Winter-time always brings out the reader in me – rainy Sunday afternoons spent curled up with a good novel are total perfection.  And I just finished up a goody – The Poisonwood Bible is my book club’s January pick, and I will be giving this one a very solid rating, starting out the year on a hard-to-top high note.  If not for last quarter of the book, where the story-line seemed to move away from the family of main characters and more toward what seemed like the author’s political agenda, I would have loved it even more.  Still, underlying agenda or no, it’s a really, really good read, about a missionary family that goes to live in Congo, and must come to terms with what life looks like when the comforts and ideals of a typical American life are stripped away.  The characters are all fictional, but the political turmoil that serves as a backdrop is real, and I love when a made-up story can still give me a general understanding of real-life cultural practices and historical events.

And now that I’m ‘between books’, if only for a few hours, I’ve been spending some time going back over the list of what I read last year, making note of the books I especially loved, and the working on my list of want-to-read’s for 2011.  My top three of 2010:

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.  As with The Poisonwood Bible, I appreciated the chance to learn about another culture’s history and traditions through totally enthralling fictional characters.  Book-wise, that’s a win-win.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.  Not at all educational, or life-changing, but still really, really fun.  Plus, this book invokes memories of the hours I spent reading it on a beach in Mexico.  Bonus.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  I loved this book, but have yet to find anyone that enjoyed it even half as much as I did – it’s become a point of contention with some of my most trusted book-recommenders.  I wish I could articulate clearly what it was about this novel that struck such a cord with me, but I can’t put my finger on it…  And I don’t have to justify or defend my solid two-thumbs-up, so I won’t – I’ll just say that this is one of those rare books that I finished with the wish that there was more of it.

And a few books on my to-read list for 2011:

Books 4, 5, 6, and 7 of Harry Potter.  I powered through the first three toward the end of last year, then got distracted with something else. Admittedly, I don’t love them quite as much as I’d hoped, but I still look forward to reading the rest of the series.  It will be nice to not have to silence people whenever they start to talk about Harry Potter, since I’ve made it this far without knowing what happens at the end.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  I bought this book several years ago, and all 1,400 pages of it taunt me every time I peruse my bookshelf for something new to read.  Yes, the size of it is daunting, but I’m ready.  And hoping it will make my next visit to Place des Vosges (one of my favorite squares in Paris, bordered in one corner by Victor Hugo’s lovely old mansion) that much more special.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  ‘Cause I heard these books are fantastic and impossible to put down, and I might need a page-turner by the time I make it though Les Mis