Required Reading: 5 Fiction Faves from the First Half of 2010

We’re halfway through 2010 — can you believe it? It seems like just yesterday we were waking up with a New Year’s Day hangover. Of course, since the year began, we’ve been consuming media like mad. We’ve already covered some of the best albums that have been released so far; now, to keep you up to speed, we present five must-read fiction favorites from the first half of 2010. These are in arbitrary order, but all equally essential.

1. Light Boxes by Shane Jones

Light Boxes was originally self-published, which is the kiss of death for 98% of novels. Fortunately, Penguin Books plucked up this precious tale and gave it the audience it deserves. Jones’ fable of war and winter in a town overtaken by the harsh chill of the demon February is a lush, haunting bedtime story for adults.

2. The Passage by Justin Cronin

It’s not often that a book with ads on the subway, cover prints all over bus stop shelters, and billboards a-plenty is actually worth your time, but with The Passage, at least, Random House knows what’s up. Cronin’s international mega-hit is set to skyrocket in a similar fashion to that book you may have heard of about that girl with that certain tattoo, and it’s easy to see why: The Passage finally (finally!) lets adults in on the vampire-genre fun. No stupid sparkling asexual teenagers here, but rather a compelling, horrific story about a world turned post-apocalyptic as a result of a vampire virus.

3. The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel

The Singer’s Gun, the second novel in two years by rising indie author-celeb Emily St. John Mandel, is so subtle in the ways it weaves its intricate plot that it may take several readings to catch every thread. Mandel has written a thriller, a mystery, a romance, and a socially-conscious wake-up call that basically forces you to turn its pages to the end. Where her prose in Last Night In Montreal was flowery and constructed, The Singer’s Gun is composed of tight sentences and a bone-hard voice that do her characters justice.

4. The Colony by Jillian Weise

Jillian Weise’s book of poetry, The Amputee’s Guide To Sex, was stunning, romantic, and heartbreaking. Its crystal-clear vision could only hint at The Colony, her follow-up novel. In the near future, narrator Anne Hatley, born with a genetic mutation that stunted her bone growth and left her with one leg, joins a Long Island research station with four others who suffer genetic deficiencies. Inside this sci-fi story Weise digs into love, human prejudice, and the dangers of science allowed to run unchecked in a way that slowly burrows into your brain. If you’re the type to flag pages or write down passages that are particularly stunning or moving, be prepared to imprint on your brain much of what the character of Anne Hatley has to say.

5. Next by James Hynes

James Hynes has written the post-9/11 modern relationship novel for men. If that entire sentence has you rolling your eyes or clicking away, then you’re going to miss out on one of the most understated, brilliant books of 2010. Hynes’ narrator, Kevin, has time to kill before an interview and he spends it thinking about things and following around a pretty girl. That’s just the beginning though, as the second half of the novel kicks into full gear. Next begins to explore love and romanticism in modern America, and how they exist when a climate of mistrust and fear is ever present.

What did we miss? What next “best book ever” isn’t included here from 2010 that should be? Tell us in the comments, and we’ll do a followup post featuring your favorites.