We've a bit behind with our list of 2010 favorites. You can't be too sure you won't spend New Year's Eve or Day reading the best book of the year. (Actually, we spent the day reading the first great book of 2011, Mark Richard's House of Prayer No. 2, due in February, with a reading here 2/24, but we'll tell you more about that soon.)
An informal poll of the Turnrow staff has selected a clear consensual favorite among 2010 books — Citrus County by John Brandon. We're not terribly intrigued by teen angst these days, but this unlikely favorite about troubled eighth graders and their half-cracked teacher possesses a rare and wonderful sophistication in tone and character. Deceptively simple and straight-forward, the novel had a slow-burn effect on its admirers, requiring discussion or a second reading to sort out its subtle mysteries. Unlike last year's favorite, The Missing by Tim Gautreaux, Citrus County hasn't proved to be as widely popular among diverse reading tastes, but readers with a penchant for more off-kilter fiction have admired this second novel by a promising author, currently teaching at the University of Mississippi.
There were a number of other favorite 2010 titles here at Turnrow.
Kelly read plenty of good fiction this year, and was especially enamored with Sunset Park by Paul Auster, Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives by Brad Watson, and What is Left the Daughter by Howard Norman.
Tad was taken with two satires, Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story, a romantic comedy set in the not-too-distant future ("right on target with how things are going"), and The Frozen Rabbi by Steve Stern, an epic comedy about a Jewish mystic frozen in a pond in the late 1800s, passed down through families until a modern-day teen finds him thawed in a Memphis suburb.
Jamie loved The Fall of the House of Zeus by Mississippi journalist Curtis Wilkie, which was also our best-selling title of the fall and probably our customer favorite of 2010, and The Year of Our Lord, an underdog by T.R. Pearson and Langdon Clay, one of the most surprising and unique inspirational stories that also somehow captures the peculiar charm of Mississippi.
Becky, our diligent reader of young adult literature, singled out Countdown by Turnrow favorite and frequent blog commenter Deborah Wiles. (No bias to report, we just have a mutual admiration for each other's work.)
Ben demonstrated his singular reading tastes by sending many a customer home with two of his favorites, The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender and Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel. These books flummoxed certain readers while delighting others.
Martel's novel was second runner-up for staff favorite, and divided readers both locally and in the wider reading community. This unusual novel by the author of Life of Pi earned plenty of harsh feedback from book critics — and, to be fair, plenty of praise — and so enthralled us that we decided to reboot the Turnrow Backporch Book Club to give readers a chance to discuss its many unconventional and controversial qualities. Readers were divided but passionate, and we can't wait until Yann Martel visits Turnrow on March 10 to speak about the book with its devoted fans and detractors.
The second most controversial book of the year was Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross, which divided not only local readers but the staff as well. This heady mystery, pivoting on a complex structure inspired by the artist M.C. Escher, wasn't suited for just any mystery lover in search of a simple crackerjack plot. One thing that we could all agree on: Ross' provocative reading from the book will go down as one of the most memorable in Turnrow history.
Some other favorites worth noting:
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (signed first editions), The Passage by Justin Cronin, The Eden Hunter by Skip Horack, Walking to Gatlinburg by Howard Frank Mosher, The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, Room by Emma Donoghue, Faithful Place by Tana French, and the year's funniest book, Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern.