This isn’t a comprehensive list or a ranked one. It is just the five books I read in 2010 that I was the most moved by, think about most often and will likely return to again and again. I didn’t set out to list books published in 2010, but all of them, with one exception, were. I’m fighting the urge to list ten–I read so much wonderful work this year–but am going to stick to five.

(Now I’m thinking about how this is also the end of the decade; what would it be like to list the best books I read in the last ten years?! Off the top of my head, in terms of “life-changing”: the queer theory text that shaped my end-of-college career The Mismeasure of Desire by Ed Stein, the book that contains what’s probably the most affecting writing I’ve ever encountered, The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard, and the first book I came across that seemed like the embodiment of the kind of short stories I aspired to write, Self-Help by Lorrie Moore. To do real justice to a list like that would probably take longer than I care to spend, though, so I’ll let this parenthetical stand and go for my short list from 2010.)

Please leave your favorite, or favorites, in the comments!

1. Room by Emma Donoghue

I just finished this book and then immediately gave it away so I am afraid I probably won’t write a full blog post about it. It’s been on many “best of” lists and for good reason. Narrated by a five year old boy, it’s more sophisticated, heart-wrenching and engaging than you can possibly imagine until you’ve read it. Why give away plot? I read it between the hours of 8am and 1pm two Saturdays ago. All you need is a few hours and you’ll know why it’s so good.

2. Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong

3. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

4. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

5. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich