Things To Read - Book Lists ("The Best of 2010")

(I know parking garages have little in common with booklists, but lately I keep taking pics of parking garages so I thought I'd post some here.)

I love the New Year, with its promise of a new and better you. I always start out so ambitious. On New Years Day I went to my first ever guided meditation at a nearby yoga studio. I spent thirty minutes trying to concentrate on the word "serene" (my personal buzzword of 2011) and I felt like a better person for it. Then I went to a party and ate so much handmade deepdish pizza that I felt sick (in my defense it really was the best pizza I've ever eaten). So in less than 24 hours New Me managed to find and exploit the vices of Old Me.

Anyways beside my continual quest for improvement, I really love the New Year because it produces YEAR END LISTS - the best movies, the best TV, the best music and (MY FAVORITE) the best books. I read a lot, so I use the book lists both as a source of inspiration and aggression (as in "how could they ever have picked that?"). I especially like to see how much agreement exists between the different lists. For example, a few years ago every reviewer listed Robert Bolano's 2666: A Novel as their top book of the year. So, of course, I had to read it and I'm so glad I did. Very odd. I'm not sure I "got" it, but the writing was wonderful, with lots of mysterious layers. The novel actually consists of five different sections -(1) The Part about the Critics,(2) The Part About Amalfitano, (3) The Part About Fate, (4) The Part About the Crimes, and (5) The Part About Archimboldi - all linked in some way with the unsolved murders of hundreds of uneducated Mexican women in the fictional town of Santa Teresa (based on the real life town of Juarez Mexico). 2666 is a challenging book, but still one of the best works of fiction I've read in the last few years. And I never would have discovered it without critics' best-of lists.

This year Jonathan Frazen's Freedom: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club) continually appears as a top-runner. Has anyone read it? What did you think? Other top reviewer-picked books of this year include Jane Smiley's Private Life (which I read and WAS NOT impressed by) and William Boyd's Ordinary Thunderstorms: A Novel. William Boyd's Any Human Heart is one of my favorite books ever written (I even named one of my children after one of the novel's characters) but, sadly, I found Ordinary Thunderstorms rather blah. An easy read, but not great, or even memorable, in any way. Further, Nicole Krauss's Great House: A Novel keeps making top lists. I haven't read it, but I loved her earlier novel The History of Love: A Novel (I discuss it here).

Regarding the lists themselves, I'm always partial to Time magazine's list, as I often like what they recommend. For a great compilation of all the lists, I discovered a FANTASTIC website that has all the best of the best - Pulitzer, National Book Award, Booker Prize, NY Times, LA Times, PEN/Faulkner, etc. If you're interested click here (definitely worth a bookmark). What about everyone else? Read any great books last year and/or plan to read any this year? What's on your list?

Happy 2011!!

1 comment:

  1. Nice post... I always enjoy your book recs. I also love the year end lists, too, and especially like this one from Salon: http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2010/12/25/year_in_crazy_your_winners_slide_show

    Btw, how do you have so much time to read???!



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