Saturday, January 1, 2011
I'll have my own list of the best books I read in 2010 posted here sometime in the coming week, but today, as we turn the page of a new chapter in the decade (to beat a literary metaphor to death), I thought I'd link to some of the other "Best Books" lists populating the internet landscape.
We'll start with Largehearted Boy. Every year, the Boy tirelessly spends many glazed-eye nights trolling the web for "Best Of" lists (movies and music included) and then compiles them into one long list. You could spend hours upon hours just getting lost in all that Largehearted Boy has to offer. But what else are you gonna do while you're nursing that New Year's hangover?
The Austin American-Statesman has a list of their favorite comics and graphic novels, including my personal favorite Chris Ware. In the coming year, I'm especially looking forward to Fantagraphic Books' release of the vintage Mickey Mouse strips, starting with Volume 1: Race to Death Valley.
Then there's the New York Times' always-discussed-but-increasingly-less-relevant 10 Best Books list. It used to be the Christmas tree around which we all gathered, held hands and sang joyous carols; now, with all these dad-blasted young whippersnappers flauntin' their best-books lists on the newfangled internets, the Gray Lady has been pushed to the margins. So sad, so sad. Someone hand me a Kleenex. This year's Fiction Five sparked some controversy because 40 percent of the picks were collections of previously-published material (William Trevor's Selected Stories and Ann Beattie's The New Yorker Stories). If I really cared about the NYT list anymore, I'd probably be gritting my teeth and tooting cartoon steam from my ears. As it is, I just yawn and click over to better lists on the internets. (Of course, I'll really care if someday my own novel, Fobbit, makes it to the list--in which case, I'll be writing to you from Oz).
NPR divided their list into many Tribble-like thematic lists, including: The Year's Best Teen Reads (Anna and the French Kiss, anyone?), Best Conversation Starters (Freedom and So Much For That among 'em), The Year's Best Guilty Reads (celebrity tell-alls, what I'd call Kleenex Memoirs), The Year's Best Poetry (hooray for Charles Simic!), critic Maureen Corrigan's picks (Freedom and So Much For That again, but also Patti Smith's Just Kids and David Mitchell's The Thousand Autums of Jacob de Zoet), and Indie Booksellers' Favorites (including Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter and The Wilding).
Speaking of indie booksellers, check out the staff picks from Riverrun Bookstore in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (including those from my Facefriend Michele Filgate). The nice thing about lists like this is they give space to books which flew a little bit under the radar in 2010. Some of the books which live large on my Wish List include Citrus County by John Brandon, Help Me, Jacques Cousteau by Gil Adamson, and The Tiger by John Vailant.
The editors of The Atlantic magazine liked Just Kids, Great House by Nicole Krauss, Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, and (of course!) Freedom, among other books new and old.
January Magazine always has a thoughtful year-end review of best books (full disclosure, I'm a past contributor to these lists), and this year is no exception. The editors open by saying: "Arguments about the death of the book aside, 2010 was a terrific year for books in the English language. In the face of so much adversary and controversy, many publishers seemed to pull out all the stops in getting the very best of the best into the hands of all-too-willing readers. Increasingly, a lot of those books were delivered electronically, but--also increasingly--that’s beside the point. In all fields, 2010 brought us books from sensational old favorites to amazingly talented newcomers and the resulting message--even if it is only subtext--was very clear: publishers like making books. Readers like buying them. There might be questions about how to bring those two factions together most effectively but anyone still saying that falling numbers are due to a lack of readers simply hasn't been paying attention."
Perhaps my favorite Best Books lists came from The Millions which once again hosted a fabulous "Year in Reading" series, guest posts from dozens of writers, critics and other literary superstars who talked about the favorite books they read in 2010 (though not necessarily published in this past year). Start with the lists from Margaret Atwood, Anthony Doerr, Maud Newton, Ed Champion, Michael Cunningham, Aimee Bender, Rosecrans Baldwin, Emily St. John Mandel, Jennifer Gilmore, and Laura van den Berg. Or you can just go to the main Year in Reading page which has all the lists. I'll see you back here in an hour after you're done browsing through all those delights.
Forecasting next year's Best Books list, 2011 already looks promising. January Magazine has a list of the Top 10 Works of Fiction they're anticipating will get the juices flowing, including new works by David Foster Wallace (The Pale King), China Mieville (Embassytown), and Kim Edwards (The Lake of Dreams). For another pretty comprehensive list of upcoming releases, check out Eric Forbes' Book Addict's Guide to Good Books blog for literary highlights. Novels and short story collections are coming our way from Chris Adrian, Louis Bayard, Madison Smartt Bell, T. C. Boyle, Alice Hoffman, Stewart O'Nan, the two Ann P's (Packer and Patchett), David Bezmozgis, Charles Baxter and Richard Ford. A couple of short story collections not mentioned on those lists which are very high on my radar come from Graywolf Press: Volt by Alan Heathcock and American Masculine by Shann Ray. It looks to be a very promising year indeed.