Top Ten Books of 2010

This was a great year for reading.  I don’t know how many books I blazed through this year, but I know it was a lot.  Of those I found the time to read, these are my favorites… 

1. The Caretaker of Lorne Field by Dave Zeltserman. Once in a great while, you find a book that makes you read it, that just forces you to keep turning pages until you’re finished. This is one of them.  Jack Durkin is the caretaker of Lorne Field. The town thinks he’s a crazy man who spends every day weeding the same field, but he insists the things he pulls out of the ground and burns are monsters that will destroy the world within weeks if he doesn’t take care of them first. Zeltserman keeps you guessing right up to the last page, wondering if Durkin is telling the truth or is stark raving mad. This is the one, folks. An amazing novel that will leave you breathless.

2. In the Mean Time by Paul Tremblay. Not many stories give me nightmares.  The last time it happened was almost ten years ago.  “The Teacher,” the first story in Tremblay’s latest collection, kept me awake two night straight, however.  That story is without a doubt the single most horrifying thing I’ve read.  The rest of the collection is full of Tremblay’s amazing prose and characterization.  Pick it up.  There’s no reason the name Tremblay shouldn’t be on everybody’s lips.

3. Occultation by Laird Barron. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… Laird Barron is the best writer working in horror today.  This book, his second collection, continues his string of amazing, at times Lovecraftian, stories.  This time, however, Laird relishes the chance to get in there and get nasty, churning your guts as he darkens your mind.  Stories like “The Broadsword” and “Catch Hell” are among the most harrowing you’ll ever find, rewarding your patience with a mounting sense of dread and a final dive headlong into horror.

4. Lesser Demons by Norman Partridge.  Norm is one of my favorites, and he never fails to deliver the goods.  The stories in his latest collection run the gamut from action-packed pulp to mind-scrambling Lovecraftian tales.  The main thing, though?  They’re fun.  Partridge writes fun stories like nobody’s business.  In this collection you’ll find giants, doppelgangers, demons, a man with a metal hand, and a house right out of a nightmare… and you’ll love every last bit of it.

5. A Dark Matter by Peter Straub.  As much about the power of stories as it is about the terrible events that transpired when a group of college kids followed a new age cult leader into a field for a mysterious ritual, Straub’s latest novel is a testament to his power with words.  Told a piece at a time by the people who survived who horrible event, A Dark Matter unfolds slowly, but the rewards are great for those who put in the hours.  More evidence that Straub is a master of his craft and the genre.

6. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.  Libby Day is cynical, hard, a kleptomaniac, and the only survivor of her brother’s rampage 24 years prior, a rampage that left her mother and sisters dead.  When she tries to sell family memoribilia in an attempt to make a fast buck, she gets drawn into a pseudo-investigation that points toward her brother being innocent.  Flynn writes another tighty-wrapped thriller that keeps you guessing right up until the end.  Much like her previous novel Sharp Objects, this book is simply wonderful.

7. Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand. This one’s a few years old, but I didn’t get around to it until recently.  When has-been photographer Cass Neary gets sent to a small, New England island to interview one of her idols, she stumbles into a mystery full of death, violence, and the kind of atmosphere that can only be called horror.  I love books that aren’t advertised as horror but end up being terifying, and this is one of the best.  Hand has an amazing grasp of character, and she can build tension like nobody’s business.

8. Shadow Season by Tom Piccirilli.  Piccirilli writes suspense with a skill few can even dream of having.  In this one, he tells the story of a blind teacher (and former cop) at an all-girls boarding school.  As mysterious violence erupts around him, endangering his students, the protagonist needs to figure out how the surrounding events tie into his past.  This one’s a thrill a minute, another book that just builds and builds until it feels like it’s going to explode.  And then it does.

9. The Deputy by Victor Gischler. Call it slacker noir.  A part time deputy is tasked with looking after a dead body, but soon the body disappears.  By the time the sun rises, a small town is soaked in blood, and our part time hero is in so far over his head he may never see the light of day.  Gischler blends crime and comedy to great effect, and he paints a portrait of a small town that’s twisted yet all too real.

10. Sparrow Rock by Nate Kenyon. The early eighties were a fun time, as horror writers with some literary training were churning out crowd-pleasers that were fun but not dumb. If there’s any writer working today who hits that sweet spot, it’s Nate Kenyon.  His latest, Sparrow Rock, tells the story of a group of high school friends who lock themselves in a bomb shelter when the world goes nuclear. Soon, things come looking for them, and the mixture of monsters and raging paranoia will set your nerves tingling.  The affordable paperback version was, sadly, a victim of Leisure’s collapse, but there are still copies of the signed limited available. 

5 thoughts on “Top Ten Books of 2010

  1. Sadly, the only one on this list I’ve read is Kenyon’s, but it was one of my favorites from this past year. Some great recommendations, including a couple already on my wish list.

    And while not in the horror realm, I tip my hat to Dan Simmons and his novel, Black Hills, which remains my favorite book of 2010.

  2. I desperately want to read Black Hills. I’m still so far behind that I haven’t read Drood, though. 🙁

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