Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Best of 2010

It's surprising that it's already that time, but it is now appropriate to reflect on 2010, separating the wheat from the chaff, as it were. I mentioned in my last post that, despite my having read more books than I think I've ever read in a year, this wasn't a fantastic year for reading, which is disappointing to me (especially since, on top of that, I didn't reach my goal). Still, I'll pass on what I thought was best, and there really were a few gems--it's just that choosing my top five was easier than it should have been.

As usual, for all of these lists, the main criterion for inclusion is not that something was released in 2010, but that I acquired it in 2010. From these lists you will be able to see how woefully behind the times I am. Also, I didn't see very many movies this year, so take my movie selections with a grain of salt. Commentary follows where it is merited. (If you're interested, here is my list for 2009.)

Top Five First-Time Reads, Nonfiction
I'm listing nonfiction first because these were generally better than the fiction I read this year. Also, I didn't separate categories last year because I didn't read much nonfiction. This year I did.
  1. The Undertaking by Thomas Lynch
  2. Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris
  3. The Narnia Code by Michael Ward (It's not often I choose a book for this list that I worked on, but this book was that fantastic. It opens up the Narnia series in the best possible way--in the way that makes you want to pick up Lewis's books immediately and reread them.)
  4. The Wisdom of Stability by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Have you ever read a book that is just what you needed to read, right when you needed to read it? This book fit that bill for me, and I am so grateful for it.)
  5. Tell It Slant by Eugene Peterson
Top Five First-Time Reads, Fiction
  1. The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor by Flannery O'Connor (It's embarrassing how long it took me to finally get around to reading her, and it took me some time to get into these stories, but these are fantastic, for the most part, and they get better as they go along.)
  2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Anne Shaffer
  3. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
  4. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (I finally got around to it, and it did not disappoint.)
  5. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (My liking this book was against the opinion of everyone else in the book club, but so be it. It was good, even if the main character is not always likeable.)
Top Five Rereads
With the recent disbandment of book club, this could be the last year for this category. Then again, who am I kidding? How can I keep away from my favorites?
  1. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (I wasn't wowed by this book the first time I read it; I was this time.)
  2. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (This book is not only a work of genius, it is a work of great wit that is a joy to read. Chesterton wrote exuberantly, and I have read no other author who conveys joy as well as he does.)
  3. The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis (This was my favorite of the Chronicles of Narnia [along with The Last Battle], but it had been a while since I'd read it. It did not disappoint and remains my favorite Chronicle.)
  4. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (One of my favorites, and a quick read. I reread this a few times in 2010, and it was not a wasted exercise any of the times.)
  5. So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger (I wish Enger would write more books--I love the two he has written. I alternate between which I like better. It's normally the one I read most recently.)
Top Five Albums
  1. Johnny Cash: American II: Unchained
  2. Johnny Cash: American III: Solitary Man
  3. Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
  4. Jars of Clay: The Shelter
  5. Third Day: Move
Top Five Most Listened To
  1. Johnny Cash: American II: Unchained
  2. Johnny Cash: American VI: Ain't No Grave
  3. Ralph Stanley & Friends: Clinch Mountain Country
  4. Johnny Cash: American III: Solitary Man
  5. Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
Top Five Board Games
These are not necessarily ones I played for the first time in 2010, but this is their current ranking in terms of the ones I normally want to play.
  1. Dominion (See my review.)
  2. Carcassonne (See my review.)
  3. Acquire (See my review.)
  4. Ticket to Ride: Europe (See my review.)
  5. Bohnanza (See my review.)
Top Five Movies
Okay...I can't even think of five movies I saw for the first time this year, so I'll just mention one I really liked: Iron Man 2. Yes, I like superhero movies, and it's hard to beat the Iron Man series in terms of fun factor. They did a great job of bringing this guy to the screen.

Other Honorable MentionsSome of these fit in other categories; others don't. These are things I like that I want to mention, and it's my blog, so I'm allowed to mention them.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Yes, I still enjoy these.
  • Psych. I enjoy this show quite a bit.
  • Sherlock. I posted about this last week, but now I've finished watching through series one--and I can't believe that I have to wait another year for more episodes. Agh!
  • I Have a Bean coffee. Wonderful stuff. There is a difference in fresh-roasted coffee. Also, if you can make it out to the French market, their flavored drinks are out-of-this-world good.
  • Netflix. There's not enough on TV that I want to see. But documentaries? Old BBC stuff? Bring it on! After we exhausted our library's supply of period pieces, we turned to Netflix--and we haven't been disappointed.
  • Emma (newest BBC production). I'm not a Jane Austen fanboy, but this adaptation was fantastic. Emma was perfectly cast, which is the main thing, and it was just a great one to watch.
  • Return to Cranford. Was it gimmicky? Perhaps. But this fit the bill for my desire to return to the town of Cranford. And it has Tim Curry in it. While not nearly as good as the original, this was still worth watching.
  • Horatio Hornblower. Darn good TV. There are only a few cheesy effects. The rest of this series represents the best of television.
  • Barnes & Noble Nook. I've mentioned this many times: if you are considering an e-reader, this is the one I recommend.
The Worst/Most Disappointing of 2010
  • Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever by Justin Taylor (My review.)
  • It Feels So Good When I Stop by Joe Pernice (My review.)
  • Prince Caspian (It's a good thing I waited to see it until Netflix. I would have been upset if I had paid to see it in the theater.)
  • House of Heroes: Suburba (Their last album showed such promise. This one is kind of blah.)
  • Sufjan Stevens: Age of Adz (Yes, it's experimental, and the second listen was much better than the first, but it's not one I would listen to over and over. I was quite disappointed in this one.)
What's missing from my list? What did you like best in 2010?


  1. Thanks for the reviews Jon. I'm really glad that you liked Gilead as it would probably win my "I liked this book much more than I thought I would" award for the year.

  2. The first time I read the book, it got the "this wasn't as good as I was expecting it to be" award. (Many people in my department were raving about it, and it's a much more subtle, understated book than I was expecting by the reviews.) The second time I read it, there were no expectation hurdles to jump over, and I enjoyed it a lot more.