As I do every year, I kept a list in a small notebook of every book I read during 2010. I don’t count them, and I tend to lose track of how many there are after a few weeks. That way I can tally them up on new Year’s Eve and surprise myself. Last year I read 88 books, start to finish (abandoned books don’t count) which was down on the previous two years. Here are thirteen of them, all of which I enjoyed and recommend.
A Simple Plan by Scott Smith This is what happens if you stumble across a lot of money and decide to keep it, on the grounds that the original owner won’t miss it, being dead, and no one will ever find out. One deception leads to another, and another, and so on. Very readable, very exciting.
Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton A rollicking story about pirates based in the English colony of Jamaica in the late seventeenth century, stealing gold from Spanish treasure ships. Crichton only wrote a few period pieces; this example is apparently a posthumous book. We are told that the manuscript was found among his papers after his death.
The Innocent Man by John Grisham This is Grisham’s first non-fiction work and when you read it, it will make you angry – at least I hope it will. It’s about how an innocent man was arrested, tried and imprisoned in Oklahoma for a murder he did not commit. This is not a well-meaning justice system simply getting it wrong -- this is an incompetent, corrupt justice system picking on someone they thought would be easy to convict, with his innocence or guilt an irrelevance to them.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon What an amazing book! It’s a simple tale, told by a young boy in a provincial town in England. What makes it unlike anything you have ever read before (I promise you) is that the boy has Asperger’s Syndrome, so his narrative, while fluent and intelligent, is very idiosyncratic. My description doesn’t do justice to the book. You’d best read it to see what I mean!
No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay A teenage girl wakes up one morning to find her entire family has disappeared! From that premise stems a riveting thriller. One of those books you can’t wait to get back to.
Bad Science by Ben Goldacre Another weapon in the fight against the enemies of reason! In this book Dr. Goldacre exposes the uselessness and even dangers of quack medicines and health fads such as detox, brain gym, homeopathy, nutritionists, health scaremongers, vitamin supplements, the antioxidant craze. He also discusses the antic of pharmaceutical corporations and the insidious anti-vaccination movement. It’s an entertaining book but it has a serious purpose.
This One’s On Me by Donald Jack I don’t understand why Donald Jack’s series of novels about Bartholomew Bandy haven’t gained a wider currency, because they are very funny. Flashman meets Bertie Wooster! In this one the former WW1 fighter pilot and Member of the Canadian Parliament returns to London where he get involved with a woman from Iceland and an Indian Prince who wants to start his own air force.
Medicus by Ruth Downie A novel that takes place during the Roman occupation of Britain in about the third century AD. The hero, Gaius Petreius Ruso is an army doctor and is posted to a backwater in northwest England and almost as soon as he arrives he is caught up in corruption, murder, rescuing runaway slaves and a lot more. Amusing, exciting, fun!
How To Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young This is the supposedly true story of a British journalist who went to New York to work at Vanity Fair magazine, and made a complete tit of himself. It was an amusing story although I didn’t find him very likeable. They made a film of this, starring Simon “Shaun of the Dead” Pegg.
Cops And Robbers by Donald E. Westlake I usually read a few of Westlake’s every year, and I have about ten more in my TBR pile right now. This is a good one – about two New York City police officers who turn to crime and hide behind their badges to pull off the perfect robbery – from the Mob (never a good idea!).
Wish You Were Here by Mike Gayle This book was in a discount bin near the cash register in a supermarket in England, marked down from £7.99 to £1.00 which suggested to me they were desperate to sell it. Not much of a recommendation, but I bought it anyway. Actually, it’s rather good – a story of three men who go away together to a Mediterranean resort for a holiday in the sun, and are later joined by the girlfriend of one of them. All kinds of conflicts, deceptions, trial, tribulations and a dose of angst make this an entertaining story.
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson I think I’ve read just about everything by Bryson. One of my favourite writers. He has lived in England since 1973, with a 6 year gap in New Hampshire, but his American childhood and youth have provided him with ample material for several books. This is about growing up in Iowa. I don’t remember if I laughed out loud as I read it but I definitely smiled a lot.
Human Detritus by Rasmenia Massoud This was almost the last book I read in 2010, and it was a gem! I’m not saying that just because I’m fond of the author, but because it is true. It’s a collection of short stories, almost all told in the first person, from a female’s point of view, concerning relationships of various kinds, that run far from smoothly. I devoured it in less than 24 hours and was left hungry for more. Click over to Lulu and buy it! .