As promised, here is the first half of my Top 10 Books of 2010. Again, these are not the ‘greatest’ books that I read over the past year, but the ones I most enjoyed reading and think that others might enjoy as well.
10. The Odd Thomas Series by Dean Koontz
This is a series of four highly entertaining books, with another three promised for the future. These are not the books to read for literary merit, but for a quick, enjoyable trip outside of reality. They feature a cast of unusual characters, with the star being Odd Thomas (first name Odd, last name Thomas). Odd possesses the unique ability to see ghosts and is accompanied by the spirit of Elvis for most of his adventures. Each book is in the neighborhood of 400 pages but reads like a book half that length.
9. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
For fans of the movie, this book is a must-read. If you haven’t seen the movie, this book is a must-read (and then rent the movie). This is detective fiction at its best, with crisp, hard-nosed prose written by a former private eye. The protagonist, Sam Spade, is a classic anti-hero. Think Han Solo in the 1930’s. The style of this book also lends itself to quick reading.
8. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
Consistently ranked among the top novels of the past century, I, Claudius is the gold standard of historical fiction. Written as the autobiography of the Roman Emperor Claudius, this book traces his remarkable life from birth as a cripple to his acclamation as emperor. The sequel, Claudius the God, finishes the story. Graves is a master of English prose, and both books remain highly readable nearly 80 years after their publication. Even if you aren’t a Roman history buff, these books are worth a read.
7. Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
Nietzsche’s novel about the fictional philosopher Zarathustra (not to be confused with the real Zarathustra, aka Zoroaster) is well worth the effort. This is a book in the vein of Plato’s Republic, where the use of a more literary form (rather than plain philosophical prose) makes you question how much is Nietzsche’s own philosophy, and how much is the wily German thumbing his nose at the credulity of his readers. This book was also the inspiration for a “tone poem” by Richard Strauss (featured in the opening sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey).
6. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
This is one of those novels that has it all—look-alikes, murders, love, long-lost family members, and long-standing vendettas. Dickens is a master of the novel form, creating realistic characters and unforeseen plot twists against the wild backdrop of the French Revolution. If you have been meaning to read some of the classics, this is a great place to start.
Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of our list tomorrow– TCN