The Increasingly Annual Book Post

Continuing the tradition that began 11 years ago and then took a decade off before continuing last year, here are the 10 best books that I read for the first time last year. They are in alphabetical order, not ranked 1 to 10.

  1. Infinite by Jeremy Robinson
    A science fiction story that begins with an intriguing premise and then takes a direction that I didn't see coming. One of the more original books I've read in a while.
  2. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
    I've long loved Hornby's books, so I was quite glad to come across one I hadn't read yet. A great story of a mismatched collection of characters who meet up when they plan to commit suicide. Full of great character moments and realizations.
  3. The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
    This seems like a simple survival story, and it is a very well executed one. But even more, it is a love story, not in the stupid Hollywood/romance novel sort of way, but in a much deeper and meaningful way. Also about honor and choices that one has to live with. I haven't seen the movie that was made from the book because I'm frankly afraid of what Hollywood might have done with this story.
  4. Norwood by Charles Portis
    Portis wrote True Grit (which is great as well), and this book, set in the 1950s, has his same ear for dialog that made that book so humorous.
  5. The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English by Lynne Murphy
    Murphy is an American linguist who has been living and working in the UK for several years now, and is an expert in the similarities and differences in the various types of English. This book is a great in-depth look at the relationship between US and UK English. She examines the history and the way that the people of the two countries feel about their English and the other.
  6. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
    I actually read two great books by Winchester this year, this one and Krakatoa. It was hard to limit him to one spot on this list, as both were great.
  7. The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
    I'd heard a bit about this one in college, but never got around to reading it until now. I really missed out. Orwell is of course a great writer, but here he turns his pen to reporting on the living conditions of miners and other working poor in the North of England between the wars. Tons of fascinating details about exactly how they lived, how much things cost and how they struggled. Orwell was deeply sympathetic to them, but at the same time was clear-eyed about their faults as well as their virtues.
  8. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
    Another book I had heard much about but never read. A funny satire of the news business that seems just as fresh today as when it was written.
  9. A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
    What if Sherlock Holmes was a woman? That is the premise of this book, and Thomas pulls it off brilliantly. One could quibble that the view of Victorian England borders on a caricature, and that the mystery part of the novel is not as strong as it could be, and you'd be right. But Thomas's Charlotte Holmes is just so completely what a female Holmes would have been, while remaining faithful to the Holmes of the canon that you have to forgive the weak points.
  10. Very Good Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
    This is the third Jeeves and Wooster book I've read, and they are all great. 
As a bonus, here are the worst books I read:

  1. Bloody Confused!: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer by Chuck Culpepper.
    I should like this. Like Culpepper, I'm an American who has fallen in love with English football. But Culpepper is determined to make himself unlikable, insulting anyone who still likes American sports or disagrees with him about anything. There is a definite element of "Converts make the most obnoxious members" going on here. It would be interesting to see if perhaps Culpepper has moderated his passion now, especially since his chosen team, Portsmouth, has been relegated twice since the book was written.
  2. Upright Beasts by Michel Lincoln
    A collection of short stories that range from the passable to the bizarre to the dreadful, mostly the latter.
  3. The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
    This book starts off so promising, as it details the lives of a couple who tend a lonely lighthouse off the coast of Australia shortly after World War I. I love books that tell about people who don't get noticed but who make our lives possible. And then, the couple in the book steal a baby. Yet the book expects us to continue to feel sympathetic to them.

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