2010: the year in books

In 2009 I read a whopping 100 books (see my wrap-up post) and it seemed at times like I spent every waking moment reading, so I set myself a more modest goal of reading 40 books in 2010 – and I managed 45. A lot of people enjoyed my top-10 list last year so I thought I'd do it again this year and give you some books to think about reading in 2011. I read 'real' books – i.e. not in electronic form – I don't like reading off a screen. Yes, I've seen electronic readers – Kimberly has an iPad – and I'm not interested in ever getting one.

Choosing my favorite book this year is easy: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. This is a fabulous, fabulous, fabulous book. It's autobiographical and describes his life on the run from Australian prison in the slums of Bombay. Just go get it and read it – you won't be disappointed.

Now the details. I enjoy putting this together as it will also serve as a record for me many years from now. I hope you get inspired to try some of these books – push yourself with new authors and very often you'll be surprisingly pleased.

Once again I leave you with a quote that describes a big part of my psychological make-up:

In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro!

Analysis of What I Read

I read 21721 pages, or 59.5 pages a day, and a book every 8 days or so. I'm a fast reader but I don't speed read or skim ever. Not as much as last year but I flew 50000 miles less this year (still clocking up 86000).


The average book length was 492 pages, a good 100 pages longer than last year – which also contributed to the overall total being lower. I picked my books differently this year too – reading a lot more science fiction and a lot less history. At least I think that's interesting :-)

The Top-10

It's a lot easier to pick a top-10 this year as I read so many less books. If you don't read much, at least consider looking at some of these in 2011. It's impossible to put them into a priority order so I've listed them in the order I read them, along with the short Facebook review I wrote at the time.

  #4 Shantaram; Gregory David Roberts; 913pp; Fiction; March 27th (Incredibly good (and long) book based on the true story of the author from a prison break in Australia to the slums and mafia of Bombay to joining the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, and back again. Kind of book that you only find a few times in your life. Very strongly recommended. Makes me want to go back to India again.)

  #8 Pushing Ice; Alastair Reynolds; 592pp; Science Fiction; May 30th (Reynolds is just fabulous – my new favorite sci-fi author. A departure from the Revelation Space universe, this deals with humans hitching a ride on the Saturnian moon Janus as it suddenly departs the solar system. Good characterizations and plenty of invented technology. I couldn't put it down during the last 100 pages. Can't wait to read another when we get home.)

  #9 Gentlemen and Players; Joanne Harris; 432pp; Fiction; May 31st (First book I've read from Joanne Harris who penned Chocolat, which was a great movie. Good vacation read – reminded me of my days at old Glasgow Academy. Nicely spun story with an excellent twist at the end – recommended.)

  #13 House of Suns; Alastair Reynolds; 576pp; Science Fiction; June 20th (Another fantastic space-opera from Reynolds. This time the story revolves around 1000 shatterlings – clones imbued with the same facets of the original's personality and sent off around the galaxy, meeting back together every 200 thousand years. After 6 million years of swashbuckling, the proverbial hits the fan in a big way. Excellent story!)

  #14 The Glass Palace; Amitav Ghosh; 512pp; Fiction; June 25th (Fabulous! The 3rd of Ghosh's books I've read was almost as good as Sea of Poppies I read last year. This one deals with the overthrow of Burma by the British in 1885 and the two subsequent wars, following the life of a boy who becomes a teak baron and the Burmese royal family. Vivid portraiture and imagery – definitely a must read.)

  #24 A Place of Greater Safety; Hilary Mantel; 768pp; Historical Fiction; September 8th (Fabulous fictional account of the three main protagonists of the French Revolution – Danton, Robespierre, and Desmoulins, following them from their humble beginnings through to their down falls and executions. Incredibly in-depth and hugely readable – a masterpiece!)

  #26 The Last Witchfinder; James Morrow; 560pp; Historical Fiction; September 15th (Really excellent fictional account of downfall of witch trials in US in early C18th, based on a woman writing a treatise discounting demonology, using Baconian experimental principles and natural history. Employs interesting approach of having parts of book narrated by Newton's Principia Mathematica. Excellent and recommended.)

  #30 Ex-Libris; Ross King; 400pp; Historical Fiction; October 11th (Excellent novel set in 1660 in London dealing with a book seller who gets involved in investigating the existence of a rare hermetic manuscript. Full of period detail and lots of info on rare books from that time, a book about old books and libraries is always one of my favorites. Some excellent twists and turns keep the book interesting. Recommended (plus his earlier non-fiction work I read last year: Brunelleschi's Dome))

  #33 Hyperion; Dan Simmons; 512pp; Science Fiction; October 20th (I'd been putting this off as I thought it would be dated, but it was really excellent – so good in fact that I've bought the subsequent 3 in the series, plus a couple more of Simmons' sci-fi works. Hard to explain the plot, as with all richly-constructed sci-fi universes, but gritty, good tech, good character development. Hugely recommended.)

  #45 Infoquake; David Louis Edelman; 421pp; Science Fiction; December 21st (Excellent start to a trilogy! Great combo of sci-fi and business set around 500 yrs in future. Deals with bio/logics – nano-machines in the body and their programming, plus the business side of the industry. A real page turner and looking forward to starting the next one. Great glossary and timeline appendices too. Strongly recommended!)

The Complete List

And the complete list, with links to Amazon so you can explore further.

  1. The Fellowship; John Gribbin; 384pp; History; January 11
  2. The Road To Oxiana; Robert Byron; 320pp; Travel; February 5
  3. Spawn Collection: Volume 5; Todd MacFarlane; 480pp; Comic; March 7
  4. Shantaram; Gregory David Roberts; 944pp; Non-Fiction; March 27
  5. The House at Riverton; Kate Morton; 480pp; Fiction; March 31
  6. The Prefect; Alastair Reynolds; 502pp; Science Fiction; April 17
  7. Anathem; Neal Stephenson; 960pp; Science Fiction; May 25
  8. Pushing Ice; Alastair Reynolds; 592pp; Science Fiction; May 30
  9. Gentlemen and Players; Joanne Harris; 432pp; Fiction; May 31
  10. Standard of Honor; Jack Whyte; 540pp; Fiction; June 5
  11. Spawn Collection: Volume 6; Todd MacFarlane; 480pp; Comic; June 6
  12. The Devil's Company; David Liss; 400pp; Fiction; June 8
  13. House of Suns; Alastair Reynolds; 576pp; Science Fiction; June 20
  14. The Glass Palace; Amitav Ghosh; 512pp; Fiction; June 25
  15. The Hungry Tide; Amitav Ghosh; 352pp; Fiction; July 4
  16. The Archer's Tale; Bernard Cornwell; 384pp; Histrorical Fiction; July 19
  17. Vagabond; Bernard Cornwell; 405pp; Historical Fiction; July 22
  18. Heretic; Bernard Cornwell; 355pp; Historical Fiction; July 23
  19. William the Conqueror; David C. Douglas; 488pp; History; July 31
  20. Order in Chaos; Jack Whyte; 928pp; Historical Fiction; August 6
  21. The  Satanic Verses; Salman Rushdie; 576pp; Fiction; August 8
  22. Travels in Alaska; John Muir; 272pp; Travel; August 15
  23. Century Rain; Alastair Reynolds; 640pp; Science Fiction; August 24
  24. A Place of Greater Safety; Hilary Mantel; 768pp; Historical Fiction; September 8
  25. Two Years Before The Mast; Richard Henry Dana; 544pp; Maritime History; September 11
  26. The Last Witchfinder; James Morrow; 560pp; Historical Fiction; September 15
  27. Galactic North; Alastair Reynolds; 384pp; Science Fiction; September 22
  28. The Evolutionary Void; Peter F. Hamilton; 720pp; Science Fiction; September 28
  29. Tinkers; Paul Harding; 192pp; Fiction; October 3
  30. Ex Libris; Ross King; 400pp; Historical Fiction; October 11
  31. Peace Like a River; Leif Enger; 312pp; Fiction; October 16
  32. The Happy Isles of Oceania; Paul Therouz; 528pp; Travel; October 17
  33. Hyperion; Dan Simmons; 512pp; Science Fiction; October 20
  34. The Last Kingdom; Bernard Cornwell; 351pp; Historical Fiction; October 22
  35. Singularity Sky; Charles Stross; 352pp; Science Fiction; October 23
  36. JPod; Douglas Coupland; 448pp; Fiction; October 24
  37. The Pale Horseman; Bernard Cornwell; 384pp; Historical Fiction; October 30
  38. Lords of the North; Bernard Cornwell; 352pp; Historical Fiction; November 3
  39. Sword Song; Bernard Cornwell; 336pp; Historical Fiction; November 9
  40. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; J.K. Rowling; 672pp; Fiction; November 14 (read for second time)
  41. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; J.K. Rowling; 784pp; Fiction; November 21 (read for second time)
  42. The Fall of Hyperion; Dan Simmons; 528pp; Science Fiction; December 5
  43. Beatrice and Virgil; Yann Martel; 224pp; Fiction; December 9
  44. Between the Assassinations; Aravind Adiga; 368pp; Fiction; December 12
  45. Infoquake; David Louis Edelman; 421pp; Science Fiction; December 21        

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