December 17, 2010

the in no way official olive reader best books list

  • About the author EB

I love best-of-the-year lists. While I don’t necessarily need to be told to put Freedom on my to-be-read pile, I do get a kick out of seeing the books on each list that don’t appear anywhere else, the books that may have slipped under my radar or that I might need another nudge about. How else would I remember that I wanted to read Jay Varner’s Nothing Left to Burn after I read Rebecca’s initial review, or ever hear of at least half the books in The Millions’ Year in Reading series? So here’s my contribution, in no particular order. The caveat, of course, is that not all of these books were released in 2010. Some are from the future!

The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle
This book made me feel good about life. It’s the story of a vet who gets divorced, but that one-line summary doesn’t really do justice to how lovely this book is.

Lit by Mary Karr
I love memoirs, but I find that I end up reading too many that feel far too slight. I come away thinking “okay, that was a nice read and I enjoyed it,” but rarely do I feel as emotionally affected as I did while reading Lit. I don’t want to make it sound too heavy, because it’s not, but Lit really made me think about my own life, about where I’ve come from and where I want to go. I would say this has now become an all-time favorite. Special honorable mention goes to two similar books: Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss and David Carr’s The Night of the Gun, both of which gave me insight into various things about my family and my life (though I swear to you nothing in my life is as messed up as The Kiss.)

Faithful Place by Tana French
My two favorite genres are coming-of-age novels and literary thrillers, and while we publish tons of great coming-of-age stuff, I wish we did more literary thrillers like Faithful Place. I’m a pretty fast reader, and so for me one of the signs that I’m falling in love with a book is when I find myself stopping to re-read lines, even whole paragraphs, just to savor the language for an extra moment. I bawled during this book; not at the end, but at random sentences throughout that were so beautiful I couldn’t help myself.

There Is No Year by Blake Butler (coming April 5)
I can easily imagine someone not loving most of the books on this list as much as I do, but I can’t see anyone hating them. I can see other people getting frustrated by, not understanding, and just plain disliking this book. I haven’t read a book that challenged me this much since college—but I LIKE being challenged. The imagery in this book is completely, viscerally stunning, but nothing about it is handed over on a platter. Yet at its core, it combines two things I love very much—stories about families in crisis and stories of horror.

The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard (coming Jan 25)
My love affair with this book started with the cover and then continued. Maybe the best “people left behind” story I’ve ever read.