Since 1997, when I made a long commute bearable by reading, I've been keeping a list of every book I read. Before then, when people asked me if I'd read any good books lately, I could assure them that I had--but I had no idea what they were. Now I can prime myself before attending social functions where that question might come up. I decided it would be fun to look at my lists for this decade and choose a favorite novel and nonfiction book for each year.
I quickly realized I could not limit myself to two excellent books a year, so I decided to allow two in each category. The criteria: I had to remember what they were about (not so easy: I was amazed at how many titles I did not remember at all). They had to be interesting--no moral uplift or literary elegance unless I truly liked the books. And they had to stand alone: I did not include books that are part of series. That seriously narrowed the field, because I cheerfully read almost everything some authors write. So before listing my highly idiosyncratic Top 40 of the last decade, I'll list the series authors that give a more accurate picture of my reading habits. This list is arranged alphabetically. I have no idea what my order of preference would be.
- BarbaraNeely. Blanche White, a cleaning lady from Roxbury, is a gutsy original. And yes, that's how the author writes her name.
- Connelly, Michael. Reporter Jack McEvoy, FBI agent Rachel Walling, and policeman Harry Bosch keep getting themselves almost killed.
- Frazer, Margaret. 15th-century nun Dame Frevisse fights original sin (my Books and Culture review is here).
- Grafton, Sue. California investigator Kinsey Milhone gets tough.
- James, P.D. Poet-detective Adam Dalgliesh, with DI Kate Miskin, fights mayhem in Britain.
- King, Laurie R. In one series, policewoman Kate Martinelli keeps Northern California safe; in another, Mary Russell assists the aging Sherlock Holmes. King has also written several stand-alone books.
- Langton, Jane. Homer and Mary Kelly solve crimes in New England, Venice, or wherever they happen to be.
- McCall Smith, Alexander. Many series and several stand-alones: Begin with The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency and keep reading. This year's La's Orchestra Saves the World, a World War II story, is a switch. (My review is here.)
- Rowling, J.K. Seven Harry Potter books in print and on CD, six movies so far--and since I have to read/hear/see all of them multiple times, Ms. Rowling has kept me busy for an entire decade.
- Sansom, C.J. Hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake fights evil in Tudor England--which keeps him busy for four books covering only six years. Since plenty of evil remained after 1543, we can hope more books are coming.