Best books I read in 2010

Earlier today I finished reading "Holidays on Ice" by David Sedaris, bringing my total books read in 2010 to 26. I set an ambitious goal of 39 for myself this year and fell well short. But 26 matches my total from 2009, so at least I'm not regressing. (Of course last year I didn't have to read two sub-200 page books in the last three days to get that total, so perhaps my intellect is sliding.)

Short of some Rain Man-esque miracle in the next 120 minutes, that will remain my total at year's end. So let's take a quick look at my five favorite reads for 2010.

"Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro
This one now ranks up there with "The Road" and "The Great Gatsby" as one of my all time favorites. Few writers have a mastery of the English language that Ishiguro possesses, and his ability to make huge plot revelations in an understated, almost unstated, manner is spectacular. A good film version of the book came out in 2010, but the the novel is the better entré into this story.

"Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCann
Told as a series of stories about disparate people in New York City the day a man walk a tightrope between the World Trade Center Towers, by novel's end the connections between the characters and the emotional resonance of it all left me in tears.

"A Visit from the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan
Like "Let the Great World Spin," each chapter of this one is told from the perspective of a different character, all somehow connected to one another, sometimes in the most tenuous of ways. Perhaps worth a read solely for the chapter consisting of nothing more than PowerPoint slides, Egan transcends such tricks with tales of how we will never be the same people we are right now again, but we'd never be the people we will become without that moment of "now."

"The Passage" by Justin Cronin
Along with "A Visit from the Goon Squad," this was probably the most fun I had reading a book all year. This novel about a vampire-like plague that ends civilization as we know it covers about 100 years. The first third of the book follows what would ordinarily be the events of a horror film, while the more interesting rest of the book tells of its post-apocalyptic aftermath. Looking forward to Cronin's sequel, whenever it gets here.

"Cold Mountain" by Charles Frazier
Beautiful, terrifying, romantic, hypnotic, infuriating, educational. Frazier's meticulous telling of a Confederate soldier's journey home is a fantastic read, mirroring "The Odyssey." The constant push and pull between good and evil drives the book, and the notions of societal law and justice rarely fall on the side of "good."