The Top Ten List of Fiction I’ve Read in 2010

It’s that time of year again.  This year I’m changing the Top Ten list to only include books that were first published since the year 2000.  I just don’t think these newly hatched chicks should have to compete against the big old roosters and hens of past centuries.  I wouldn’t want to have to compete against ‘War and Peace’, ‘Middlemarch’, ‘Don Quixote’, and Jane Austen.  After my Top Ten list, I will list a few of the fiction works from previous centuries that I enjoyed the most and that affected me most deeply this year.

 The year 2010 was a year of the short story for me.  Not only two short story collections but also four novels which are made up of interrelated short stories made my Top Ten list this year.  One of the biggest trends of 2010 was in fact these novels consisting of linked short stories.  Only four ‘novel’ novels made the Top Ten list this year.

Here is the list.

1.  The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (2010) A novel of linked stories about people working for an English-speaking newspaper in Italy. 

2.  Ether by Evgenia Citkowitz – (2010) From Hollywood and New York, a collection of stories with a sharp edge.

3.  Trespass by Rose Tremain – (2010) A wicked novel about buying a house in southern France.

4.  Summertime by J. M. Coetzee (2009)  a novel of stories about a writer named John Coetzee

5.  Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr (2010) – A story collection so original and moving it was unlike anything else I read this year. 

6.  A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2010) a novel of connected stories about the rock-and-roll life.

7.  Fame by Daniel Kehlmann (2009)  A playful novel in 9 episodes (stories) about fame. 

8.  Carry Me Down by M. J. Hyland (2006) A moving novel about an eleven year old boy and his family in Ireland.

9.  Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds (2007) A graphic novel about a writers’ retreat in rural England.

10. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (2010) a novel of a modern hapless United States family from Minnesota to Virginia

                                                                                .   .   .   .   .   

As I promised before, here are some excellent fiction works that I read this year that were first published before 2000.

    When Things of the Spirit Come First by Simone de Beauvoir (1928) A group of five interrelated stories about a group of young women in France.
    The Fall by Albert Camus (1956) The most philosophical novel I’ve read, many lines worth quoting,
    Harp in the South by Ruth Park (1948) – Dramatic and warm life in the slums of Sydney, Australia.
    The Midnight Bell by Patrick Hamilton (1929) –A novel wherein a bartender falls in love with a prostitute.
    Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson – A brave young Dutch couple hide a Jewish man in their house during World War II.
    Herself Surprised by Joyce Cary (1941) The life of Sara Monday told in her own voice.
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31 responses to this post.

  1. Nice list! I haven’t read any of them, though I have read reviews of most of the books… Great choices!

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  2. Hi Birdy,
    Thank you. I do wish I had read ‘Room’ as that book does appear to be the critics’ favorite this year. I’ll probably read it next year.

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  3. You put me on to Maile Meloy last year and she remains one of my favorite discoveries of 2010 (in fact, I am now half way through Liars and Saints and enjoying it immensely). So I will be following up with Citkowitz, an author whose collection looks interesting and whom I have not heard of before. Egan was on my list already so I am delighted to see that also makes your top 10. Thanks in advance.

    I’ll be interested in what you think when you do read Room. For my money, it is the most over-rated book of the year — even worse than Freedom.

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    • Kevin, thank you. Your comment almost makes me want to read ‘Room’ even more. I’ve read so much praise of it. I have also read Donoghue’s ‘Slammerkin’ and thought it was excellent. I must find out for myself about ‘Room’.
      A bit of trivia that you may already know. Evgenia Citkowitz is the daughter of famous pianist Israel Citkowitz and novelist Caroline Blackwood. Her stepfather was poet Robert Lowell.

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      • What strange timing — literally moments before dropping in here I ordered (for my wife) Ivana Lowell’s A Memoir — she being another daughter of Caroline Blackwood. Thanks for pointing out the Citkowitz relationship — it makes me look forward to the stories even more.

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  4. Posted by Kelly S on December 12, 2010 at 11:41 PM

    Thanks – Handy list! I’ll have to bookmark this.

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  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AnokaTony, AnokaTony. AnokaTony said: Top Ten List of Fiction – Tony's Book World http://bit.ly/gYPgFq […]

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  6. I have only read two of the books (but three of the authors) on your top 10 list: Summertime and Freedom. I know Summertime will make my own list, Freedom will not.

    Those are the books I know. I am intrigued by the Citkowitz and the Egan is a must. You introduced me to Dawn Powell and MJ Hyland this year, both of which will turn into long-term friendships, so I am going to follow your lead with these.

    And I like that De Beauvoir and Camus both made your pre-2000 list. Two of my favorites of my favorites.

    Great lists!

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    • Hi Kerry,
      Happy to see you read the pre-2000 list. I just didn’t want these in the same list as the newer books, but the listings in the pre-2000 list are just as valid as the post-2000. Up until ‘Summertime’, I wasn’t a big fan of Coetzee, but that book impressed me enough so I will soon be reading more of his recent work.

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  7. I have read Memory Wall (fascinating) and Summertime (interesting) and I am halfway through Trespass (mind blowing). It was going to be hard to top room on my best Booker reads of this year and I think Trespass has done it. I am very interested in Ether.

    Stumbled onto your blog and very glad to have done so.

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    • Hi pburt,
      I’m happy to see you are liking “Trespass” so well, as that book seems to be underrated so far. I was a big fan of Rose Tremain, then a couple of her books “The Colour” and “The Music of Silence” didn’t work for me, but “Trespass” was a delight.

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  8. […] Like A wolf led me to Tony’s Top ten list which led me to Ether: Seven Stories and a Novella by Evgenia Citkowitz. Citkowitz is the daughter […]

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  9. A bit late Tony as last week was a helluva week for me with Xmas dos every day. This week is a little quieter. I will do my Top Ten next week I think – but none of yours will be on it! That’s probably because I haven’t read any of them! I will be reading Freedom next month; I do have Coetzee on the TBR pile; and I did read a different Hyland this year (which will probably be on my list). I like your idea of separating out this century. Makes a lot of sense and I might do it myself (if you haven’t patented the idea!)

    I have read The fall and The harp in the south in other years and concur that they are great reads. Should reread all my Camus’ books I think.

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  10. Hi WhisperingGums,
    I haven’t patented my idea, and you have my blessing to use the idea for your list, only if you want to. I will be looking forward to your Top Ten list especially since it won’t be containing any books from my list.

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  11. I’ve read two from your list: Carry Me Down (an excellent, but highly disturbing story) and The Imperfectionists (a quirky look at the people who work on a newspaper in Rome). I have a copy of the Tremain in my TBR – I loved her Music & Silence but was less enamoured of her Orange prize winner, the name of which escapes me now!

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    • Hi Kimbofo,
      Must say that Tremain’s ‘Trespass’ is becoming a ’cause’ with me as I believe it should have been at least short-listed.

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  12. Great list. I read The Imperfectionists and Freedom and won’t read the Coetzee for reasons outlined on my blog! I think I am going to have to dive into Tremain though. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  13. One more thing, is your list ordered in any significant way… Ie. Is number 1 indeed your top book for 2010?

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  14. Hi Justine,
    Yes, this year my list is ordered as it felt right to rank the books this year. Other years, not so. So ‘The Imperfectionists’ is two centimeters better than ‘Ether’ and so on.
    I read your reasons for not reading Coetzee, and I'[ve definitely felt that way with some authors, that their early work far outshone their current work. I have read some early Coetzee and wasn’t that excited about his work. I continued to read a few of his books never getting enthusiastic. Actually I had to overcome a lot of my own resistance to read ‘Summertime’, and finally I really enjoyred a Coetzee work.

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    • I’m a big Coetzee fan – though the first of his I read was Disgrace, and I’ve only read two more I think, Elizabeth Costello and Diary of a bad year. I like the way he, in these last two, pushes the boundaries of fiction/novels. They are not necessarily easy reads but they are ones that make you think. I like an author who can do that. I have Summertime here – plus I think Youth – but haven’t managed to get to them yet.

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  15. I will have to go back and read your review of The Imperfectionists because it didn’t strike me as particularly noteworthy… Perhaps I need to reconsider!

    I think that my love for Coetzee’s early work really comes from having done some close study of him at school. We did The Life and Times of Michael K and I thought it was brilliant, but then, I did read it a million times. I read all of his other early work in the context of that love.

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    • Hi Justine,
      Yes, I see your point about “The Imperfectionists”. It is an extremely likeable book, but not all that deep. Maybe next year there will be a book that is both likeable and deep. What usually happens anyway is that the best book of the year will be discovered a long time later, and it will be one that was ignored up until then.

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  16. Funny how these things work. Yes, The Imperfectionists was most readable but not that deep, although I did like the characterisation.

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  17. […] the cast of characters overlaps — Mrs. KfC highly recommends both. At about the same time, Tony’s Book World included Ether, a debut story collection by Evgenia Citkowitz, on his year-end top ten list. A […]

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  18. Interesting list. *makes mental note to pick up a few of those titles I have long been putting off*

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