I'm a little late with it, but wanted to mention a few of my favorite books of last year. One of the most enjoyable parts of my reading in 2010 was re-discovering the poet, essayist and novelist Wendell Berry. I read his book Jayber Crow several years ago, which I loved, but never read anything else.
Berry's fiction is mostly centered around the fictitious farming community of Port William, Kentucky. Berry is himself a longtime farmer who still resides in Kentucky. As the stories progress, Berry's unspoken commentary on the unfortunate plight of the American farmer is clear.
His stories are interwoven with the same characters but, unlike most "series" books, you can really start anywhere. A World Lost is a compilation of a number of short stories, but which are in chronological order and flow together so as to give an overview of the characters of Port William. It would be a great place to start if you wanted to sample some of Berry's work.
His writing is nothing short of beautiful, intermittently bringing laughter and tears, reminiscent of a simpler time and place, although some of his stories evolve into the current day.
I read a Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute and The Maltese Falcon by Dash Hammett, which I couldn't exactly call classical literature but are both books that have been around for a while. I loved the former, the story of a woman who survives a Japanese death march in World War II and in the process meets an intriguing Australian gentleman. Falcon was a fun read, somewhat melodramatic.
I continued with Alexander McCall Smith's Number One Ladies Detective Agency series with number eleven, The Double Comfort Safari Club, which was every bit as delightful as the previous ten.
On the non-fiction side, I enjoyed Game Change, a page-turning narrative of the 2008 presidential campaign, and George W. Bush's presidential post-mortem Decision Points. It was as one would expect, rather self-serving, but providing an interesting view into the years he occupied the White House.
Also had fun reading In a Heartbeat by Sean and Leigh Anne Touhy, the couple from Memphis who took in football phenonenom Michael Oher, which lead to the eventual book and movie The Blind Side. It's written in a broken-up style that drives me crazy, intermittently first and third person by both of them ( I don't understand how a book editor would ever think a reader would prefer this convention), but once I got past that it was intriguing to get their perspective and some clarification on their story.
My list of "to read" books is growing. FDIL gave me The Fountainhead for my birthday, her all-time favorite, and I have Gresham's latest waiting as well.
For those of you who use the Shelfari bookshelf as I do, I'm always looking at your latest picks. Be sure and let me know your favorites. Good reading to all in 2011.