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>Shall I Tell You What I Liked, What I Really Really Liked?

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I must be on the road to Curmudgeonville. When I did my stats for 2010, I talked about the books I didn’t finish and the books that annoyed me to no end until their ends, but never once did I give a hearty shout out to the reads that made me smile, made me think, made me miss my subway stop, made me growl at people to piss off, I’m busy reading and just all around made me happy I’m a bookworm. Let me fix that now.
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1. Wild Swans – Jung Chang. This memoir of one family’s life under Mao Zedung’s rule both educated and horrified me.
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2. Frozen In Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition – Owen Beattie & John Geiger. At least once a year, a book engrosses me so much that I miss my subway stop. This was the book and I had to backtrack 3 stops.
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3. Virginia Woolf: A Biography – Hermione Lee. Woolf finally got a biographer who was perfectly attuned to her sensibilities. The chapter about her reading life is the showstopper.
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4. Flashman and Royal Flash– George MacDonald Fraser. The cowardly, unrepentant bastard has stolen my heart and left me laughing while all the while giving me a good dose of history.
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5. The Killer Inside Me and The Getaway – Jim Thompson. This is the noir I’ve been waiting for. This is bleakness worth embracing.
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6. You Gotta Have Wa – Robert Whiting. Change Japan to Korea and professional baseball to teaching English and you’ve pretty well got the story of my life –and my coworkers’ — right now.
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7. The Giver – Lois Lowry. I love how the dystopian society is revealed slowly, layer by layer.
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8. The Lost City of Z – David Grann. The life and disappearance of explorer Percy Fawcett is skillfully written and illustrated with dozens of excellent photos. And the ending? Nothing but net.
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9. True Grit – Charles Portis. Beautiful use of antiquated language coupled with a rawboned adventurous plot. As Donna Tartt pointed out in her fabulous afterword to this novel, Mattie Ross is no Huck or Scout. She’s more like Captain Ahab’s little sister.
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10. The Women – T.C. Boyle. Famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his series of mistresses and wives are an endless source of fascination to a shocked and scandal-hungry American public. Their stories are told in a florid, blustery style remininscent of Wright himself, coupled with a series of hilarious passive-agressive footnotes by an older Japanese architect who, in his youth, was one of “Writeo-San’s” minions.

Paring this list down to 10 was difficult, because it was such a great reading year for me.
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