This is not a “best of 2010″ list, because I don’t take careful notes about what I read, and I often read older books. But here are a few books I’ve read recently that I recommend:
- The Avengers, by Rich Cohen. Cohen is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read and enjoyed Israel is Real and Sweet and Low. But nothing prepared me for The Avengers, the story of some of Cohen’s relatives who were Jewish resistance fighters during World War II. The story is amazing and heart breaking and inspiring. I read Israel is Real before The Avengers, but I strongly suggest they be read in the reverse order (which is the order they were published in). Together they provide a deeply personal, compelling story that opens a unique window on Israel and Israeli politics.
- Dead Sea, by Brian Keene. An action-packed, fantastically bleak zombie novel. If you liked World War Z and haven’t yet read more widely in zombie fiction, Dead Sea is a great next step. It’s the story of one man and two children who are trying to survive a zombie apocalypse, and is by far the most pessimistic zombie story I have ever encountered, in print or film. It’s also creative, something that cannot often be said about books in this genre.
- Mark of the Lion, by Suzanne Arruda. This is the first book in a series that features Jade del Cameron, an ex-ambulance driver fresh from the front lines of the Great War who has run away to British East Africa. She’s a magazine writer and photographer on assignment, and seems to encounter — and confront and solve — murderous crimes where ever she goes. The author has done a really nice job of presenting the scenery and people of the period and place in a way that feels true, and Jade is an amazing character. People who know my reading habits know that lengthy descriptions annoy me, but I savored Arruda’s writing and appreciated her beautiful depictions of Africa. You can tell that it’s a place she really loves. I’m reading the second book now, and so far it is as good as the first one, although I’m withholding judgment until I get to the end. The “strong female hero who solves the crime by nearly becoming a victim” cliche is so easy for this genre to fall into (I’m looking at you Kinsey Millhone and Stephanie Plum).