Pay heed to the tales of old wives. It may well be that they alone keep in memory what it was once needful for the wise to know.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
The 2010s have been a formative year for me as a reader. I’ve always loved books but I haven’t always been a reader. It wasn’t until I graduated from high school and was able to choose the books I wanted to read that I truly became a voracious reader. Then in 2011, I got a part-time job at my local library. Through that job, I discovered new authors, new series, and even genres I’d never really considered before. I also met many book lovers like myself. One of those booklovers, a fellow librarian, introduced me to Goodreads.com and even though I had to leave the job when life intervened, I continued to make discoveries. In 2015 I started this blog for a couple of reasons but mainly because I missed sharing my passion for good books with the patrons and librarians at work. It has been a joy share the ups and downs of the reader’s life. As the decade comes to a close, I thought I’d take the time to review some of the best and most important books I’ve read over the past 10 years. I’ve tried to narrow it down, but I’ve read a lot of great books during the decade so bear with me.
Romance: Sometimes you just need the comfort and escape of the modern fairytale quality of a good Rom/Com. I discovered, however, that not all books that can be categorized as Romance fit into the mold of that stereotype.
Historical Fiction: I love learning about history and while I understand that Historical Fiction takes liberties with the facts, it is a gateway to learning the true stories behind the fictionalized versions. And who doesn’t love being transported to another place and time?
Fantasy: Of all of the genres I read, this is the one about which my feelings have changed the most. As a child, while I loved a good fairytale story, I tended to gravitate toward the wit and realism of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby series and then the young adult fiction of Judy Blume where the characters and their situations were recognizable. Then came Harry Potter. Ever since reading that seminal series, I’ve been searching for more Fantasy fiction that captivates me as Harry’s world did.
Children’s Literature: It’s okay to look back when it comes to reading. Whether it’s revisiting an old favorite or discovering a classic I’d missed when I was younger, there is nothing to warm the soul like reading a good children’s story.
Western: Since reading Lonesome Dove in college, I’ve been on the lookout for another as transporting as that classic. Plus, when I find a good one, I get to share it with my father and sharing a good book is always fun.
Mystery/Thriller: Mystery is another genre I don’t read too much of though I do enjoy the occasional cozy mystery, particularly one set in Britain. There are a few exceptions though. I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan.
Chick-Lit: This is another genre that gets a bad rap but it is my favorite genre so it hurts when people put it down based a few crappy wannabe Chick-Lit novels. I know about those; I’ve read more than my fair share of them.
Women’s Fiction: Women’s Fiction, to me, is basically the Judy Blume books I loved as a teen all grown up, dealing with issues that all women face from the mundane to the extraordinary.
Fiction: Some books just don’t fit into the mold of any one genre but I had to mention them.
Classic Literature: These are the books that have endured in our hearts and minds for generations and make their way onto every must-read list ever compiled.
What makes an unforgettable character? A hero you want to root for? A villain you love to hate? If I knew those answers, I’d probably be a better writer than I am. All I know is that there are some characters that have, for one reason or another, stayed with me since I met them. Some are like friends I visit often for some comfort and a good laugh, some just seem like they’d be fun to hang out with, some become book boyfriendsJ, and some are so wonderfully bad that I love to hate them. Now that I’ve added Soulless’s Alexia Tarabotti to my list of favorite characters – yes, I have a list, doesn’t everyone? – I thought I would introduce you to a few of my other favorites:
Yes, he’s brilliant and solves impossible cases but what I like most about Sherlock is his snark. In the books, he is excellent at insulting people without them realizing it. And, most of the time, he only insults the characters that deserve it. He’s actually pretty nice (by his standards) to the good people in the stories. He just has an awesome bulls**t detector.
My favorite Ramona book is Ramona the Pest when she’s in kindergarten. She chases a boy, pulls a classmate’s bouncy curls, draws her Qs into little cats, and gets into all sorts of scrapes at school and home. As a shy quiet child, I wanted to be Ramona.
I would’ve loved you, Sydney!
The mention of Mr. Darcy brings me to the subject of book boyfriends. Mr. Darcy is definitely on that list as are a few other Austen heroes. Mr. Tilney from Northanger Abbey runs a close second to Mr. Darcy thanks to his delightful sense of humor and Persuasion’s Captain Wentworth is a favorite because of the incredibly romantic declaration of his love for Anne (swoon!). There are some fantastic fictional men not penned by Miss Austen. If you’re looking for a good man, try Levi from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Colin Byrne from Ain’t She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (he has kind of a Sherlock Holmes meets Mr. Darcy thing going on), Hugh of Harrowfield (also known as Red) from Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, Matthew Clairmont from Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy (or Gallowglass if you prefer your vampires a little rougher around the edges, or everyone’s current favorite Scotsman, Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. There have been so many more literary men in my life; these are just a few of my favorites.
There are so many unforgettable characters out there, whether they are noble heroes, wicked villains, or scene-stealing secondary characters, that I can’t possibly go into detail about them all. Here are a few of my Honorable Mentions:
As you’ve probably guessed, I could go on and on but for now, I’ve gone on and on long enough. These are just a few of the memorable characters I’ve encountered in my lifetime of reading. Who are your favorite characters?