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What we read in 2010

From classic Kerouac to cantankerous Olive Kitteridge, New-Sentinel staff share their favorite books from the past year

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"Here's Johnny!" By Ed McMahon

"The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen

"The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream" by H.W. Brands

"Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal" by Christopher Moore

"Quicksilver: The Baroque Cycle #1" by Neal Stephenson

"Bastard Out of Carolina" by Dorothy Allison

"The Town and the City" by Jack Kerouac

"Olive Kitterridge" by Elizabeth Strout

"Bright Day" by J.B. Priestley

"A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table" by Molly Wizenberg

Posted: Thursday, December 23, 2010 8:49 am

“Here’s Johnny” by Ed McMahon.

This is for people who enjoyed Johnny Carson’s television career, written by his sidekick, Ed McMahon, who probably knew the inner Carson better than anyone else.

— Ross Farrow, county reporter/religion editor

“The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen

Yet another look at an all-too-real family, like Kerouac’s “Town,” but with a modern edge. Franzen creates personas that everyone, and I do mean everyone, can identify with in some way or another. I found myself wanting each person to have a happy life, but realizing that even in “happiness,” these folks were doomed to be miserable.

— Marc Lutz, technical designer

“The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream” by H.W. Brands

Combines personal (through letters) with historical accounts of the causes and events that led up to and through the California Gold Rush. The vivid writing brings our state’s past alive like no history book has.

— Marc Lutz

“Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” by Christopher Moore

The life of Christ is told in a humorous, often touching and all-too-human approach in this retelling by Moore. Even though you know how the story ends, it’s even more heart-wrenching.

— Marc Lutz

“Quicksilver: The Baroque Cycle #1” by Neal Stephenson

This capstone-sized tome (near 1,000 pages) is the first in a trilogy that fires the imagination with a mix of history, adventure, invention, romance and the evolution of thought by following an amazing list of characters, both fictional and real.

— Marc Lutz

“Bastard Out of Carolina” by Dorothy Allison

A young girl tries to find her way in life branded as a bastard, while seeking her mother’s love and tortured by an abusive step-father. The lyrical quality of Allison’s writing and gritty, true-life depictions of the lead characters will absorb your attention.

— Marc Lutz

“The Town and the City” by Jack Kerouac

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite book by Kerouac, but “The Town and the City” comes awful close to winning that title. It follows the life of the Martin clan from the moment George and Marguerite marry, through their children’s lives and the inevitable conclusion. Kerouac’s first novel is lovingly crafted and a belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who loves great literature.

— Marc Lutz

“Olive Kitterridge” by Elizabeth Strout

It’s difficult for me to say why a book with a main character as cantankerous as Olive Kitteridge is so much fun. It must be because the book slowly reveals Olive’s soft, caring side, and perhaps because the author creates another character unusual in today’s fiction — an understanding and loving husband. Also odd about this book — it’s a series of short stories but they all involve the main character, Olive. This book is both funny and philosophical.

— Marty Weybret, publisher

“Bright Day” by J. B. Priestly

I’m a sucker for English authors and stories set in England. Priestly is much more modern and subtle than Dickens, say, but this is a coming of age story where a poor, provincial lad grows up to become a soldier and a Hollywood script writer. And then he becomes more than that. Those who are angry at ’60s-era socialists might be disappointed, but the characters are intriguing and the coincidences at the end don’t hurt the story a whit. The book is out of print, but used copies are still available on Amazon and therefore through Tom’s Used Books.

— Marty Weybret

“A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table” by Molly Wizenberg

I read this book during a weekend of camping and have been hooked on food and cooking memoirs since. Wizenberg recounts her life — from first loves to her father’s death — through experiences of food and the emotions surrounding the dishes and time. Each chapter includes at least one recipe you will swear to make. 

— Lauren Nelson, Lodi Living Editor

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