Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Reads of 2010

Since it's the last day of 2010, I thought I'd share my favourite reads of the year.

First, I should mention that this list is my favourite reads from the past year, and not a "best books that were published in 2010" - given that I'm really far behind in my reading, constantly playing catch-up, and continually going back to read classics I have missed, I doubt I'd be able to stick to just newly published books.

Here's an interesting stat. Of the books I read in 2010, 9% of the books I read were ebooks (the most noteable one being Stephen King's Under The Dome, which at 1000 pages, I read on the app on my iPhone, and which took me ten months to complete, reading mostly in 5 to 10 minute pockets of time), 25% of the books I actually listened to unabridged audio versions of, and 66% of the books were physical books that I read.

It seems that I have had less and less time to actually sit down and read (either physical books or ebooks), but that more and more of my reading is taking place during other times. I did a lot of running this past year, which was perfect for offering me more time to listen to audio books. Otherwise, the only time I tend to have to listen to books (and podcasts) would be when I'm commuting to work, which is typically less than half an hour a day.

So, in no particular order, here are my 10 favourite reads from 2010.

Room by Emma Donoghue
An amazing story told through the point of view of a 5 year old boy who is raised as a captive in an 11 foot square shed with his mother. This book was a beautifully scripted narrative in that the narrator himself isn't aware of the things going on, and yet the reader knows precisely what's happening.  Brilliantly done, a wonderful juxtaposition of innocence and evil.

Annabel - Kathleen Winter

This is a beautiful story about a child born with both sexes - the parents decide to give the child an operation and raise it as a boy named Wayne. But inside, the female, Annabel, still exists. It's a fantastic look at the conflict involved in identity

The High Road - Terry Fallis

Wonderful and hilarious, this great story continues from THE BEST LAID PLANS pretty much the next day after the end of the first novel. I loved the fact that you learn more about Angus and his relationship with his deceased wife.  It's a great follow-up novel that made me want to go back and read the first one again. Like in the first novel, there are gut-splitting scenes alongside deeply touching moments. Fallis deftly moves between the two quite effectively.

The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch

This book was an incredible read, and not at all what I expected.  I'd thought that the content of the book was going to be Pausch's last lecture itself, but instead, it used the lecture as a central point to discuss his life, his illness, and the manner by which he completely accepted his fate and continued to want to inspire, encourage and teach.  This is an inspiring, engaging, life-changing sort of book.

The Passage - Justin Cronin
This post-apocalyptic story of survivors in a world over-run by vampires (known as virals) - yes, scary vampires, not the pleasant dignified and classy ones who hang out among mortals which are so popular in vampire literature lately - is an epic adventure of almost 800 pages.

Never Look Away - Linwood Barclay
Another phenomenal thriller from Barclay - this one begins with a missing child at a local theme park, but explodes into something that is far more interesting and unexpected. Here's one way I can describe how "unputdownable it is": I picked it up after someone stole THE PASSAGE from me and I had only about 60 pages left -- I started reading NEVER LOOK AWAY but, even after I bought THE PASSAGE again, I had to keep reading this one.  When I finally could put it down (because I had finished it), I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Ouroboros - Michael Kelly & Carol Weeks
A wonderfully haunting and beautiful love story of two close couples and what happens when one of them loses a spouse. This is one of those books that is so beautifully written that you don't want it to end. Weekes and Kelly are masterful at playing with the reader's emotions, both the sense of loss and the atmosphere of horror. As a reader, you can't help but be drawn deeply in to experience both and to be left haunted by the time you put the book down.

Drive - Daniel Pink
A look at what really motivates people, based upon statistics and facts that have been known for years, but which we tend to contiually overlook. People are NOT motivated by a higher salary, they're not motivated by a potential cash bonus -- people are ultimately motivated by interesting work and by being able to embrace autonomy, mastery and purpose. Pink brings it home repeatedly through the book in a captivating and interesting way.  This is a phenomenal book -- definitely a MUST READ for managers.

Watch - Robert J. Sawyer
The incredible continuation of the WWW trilogy, even better than WAKE. Sawyer manages to create an character unlike any I have read before -- the WWW itself actually becoming conscious, and showing how, nurtured in the proper way, by Caitlin, the blind girl whose eyes it first sees the world through, it isn't a scary thing at all, but something to marvel at, something to continue to nurture and protect. A secret government agency doesn't see it that way, and is determined to "shut it down" before it can harm humanity.  The novel,  beautifully questions who the real "monster" is and is another brilliant story by Sawyer that entertains and makes you think.

Linchpin - Seth Godin
A phenomenal book, inspiring, worth reading again - worth giving to people. Godin talks about work as being an art, and about the importance of work that you can put your heart and soul into -- thus resulting in becoming the Linchpins he keeps refering to (those whose work and efforts are indispensable). The world has become too competitive for a person to just plod through their days, and to continue to listen to the "lizard brain" (the part of the mind that is the main source of resistance in a person - the part that allows them to not give 150%, to just give up)

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