Top Ten titles for 2010

Philip Tew, Selection and Access Librarian, shares his top ten novels of 2010.

Peep show Joshua Braff
At first glance, the story of an American teenager whose family life is quite bizarre — his mother is a born-again adherent of Hasidic Judaism and his father runs a porn shop in Times Square. The result is a funny and likeable tale of a family dysfunctional in an original way.
CoverThe privileges Jonathan Dee
Another family, this one a super rich New York family who live in a world of trust funds, loads of money and charitable foundations. Beautifully written and a compulsive read, it gives you an insight into a world most of us never know.
CoverThe unnamed Joshua Ferris
It’s not as good as his first novel, Then we came to the end, a superb picture of office life, but it is clever and totally original in its story of a workaholic lawyer who has a strange compulsion to go on long walks, mostly till he collapses. It sounds bizarre — and some of it is — but it makes for a truly unique novel.
CoverMr Chartwell Rebecca Hunt
A one of a kind novel that runs close to being odd and/or cute. It follows a young woman depressed after her husband’s death and Winston Churchill after his resignation from parliament. Both are visited by a large black dog (the metaphor for depression) who won’t leave them alone. This is a first novel that manages to be quite touching and funny and droll at the same time.
Next James Hynes
A one of a kind novel about a middle aged American, unhappy with his career and floundering in his relationship with his girlfriend, deciding to fly off to a job interview in Austin, Texas. He becomes obsessed with the girl he sits next to on the plane and, killing time until the interview, follows her. The unease Americans face about terrorism post 9/11 leads to a shock climax, and what happens next to our everyman character is powerful and genuinely unexpected in the extreme.
CoverSettlers’ Creek Carl Nixon
My biggest disappointment of the year is that this excellent local novel didn’t get the raves it should have. His story, about the suicide of a teenage boy and how it affects his Pakeha stepfather, especially after the boy’s Maori father takes the body to ancestral land. The issues of the land and our connection to it are the strong focus of the novel and it’s handled beautifully.
Model home Eric Puchner
The story of a husband and father who moves his family into a gated community in California, hoping to make his fortune in real estate there. Everything turns to custard and what could be depressing is handled so well as the family moves apart and then comes together again in a novel that is touching, funny and spot on about family relationships and the pursuit of the American dream.
CoverNemesis Philip Roth
This is Roth’s 31st book and he may be 74 but he shows no signs of flagging and is at the top of his game. This novel focuses on a polio epidemic that hits Newark in 1944 and devastates the strong Jewish community. His main character, a young counsellor who is plagued by guilt and unable to recognise his own heroism because of it, is beautifully drawn.
Mr Rosenblum’s list Natasha Solomons
A delightful story of a Jewish couple who move to England. Mr Rosenblum wants to assimilate and tries his hardest to become an Englishman. They are condescended to by the local gentry but he soldiers on with his desire for acceptance. Things eventually turn out well for them in this charming, funny and touching tale.
CoverThis is where I leave you Jonathan Tropper
A very funny and pretty raunchy comedy about a man whose marriage is collapsing and whose father has died. Although the family are not particularly orthodox, his mother decides they will come together to sit shiva for a week for her late husband. Lots of dirty laundry is revealed and some of it is very funny even if the situations aren’t.