Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Best Books I Read in 2010

What follows is a list of the best books I read in 2010. A few of the books were published in 2010, but most were published in previous years. This is a list of the Best Books I Read in 2010. There's a wide variety in several different genres. If nothing else, I hope this list encourages you to check some of these books out.

Honorable Mentions:
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
You really can't go wrong with a classic. I reread this a few years ago when I was teaching. The story is still as fresh, exciting, frightening, and challenging as it was when I first read it in high school. In a society where we seem intent on creating different monsters everyday, it will always be relevant.

Catalog #439: Burlesque Paraphernalia Edited by Charles Schneider
This book of oddities is a reprint of a catalog that was first published in 1930. Today's readers might find it difficult to imagine that such devices of humor were ever constructed, but they were, at a small plant in Greenville, IL by the DeMoulin Brothers. The company still exists, but they produce band uniforms. However, you can see some of the unique devices of Americana found in this book at the DeMoulin Museum in Greenville, IL.

Shapes and Colors by Richard Thompson
"Cul de Sac" is a comic strip that I have become familiar through the collections and online. The strip has some real imagination to it and I think it will become very popular in the next few years. The strip revolves around little Alice Otterloop and her family. Bill Watterson wrote the introduction to the first collection of strips and hailed the strip. This book is only the third collection of the strip and having read the previous collection, I can see some real growth in the strip. Check out "Cul de Sac" before it becomes the next big thing.

The Deranged Stalker's Journal of Pop Culture Shock Therapy
by Doug Bratton
About two months ago, I was introduced to the one-panel online comic "Pop Culture Shock Therapy". I found it hilarious. This book is a collection of some of the earlier and most popular of the strips. The format of the book is that this journal was found in the home of a psychologically deranged stalker of the author, Doug Bratton. The concept is, albeit a bit disturbing, makes for some funny reading.

The Talisman by Stephen King & Peter Straub
The story of a young boy who finds he has a magical gift and sets out on a journey into a fantasy land as well as across real-world America, mid-1970s to heal a queen and save his own mother. The conclusion is a little weak, but the overall story is an engaging and powerful one. One of the better King books I've read in the past few years.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Baum's masterpiece was the first modern American fairy tale and it's as imaginative today as it was when I first read it as a child. The 1939 movie whitewashed some things and left others completely out. The original book is more dark and magical than that famous movie. I was in a production of The Wizard of Oz last year and read several Oz books as well as a biography about Baum as part of my preparation. Re-reading the book again after all of that made me appreciate this story even that much more. In many ways, the book is a parable of Baum's life. And now I know why Dainty Chinaland exists.


The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein
As anyone who works with youth and young adults know, despite having more opportunities before them than any other generation in history, overall the under-thirty generation in American is dumber than any before. The Dumbest Generation illustrates why this is and what can be done to prevent the oncoming disaster that could happen as a result. I read a wide variety of books, including several nonfiction books and The Dumbest Generation is the most statistically supported nonfiction book I have ever read.

On the Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells
Out of all the children's and young adult books I read in 2010, On the Blue Comet was my favorite. The illustrations in the book are lavish; there might not be many of them but with the few there are it's like walking through an art gallery. The story is set in the Great Depression in Cairo, IL and involves time travel and trains. The protagonist of the tale, a boy named Oscar, meets several larger than life historical figures who are just normal people to him.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia are my favorite series of books of all time. I've read them several times. With the advent of the new movie, I thought it was a good time to go back an re-read the 3rd (yes, it's the 3rd and not the 5th) book in the series, Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Paralleling the historical acts of the Church, Caspian and crew set out from Narnia to travel beyond the edges of the world to find the 7 missing Lords who served his father. They are suddenly joined by Edmund and Lucy Pevensie as well as their dastardly cousin, Eustace Clarence Scrubb. The book has one of the greatest opening lines in all of literature and the tale is just as magical and memorable as the previous two books, but with even more spiritual and theological depth.

The Dark Tower: The Fall of Gilead by Robin Furth, Peter David, et al
I have yet to read "The Dark Tower" series by Stephen King. However, I have been keeping up with the graphic novel translation of the origins of the story produced by Marvel. Fall of Gilead is the second to last collection of the books that tells the origins of Roland Deschain and how he began his lifelong quest to get to the Dark Tower. This book tells the story of how Gilead, the fabled city of good and righteousness and home of Roland, was attacked, conquered, and destroyed. If you know anything about the Dark Tower, you know that Roland is the last of his kind and the only living survivor of Gilead. However, even with that knowledge the tragedy of the story is not diminished and in some ways makes the heart-wrenching scenes between fathers and sons even more poignant.

In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson
Simply the best book on Christian living that I read all year.

The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose
There is a cultural conflict brewing in America. The divide is between two completely different ways of living. Kevin Roose went undercover and spent a semester at Liberty University to see how the "other side" lived. For Kevin, the other side are fundamental, evangelical Christians. Other than writing a book and really trying to understand a lifestyle unlike his own, I don't think Roose really had an agenda while at Liberty. His book presents an honest look at what someone who isn't an evangelical Christian thinks. There were certain beliefs that Roose wasn't going to change no matter how much everything at Liberty showed him otherwise (his beliefs about homosexuality and the creation of the universe, for instance). However, he did try to be open and he came away from the experience being able to be a person who could at least hold a dialogue with someone from the "other side". This is a book I think both Christians and non-Christians could benefit from reading.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahme-Smith
I'm a sucker for a good story. I'm especially a sucker for a good story seeped in history. Even though Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a work of fiction, I learned more about Lincoln, his adversaries, and certain aspects of the Civil War than I did from all my other studies and growing up in Illinois combined. The story is imaginative, exciting, and gripping. I will admit that the ending almost ruined the book for me. Still, I was so impressed by how much the author used real historical events and people to fit into his fictional universe that the ending wasn't able to ruin the rest of the story. I read a lot of different books in 2010 (over 100), but Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was my favorite.

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