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The Book Club Cheerleader’s Top 10 Book Club Books NOT of 2010 (Continued)

January 5, 2011

Long, Long Time Ago:

This next category on the “Not 2010” list features a favorite book club genre, Historical Fiction.

5) Someone Knows My Name, by Lawrence Hill, W. W. Norton & Company (November, 2007) This historical fiction account follows Aminata, an African native, who is kidnapped from her village, shipped across the Atlantic, and sold into slavery on the auction blocks of South Carolina. After escaping her master on a trip to New York, she helps Britain in its fight against The Colonials in the Revolutionary War, and is rewarded by allegedly being given land in a free black settlement in Nova Scotia. Brilliantly written, her story will grab you from the very first page, as it takes you from continent to continent—ever in a search for freedom.

“Someone” won the overall Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen Award and CBC Radio’s Canada Reads. The book was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright LEGACY Award and long-listed for both the Giller Prize and the IMPAC Award.

6) Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, by Geraldine Brooks, Penguin (April, 2002) Since falling in love with this author’s writing—I adored March (March 2005) but am absolutely obsessed with People of the Book (January, 2008)—I have had the goal of going back and reading all of her books, and this one did not disappoint. “Now how can reading about the plague be pleasurable?” you ask. And the answer must be, “When the story is in the capable hands of the masterful Ms. Brooks.” Set in 17th-century England, the plague is passed to a small village in Derbyshire. We witness the faith, courage and tenacity of young Anna Frith—an ordinary woman in extraordinary times.

March won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2006; “People” won the 2008 Australian Book of the Year Award and the 2008 Literary Fiction Book of the Year Award. “Wonders” was chosen as both a New York Times and Washington Post Notable Book. You can also check out some “People”  book club resources (games and reading helps) on

Superb Series:

The following books, although technically published in 2010, are part of a previously published series. So, even though I loved them, I felt I needed to give more original works the Top 10 honors, and excluded them. But, yes, I do still love them…

7) The Mapping of Love and Death, by Jacqueline Winspear, Harper (March, 2010) part of the Maisie Dobbs series, Soho (January, 2003) OK, true obsession confessions—I am not only obsessed with People of the Book, but also with the entire Maisie Dobbs series! In fact, I helped to choose Maisie Dobbs as my hometown’s One City One Book selection for 2010. This is the author’s seventh contribution to this literary mystery series and I am continually fascinated by the author’s ability to keep each plot fresh, and continue to develop the main characters.

Maisie Dobbs was a National Bestseller and received an array of accolades, including New York Times Notable Book 2003, a Publishers Weekly Top Ten Mystery 2003, and a BookSense Top Ten selection. In addition, the novel was nominated for 7 awards, including the Edgar for Best Novel. She subsequently won the prestigious Agatha Award for Best First novel, the Macavity Award for Best First Novel; and the Alex Award. The Mapping of Love and Death earned a Starred Review from the Library Journal. You can also find an entire “Book club in a Box” resource kit (games, maps, discussion questions) on

8 ) Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace Through Education in Afghanistan and Pakistan, by Greg Mortenson, Viking Adult (December, 2009) is a sequel to Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time Viking Penguin (March, 2006.) And “Stones” takes off where “Tea” left off—building schools—primarily for girls—in Afghanistan, and goes on to helping tiny communities get educated in Pakistan as well. An inspirational leader, Mortenson learned a bit from his missionary father about gaining ownership and commitment of locals by involving them in the decision-making, management and maintenance of institutions. After reading Three Cups of Tea, I thought, “What else can he write about?” I found out—a whole new chapter in his encouraging story! If you think all is lost in the Middle East—you must read both of these books. Oh yeah, Three Cups of Tea is now required reading at the pentagon. 

World War II:

Books about the ‘Greatest Generation’ hold a fascination for me. And although many book critics bemoan the plethora of WWII books on the market, I personally cannot get enough. Here are a couple of excellent ones I read this year…

9) The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak, Knopf Books for Young Readers (March, 2006) OK, this one was a re-read. But as it was selected for a book club I was facilitating, I had to completely re-read it taking copious notes—and I loved it even more the second time around! What can you say about a book narrated by Death? Perhaps, that it is one of my favorite books of all time! With the unusual narration, and a poor little German girl as the protagonist in a WWII story, I promise that this book will give you a different perspective on how the war affected the common people of Germany. Heartbreaking and optimistic at the same time, we fall in love with Liesel (the “book thief” of the title), her best friend, Rudy (with hair “the color of lemons”), Max (the Jewish man hiding in their basement), her step-father (the accordion-playing house painter) and eventually, even her gruff foster mother. Who could not love a book about the love of books—stolen or not? Don’t pay attention to the fact that it was written as a Young Adult novel. This is a book for all adults in the human race.

Thief  has won the 2006 Kathleen Mitchell Award for literature, the 2007 Michael L. Printz Honor book award, and the 2008 IBBY Australia Ena Noël Encouragement Award—in addition to hearts around the world.

10) Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford Ballantine Books (January, 2009.) OK, what’s not to love about Jamie Ford’s freshman novel? It’s Historical Fiction (a favorite genre of mine)—it has a great sense of place (WWII Seattle jazz scene)—it deals with ordinary people during extraordinary times (making it very discussable for book clubs)—and at its core, it’s just an old-fashioned love story. How could it miss? It also doesn’t hurt that this is my hometown’s One City, One Book for 2011. So mark your calendars for April 7, and join us in Woodland, CA! Oh yeah, and the author’s as sweet as the book—check out my blog on about meeting Mr. Ford last January.

Hotel has won numerous awards including 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature; 2010 Washington State Book Award Finalist; 2009 Montana Book Award; 2009 Borders Original Voices Selection; 2009 Director’s Mention, Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction; 2009 BookBrowse Favorite Book Award Runner Up; and 2009 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction.

I hope you discovered some new books for yourself and your book club today. I’d also love to hear about the great “NOT 2010” books YOU read this past year! So please drop me a line. And don’t forget to join us tomorrow for The Book Club Cheerleader’s Top 10 TBR Books at the End of 2010.




2 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan Johnson permalink
    January 5, 2011 12:58 pm

    I loved your review. I have not read that Geraldine Brooks novel but I will. I love “People of the Book”. We read it for Book Club and loved it.
    My book club and I love the Maisie Dobbs series. We didn’t read them as a selection but share them all the same.
    I have found a new series by Ann Cleves that is terrific. It’s set in the Shetland Islands in Scotland. The books really bring the island living to life.

    • January 5, 2011 4:50 pm

      Susan: It seems we have similar book lust! I’ll have to check out the Ann Cleves series–thanks for the tip! BCC

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