The ten best books I read this year. (I will never be able to do a true ten-best-of-the-year list for reading because I rarely read contemporary novels, or at least I rarely read books right after they are published.)
10. True Grit by Charles Portis (1968)A great mix of folksy comedy and violent revenge. A much better book than the John Wayne movie. FYI, this will be the next Coen Brothers film and I'll eat my hat if it's not great--reading the book was like reading one of their screenplays.
9. Books by Larry McMurtry (2008)A memoir about being in the used-book business. Full of funny anecdotes and ultimately, oddly touching, as though Larry McMurtry was using this quirky memoir to assess his own worth.
8. When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson (2008)Another great crime novel starring Jackson Brodie. Terrifying and humorous at the same time.
7. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (2003)Hokey fun and real page-turner. Can't wait to see what Scorsese comes up with in the film version.
6. Barrier Island by John D. MacDonald (1986)This might have been my favorite read of the year if I hadn't read this year's number one. This was MacDonald's last published book and it's just about as good as anything he wrote.
5. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (2007)A short novel and the saddest book I've read in years. The final few pages were devastating.
4. Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym (1977)Barbara Pym's bleakest novel by far but still filled with humor and hope. This one chronicles four old and lonely Londoners losing their connections with the world.
3. Last Summer by Evan Hunter (1969)Absolutely chilling novel about youth and cruelty. Not for the faint-hearted but an amazing book.
2. The Game, Set, Match Trilogy by Len Deighton (1980s)Amazing cold war espionage novels built around witty dialogue and nuanced touches. Like John leCarre without the pretentiousness.
1. A Flash of Green by John D. MacDonald (1962)The best book I've read by my favorite American crime writer. This one focuses on a corrupt land deal (one of MacDonald's favorite topics) and it is as suspenseful as anything Chandler wrote and as well-written as anything Updike ever did.