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Best books of 2010: A look back at the year in literature

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Doesn't it seem like everybody in the world is weighing in with their Official Best of the Year list?  Yeah, well, here's mine. Here are my Top Picks, Can't Miss 'Em, Go Back and Find Them Books for 2010...

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Fiction

One Good Dog by Susan Wilson -- I read about 320 books a year, and I've done that for the last decade or so. This book makes my Top Ten List EVER. One Good Dog is the story of a man who has everything and loses it, a dog who has nothing and loses it, and how these two souls come together. If you only read one book this winter, make it this one.

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez -- Set in the mid-1800s, this is the heartbreaking story of four Black women who are mistresses to their Masters. When they travel to what is technically a free state, they must decide to escape or stay. This is one of those books that hurts to read, but it hurts good.

Tempted by Trouble by Eric Jerome Dickey -- I'm normally not a big fan of Eric Jerome Dickey, but this book blew me away. Tempted by Trouble is the story of a man who's down on his luck due to the economy. When his wife finds him a job, it's not exactly the kind that's legal. This book is fast-paced, violent, harsh, and I loved every page of it. Be aware that you may have to read the ending twice to "get it," but when you do...

Room by Emma Donoghue -- What would you think if you were suddenly thrust in a world you'd only known through what you saw on TV?  That's the premise of this book with shades of newsy headlines. Room takes a little getting used to at first - the language is different enough to make you wonder what you got yourself into - but stick with it. You won't be sorry.

Horns by Joe Hill -- Pretty much everybody knows by now that Joe Hill is Stephen King's son. The good news is that he's a chip off the old block, but better. Horns is the story of a man who wakes up with fresh protuberances on his noggin. Surprised and a little dismayed, he decides to go ahead and use them. This book is funny, in a dark kind of way, and creepy times ten.

Non-Fiction

In the Shadow of Freedom by Tchicaya Mossamou -- This true story of a man who escaped being killed as a child soldier, escaped Civil War in his African homeland, came to America - knowing no English - and became a decorated soldier is one that will make you gasp and cheer. It's a page-turner, and you'll swell with incredible pride... but it's not for the faint of heart.

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman -- When Kerman was nailed for a crime she committed years before, she spent another six years awaiting sentencing. This is the story of an upper-class woman and the youthful mistake she made, her time in prison, and how she coped. It's an educated peek at something most of us are curious about but will never get to see, thankfully.

Ah-Choo by Jennifer Ackerman -- Maybe it's because of the season. Maybe it's just because I love this kind of reading material. But this not-at-all-stuffy look at the common cold just tickled me.

Drive by Daniel Pink -- What makes you do what you do?  This fun business book explains why we perform tasks that have no intrinsic value other than because they're enjoyable. Read it, pass it along to the boss, then see if you can try the business-forward methods Pink explains. You'll never hate getting up in the morning again.

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee -- I'm a big fan of "Hoarders," so I was pretty excited to read this book - and for good reason. Stuff is like the TV show on paper, but with a psychologist's running commentary. I loved this look inside the homes and heads of hoarders, and I loved that this book was written with the layperson in mind, which means it's easy to understand.

Children's literature

Back of the Bus by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Floyd Cooper -- Kids that are caught in the midst of something monumental rarely understand the significance of what they're living. This book tells the story of a young boy who witnesses the birth of the Civil Rights Movement, but he's more focused on his favorite toy... or is he? Your kids will love the illustrations. You'll love the story.

The Butt Book by Artie Bennett, illustrated by Mike Lester -- If you didn't have a butt, what would happen?  This poetic paean to a little-appreciated body part explains the various benefits of having a behind, and I predict that it will be a big hit in your house. The pictures are guaranteed giggle-worthy, and the poem itself will make your kids want to hear it again and again.

Two the Hard Way by Travis Hunter -- It's not easy staying out of trouble, if trouble seems to find you easy enough. This story of two brothers living in Atlanta's inner city is filled with grit and grace, and the characters are real: they cry, they'll admit they're afraid, and they own up to their mistakes. Meant for teens - specifically boys - adults will enjoy this book just as much.

And there you are -- thirteen very excellent reasons to get to the bookstore to use that gift certificate you got as a gift, or to spend your Christmas money.

Happy Reading!

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