Friday, December 31, 2010

Books of the Year 2010 and of Things to Come

I read, cover-to-cover, fifty-three books this year; of which only one was a 2010 release.  As usual, I seem to be consistent in staying away from the pulp blockbusters in a given year to seek out what is perhaps more substantial and enduring (though probably unheralded) beyond the immediate commercial push.  I only put down one book after starting it this year, and that more than anything else is something I'm very proud to say.  I don't mind putting a book down for any reason, but I've apparently developed a keen eye for what I like and avoided much that I didn't.   

There were a good deal of books in a series read this year, which, naturally, leads to a lot of repeat author experiences; although not all the repeat authors reads were works in a series.  Here's the break down:  
Neil Gaiman 2
Gene Wolfe 2
Gabriel Garcia-Marquez 2
Michael Swanwick 2
Guy Gavriel Kay 4
Greg Keyes 4
Arturo Perez-Reverte 5
Edward Whittemore 5
C.S. Lewis 5
There remaining books read were all from different, unique authors.  
This is officially not a "Best Books of 2010" list.  As previously noted, I've only read one book from this year.  As such, these are the books that stood out to me--enough to merit some special designation--at the end of my year of reading.  
Best New Author Discovery (And coincidentally, the shortlist for my favorite reads of 2010)
I can't give this to Miriam Gershow as I've come across her short stories (which are fabulous) in years past.  In the same breath I have to say, Whittemore, Joe Hill, John Fowles, Perez-Reverte, Akira Yoshimura, Garcia-Marquez, K.J. Parker, and Ivan Turgenev.  How's that for wussing out on a single answer (not to mention diversity)?  
I've offered a host of comments on Perez-Reverte, of which most of my reading has been confined to his Captain Alatriste series, and of Whittemore I've commented on every one of his books.  I've only read one book each from Yoshimura, Hill, and Parker and each was fabulous while Turgenev, Fowles, and Garcia Marquez are authors of 'classics' and near cheating to mention.
Most forgettable Reads
The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes, The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, The Last Song of Orpheus by Robert Silverberg , and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Silverburg was as un-engaging as it was inoffensive, Kostova was a let down of 'blah' proportions, and after the initial power of Barnes the middle and end of the novel were a complete snore-fest.  Of Ms. Bronte (pick one...), I'd just rather not speak…
Biggest Surprise 
The Dragon's of Babel by Michael Swanwick and The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Swanwick should come as no surprise but, I'll have to read it again to fully absorb the depths of awesome he gave readers.  He may be the most original mind in fiction today.  It's as though he lives for turning cliches into something fresh.  Furthermore, The Dragon's of Babel has stuck with me more than any other book read this year.  It's not a piece of fiction you fly through, nor is it so difficult as to be tedious.  It's a book that can be read and enjoyed on many different levels.  It's very mature and one I feel will endure for a long time to come.   
Grossman's book was an absolute gem; I can't wait for the next.  It was contemporary, visceral, and a success on every level.  

The Best Book I Read in 2010
The Local News by Miriam Gershow.  I tried multiple times to leave comments on this outstanding book, but was unsuccessful in writing anything that wasn't a litany of praise.  If I could physically force readers to pick up anyone book before all others, it would be The Local News.  It's better than great, and to find out why and just how good it is, you have to read it yourself or wait until I do so a second time and can commit my thoughts to paper.  
None of the above categories would really fit for Whittemore's Jerusalem Quartet and yet, I feel it an error to not mention what are easily the most profound, bizarre and wholly original books I came across this year.  Scour your used books stores, hunt for them at library sales, buy them online when you have to.  English language readers should be ashamed of 'out-of-print' status of these wonders, but if you look, you will find them.
Next years reading strikes me a bit odd: my shelves are weighted down with names like Chabon, Eco, Franzen, and Zafon; it seems my taste in fiction are on the move.  But I'm sure I'll find time for comfort food and not to mention slimmer volumes.  
2011 is looking like, "The Year of the Doorstopper" for me.  Five-hundred plus page giants are breeding on my shelves.  I'll set the same reading goal as I did last year: fifty books read, but I wouldn't be surprised to fall short of that number and triple the page count of this year's reading.  
Happy New Year.


Miriam said...

Chad, what a surprise and delight! I'm honored, and growing more and more convinced that books truly do find their readers. I'm so glad mine found you.

Chad Hull said...

I couldn't be happier to have come across your book. I have my father to thank for it. He's a subscriber to The Georgia Review and after reading "Carker" he tracked down every other bit of fiction by you he could find. Then, he forced me to read your stories (though it wasn't a tough sell).

Can you indulge my curiosity: What other new bits of awesome are you working on these days?

Miriam said...

Hi again, Chad!

I just finished a draft of my newest novel. Six months after THE LOCAL NEWS was published, I had a baby, which threw a slight wrench in the writing works. But I've figured out -like zillons of writer-parents before me - how to write during my son's naps and on a paltry amount of sleep.

The new book's called KNOCK KNOCK and is about, among other things: estranged twin brothers, museums, frogfish and fatherhood.

Chad Hull said...

A belated congratulations on your son and I hope both you and your toddler are doing well! Congrats again, on finishing a draft of the next novel; it sounds kinda masculine (brothers, fatherhood).

Honestly, I couldn't care less what it is about. I can't wait to read it! I know you're busy being a mother, and awesome, among many other things I'm sure, but can you please write faster? (Said in the most kind and loving manner. Rockstars--such as yourself--have to put up with us 'pain in the butt' fans to some extent, right?)