I normally do a year in review post at the beginning of each year, letting my readers know my favorite things of the previous year. But since Christmas is coming up and you may need ideas for what to get those hard-to-buy-for people on your list, I decided to take a top item from each category and let you know what I really liked this year. So here's a sneak peak at 2010 in review.
Best Fiction Book: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This book is about the power of literature in helping people cope with difficult situations. It is an epistolary novel and was a joy to read.
Best Nonfiction Book: The Undertaking by Thomas Lynch. This is hands down the best book I read this year. Thomas Lynch operates a funeral home in Milford, Michigan (near where I grew up), and The Undertaking is a book of essays about his trade. This book is a fascinating look at life and death and is also beautifully written.
Best Christian Book: Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris. I wouldn't normally have included this category, but this was so close to The Undertaking's position as best nonfiction book that I had to find a way to include it. In Acedia & Me, Kathleen Norris examines the spiritual condition of acedia (cut from the list of eight "bad thoughts," now "seven deadly sins"). It is interesting and convicting and honestly examines the Christian life. It might have hit me more because I felt like I was going through a similar situation and it's about the writing life, but I think this book could have wider appeal. Don't let the hideous cover deter you.
Best Audiobook: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. This is another excuse to recommend another fiction book, but this seems like a legit category since I did listen to it (rather than read it from the page). This book is a mystery about stamp collecting, which is narrated by a precocious eleven-year-old named Flavia de Luce. This was quite an enjoyable listen--so enjoyable that we searched high and low for the audiobook sequel (The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag) for our vacation listening.
Best Board Game: Dominion. I was introduced to this game late in the year, but it has quickly become one of my favorites. Fun with only two but also with more, Dominion is fast-paced, strategic, and fun. I'll write a full review one day on this blog. In the meantime, my friend Wolfie has written a great one on his blog.
Best CD Released This Year: This is a toss-up between Jars of Clay's The Shelter and Arcade Fire's The Suburbs. I like the concept of The Shelter so much: the album is constructed around an old proverb that it is in the shelter of each other that the people live. Jars of Clay thus got together with a bunch of different artists and made an album that integrates their styles, voices, and writing. The Suburbs I didn't like at first (it seemed too indie and hip), but I couldn't help but come around in the end. On repeat listens, I have come to appreciate it.
Best CD I Received This Year: This is also a tie between Johnny Cash's American II: Unchained and American III: Solitary Man. What can I say? Johnny Cash is always fantastic, but I feel like old-man Johnny Cash is even better. (Part of this is because, at least on Unchained, he is backed up by Tom Petty.) I find it hard to choose between American II-IV which album is my favorite--so why not have them all?
Best e-Reader: I've mentioned this before, but if you are looking for an e-ink reader to get for the reader in your life, I recommend the Nook.