1. My favorite book this year was My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira. Set during the Civil War, it tells the story of Mary Sutter, who is determined to nove beyond her role as a midwife and become a doctor.
2. Also Amazon's best book of the year, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot was one of my favorites. HeLa cells, the first immortal cells to grow in the lab, are often a topic of discussion in a variety of biology classes, but before this book, I had no idea how they were created. Henrietta Lacks was the mother of five, a poor black woman in Baltimore, who died of a very aggressive cancer at the age of 30 in 1951. Doctors at Johns Hopkins took some of her cancer cells without the knowledge or permission of her family and created the HeLa cell line, which is still used in labs today. The book moves from Henrietta and her family's history to present-day interviews with her children who are struggling to understand how a part of their mother lives today.
3. My mom loaned me this book, which I read while in Washington, DC for city commisison. Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo details a 2,500-mile road trip Harry and Bess took from their home in Independence, Missouri to the East Coast and back. The Trumans truly returned to their old lives following the Presidency - no guards, no protection, just ordinary citizens on a road trip.
4. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister tells the story of a Monday night cooking class at Lillian's restaurant. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different student, and each is looking for or needing something different from the class and in their lives. Made me want to join a cooking class!
5. This year I discovered the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith, author of The #1 Ladies Detective Agency series (another of my favorites). 44 Scotland Street introduces us to a cast of characters who live in flats at #44 Scotland Street. My favorite is a five-year-old boy named Bertie who loves the saxophone. I read the whole series this year (44 Scotland Street, Espresso Tales, Love Over Scotland, The World According to Bertie, The Unbearable Lightness of Scones), and loved them all!
6. Also this year, I caught up with the rest of the world and read the Stieg Larsson Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Of the three books, The Girl Who Played with Fire was my favorite.
7. I also read The Hunger Games trilogy this year. Set in America far in the future, the country has been divided into 12 Districts with the Capitol in the Rockies. Because of a rebellion almost 75 years in the past, each district must send two children as tributes to the Captiol each year to compete in the Hunger Games. Only 1 of the 24 children will survive the competition to the death. Widely televised, the Hunger Games provide entertainment to those in the Captiol and a reminder to those in the Districts of the price of rebellion. Talk about reality TV gone wrong! I loved the characters in this book, but particularly the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. While I enjoyed the whole series, this was my favorite of the three books.
9. While it wasn't The Stand or The Green Mile (my favorite Stephen King books), Under the Dome was a return to the Stephen King of old. At over 900 pages, my wrists hurt from reading this book, but I couldn't put it down. It was one of the first books I read in 2010 and still one of the best of the year.
10. I had to include one light book in the list - Adena Halpern's The Ten Best Days of My Life was a fun read. I also read her book 29 this year, which I also enjoyed. The protagonist, Alex, is hit by a car at age 29 and finds herself in seventh heaven with her grandparents. However, to stay in seventh heaven, she must pass an entrance exam by sharing the 10 best days of her life.
And two runners up:
W. Bruce Cameron's A Dog's Purpose follows the spirit of a dog through multiple lives. I cried through the entire book (maybe because I'm still grieving the loss of our dog, Darcy, at the start of 2010 or maybe because I'm just a dog lover!).
Stephen King's novellas are some of his best writing, and Full Dark, No Stars had one of the best in his story A Good Marriage. Based on the BTK killer, the story explores what happens when a wife discovers her husband is a serial killer and how she could have been married to her for more than 20 years without knowing this very important fact about her hustband.