Books  |  Dec 19, 2010

Best Books of the Year 2010

The 2010 Best Books of the Year lists have been published and critics, writers and public figures have all had their say about their favourite titles of the past twelve months…

Howard Jacobson - The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury)
Journalist and broadcaster Rosie Boycott has called Howard Jacobson's Booker-prize wining The Finkler Question “a novel of enormous scope, humour and intelligence”: a “deserved Booker winner.” Hailed as the first comic novel in the 42-year history of the prize, Boyd Tonkin, writing for The Independent says, “Jacobson's answer to the dismissal of comedy in fiction has been to prove that the wrenching humour of his characters doesn't stand against their reflection on time, memory and loss; it stems entirely from it.” Praising Jacobson’s originality, The Independent’s Katy Guest wrote, “a touching and sardonic analysis of maleness, Jewishness, friendship and grief, this short novel has more warmth and wit than any number of doorstop-writing contemporaries who are effortfully trying to squeeze out the Great American Novel.” Ultimately, says David Robson, The Finkler Question is “quintessential Howard Jacobson, funny, subtle, provocative and quietly moving.”

David NichollsOne Day (Hodder)
David Nicholls’ Galaxy Book Award-winning novel has won fans across the globe this year, including Jilly Cooper, who writes, “I adored One Day… An exquisitely written love story, it describes the passionate attraction yet reluctance to commit of two opposites.”

Antonia FraserMust You Go? (Weidenfeld)
Ian Rankin writes, “Must You Go? is Antonia Fraser's story of her life with Harold Pinter, presented in the form of her diary entries. Great figures from recent (literary) history flit though its pages, but what really engages is the sense of life and love intertwining.”

David MitchellThe Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Sceptre)
Director Richard Eyre wrote in the Guardian that the novel was “as enjoyable as a Patrick O'Brian novel and much better written. It’s a brilliantly imagined journey through 17th-century Japan and Holland which is moving, thoughtful and unexpectedly funny.” Rosie Boycott found it “absorbing and compelling.... (an) astonishing and inventive writer who just keeps getting better.” According to Boyd Tonkin, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a “pitch-perfect masterclass in the art, and the magic, of narrative.” 


John le CarréOur Kind of Traitor (Viking)
The Independent’s Boyd Tonkin writes, "Our Kind of Traitor is, strictly speaking, espionage, but features a marvellously drawn master criminal…This richly rewarding novel is a reminder of what a national treasure we have in him.”

Nelson MandelaConversations with Myself (Macmillan)
Political commentator Andrew Rawnsley recommends Conversations with Myself: “For a memoir that is unflinchingly candid about both the personal and the political, intensely moving about his tribulations and triumphs, awesomely lacking in vanity and suffused with insight.”

Bret Easton EllisImperial Bedrooms (Picador)
Bret Easton Ellis’ latest novel follows the sordid lives of those in the Los Angeles film scene. Hari Kunzru hails Imperial Bedrooms as “a dissection of the moral wasteland of LA that deserves comparison with Nathanael West.”

Jojo Moyes - The Last Letter from Your Lover (Hodder & Stoughton)
In the world of chick lit, Jojo Moyes' latest novel really stood out, with News of the World praising it as "a peek of love through poignant letters ending relationships".

Eva IbbotsonThe Ogre of Oglefort (Macmillan)
The late and much missed Eva Ibbotson’s last novel is, according to Boyd Tonkin, “another sure-fire hit…Written when she was over 80, it still radiates youthful energy.”

Matthew SyedBounce: How Champions Are Made (Fourth Estate)
Matthew Syed, the table-tennis international turned journalist, “stakes his claim as sporting literature’s Malcolm Gladwell” in Bounce: How Champions Are Made, which was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. In Gladwell’s Outliers, says Boyd Tonkin, “the New Yorker writer examined the factors that contribute to high-level achievement, and Syed takes that strategy and runs with it. God-given talent is a myth and genius a construct, it appears. If we start early enough and work hard enough, we can all be heroes.”

Patrick BarkhamThe Butterfly Isles (Granta)
The nation's favourite bugs – butterflies – take the lead role in The Butterfly Isles, says Boyd Tonkin. Patrick Barkham “goes in search of all 59 native British butterflies in a year but rediscovers plenty more besides, not least ‘the talent we all have as children for observing and taking pleasure in the marvel of small things’.” As one of The Herald's 'Best Gardening Books', The Butterfly Isles is "charming, intimate and brimful of interesting facts and anecdotes," and according to the Sunday Times, Patrick Barkham "skilfully blends nature writing and memoir" in this "beguiling" new offering.  Claire Allfree for the Metro descibes it as a "delightful account of a year chasing butterflies."

Michael Scott MooreSweetness and Blood (Rodale)
Michael Scott Moore’s history of surfing traces how surfing has come to dominate the sports-scene worldwide. “With its risk-taking, expanses of taut flesh and sun-bleached hair, surfing has been the coolest sport for more than half a century,” claims The Economist, “but to be really good at it, you have to be a bit of a nerd.”