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My top e-reads of 2010

LargeTop.jpgHappy new year, everyone! Now that the ball has dropped, I am officially declaring my 2010 reading year over! The final tally is 102 books read, in the following categories:

- 17 alternative or indie books
- 74 commercial or mainstream books
- 10 library books
- 1 freebie from ‘other’ sources

Three books got my lowest rating, two of which were Star Trek novels; I don’t tend to finish most truly awful books anymore so most of the books got higher ratings. So, what were my top books of the year?

The following books, in no particular order, were new to me in 2010 (aka not re-reads) and got either 4/5 or 5/5 on my ratings scale and stood out for me as favourites of the year:

1) Non-Fiction

I was on a big non-fiction kick for a couple months. These were the highlights:

NURTURE SHOCK by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman: This very readable book looks at the latest research in how children learn. A standout chapter widely excerpted on-line on how children learn race drew me in.

RELENTLESS PURSUIT by Donna Foote: on a related theme, this book follows a group of new recruits through a year in the trenches of Teach for America. A bit overly long, but a fascinating journey all the same.

COLUMBINE by Dave Cullen: An exhaustive look at the tragedy of the Columbine shooting, extensively researched and reported on with sensitivity. Probably the most complete look at this story published thus far.

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS by Rebecca Skloot: A fascinating story of a woman who unwittingly became a medical research pioneer by donating cells that have continuously been replicating ever since and have been used in a wide variety of research situations. This book tells the story not just of the cells, but of the woman herself, and what became of her family.

NO IMPACT MAN by Colin Beavan: One of three ‘blogger does something for a year’ books (the other two are below). In this case, he tries to live for a year (in the middle of NYC!) making no impact on the environment.

THE HAPPINESS PROJECT by Gretchen Rubin: Blogger spends a year exploring different aspects of what makes people happy. Not the best-written of the three ‘blogger’s year’ books, but a very cool idea and it has inspired me to perhaps try my own ‘happiness project’ and that’s a noble goal…

LIVING OPRAH by Robyn Okrant: Blogger spends a year doing everything Oprah says. It had these chapter-end charts that were completely unreadable on the Kindle, but the book had some good observations on the whole Oprah phenomenon and it was alwats entertaining to see what Oprah’s next ‘command’ would be.

2) Fiction

JUST AFTER SUNSET by Stephen King: Under the Dome, another 2010 read, was also excellent, but I think King is really under-rated as a short fiction writer and I always especially look forward to his short fiction collections.

ROOM by Emma Donoghue: The hype was justified in this award-winning book by Irish-Canadian Donoghue. Inspired by several prominent news stories, this book follows a five-year-old boy who has lived his whole life in a small room where a kidnapper has imprisoned his mother for years. The book follows their life in the room and eventual re-entry into the ‘real’ world. Not everyone could pull off a whole novel with a five-year-old narrator, but Donighue had me riveted.

RADIUM HALOS by Shelley Stout: The first book to give me hope that maybe Smashwords isn’t always the Great Slushpile of the World. Stout explores the true story of the ‘Radium Dial Painters’ (a group of women who worked for watch makers painting the glowing numbers onto the dials and became sick years later from the toxic paint) through the fictional story of two sisters who worked in the factory and a secret they shared that fateful summer.

For 2011, I have some magazine issues which have piled up that I want to get through, and I want to clear some pending re-reads off my table. But my big goals are to continue exploring the world of indie books, and just to read more quality stuff in general. It shocks me a little that I had so few truly standout fiction pics this year. I spent a lot of reading time on fairly forgettable (if fun) series stuff and genre impulse reads. I want to have more quality books to tell you about next year.

Did you have a favourite read of 2010? Comment below and let us know what it was!

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