi-generational, coming-of-age story but it’s about a hermaphrodite (not boring) and secrets and the devastating effects they have upon a family. It’s good reading, but it’s the kind of reading that you do with a notebook and pencil by your side because nearly everything means something.
The ongoing theme of transformation is what held my attention and how certain events can shape who you are.
Reviewers, the ones who get paid, didn’t really care for this one but many book bloggers did. I find this fascinating. Perhaps the professional reviewers get caught-up with the mechanics of the writing more so than the feeling it evokes. For me, Last Night in Twisted River is about relationships and what you’re willing to do to keep them. The characters are memorable and complex and…loyal. Yes, there’s that word again. It’s been a tough year for me as far as friendships go and ending the year with characters who still possess the loyalty gene was surprisingly refreshing to me.
So there you have it. These are the books that stayed with me, that meant something to me or forced me to look at myself differently. Reading is such a personal thing but 2010 was such a good reading year for me, that I wanted to share a few of those reads with you.
This year, I plan to do more of the same, read what I want to read and savor every minute of it.