The Best Books of 2010: Editors' Picks and Customer Favorites
Our Best of the Year lists are always the culmination of a year of eager book scouting, and then a few contentious weeks of nominating, discussing, rehashing, rereading, and sorting, and this year is no different, although our #1 pick made itself pretty plain, and left us extra time to debate the other 99 spots on the Top 100. As soon as we read Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, we thought it was pretty special. In her first book, Skloot makes an incredibly difficult task seem simple: weaving together a story of science and history with a very personal account of a family who has not always wanted its story told. The book is full of surprise, incident, and character (not the least of which is Skloot herself, although her presence never overwhelms the story), but it's also a story of ideas, which Skloot treats as subtly and even-handedly as she does the people she writes about. It's the rare sort of book that is ambitious and innovative, but that you could also give to any curious reader, and that's just the sort of book we love to put at the top of our list.
One pattern that emerges among the top books on our list is how many of them took a long time to get written, for one reason or another. If we, as people say, live in an age of instant gratification and infatuation with youth (the jury's out yet), these books are noteworthy for how much they gained from patience and persistence. And perspective too. Skloot, as she mentioned in an interview with our cohorts at Omnivoracious, was fascinated with the story of Henrietta Lacks since she heard a bit of her story in high school, and she spent over a decade gaining the trust of Henrietta's family and, with their help, unearthing her story. It took over three decades before Karl Marlantes could finally transform his experiences in Vietnam into the finished art of Matterhorn. And Patti Smith's memoir of her young friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe is so charming in part because of the way her wide-eyed youth exists so easily within the woman she's become 40 years later. Even Michael Lewis's Big Short, a book about the way we live now, didn't come in the first big wave of books about the crash.
However many years might have gone into these books, though, for us they were part of the year 2010--in fact, they were some of the best parts, and we hope you've had a chance to read some of them yourself, or will soon. Here are our choices for the top 10 books of 2010:
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
- Faithful Place by Tana French
- Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
- Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
- The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
- Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
- The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
- To the End of the Land by David Grossman
- Just Kids by Patti Smith
- The Big Short by Michael Lewis