Bye, 2010

A few days ago, I was in my usual corner at the coffee shop when a girl approached me to ask for a light. “Sasha, right?” I nodded my Yes, smiled brightly. I did not recognize her. An awkward pause ensued, and I wished she would go away. She waved her lit cigarette around, said, “We were actually introduced here. You were in that chair. There were a lot of books on the table then, too.”

Not a completely pointless anecdote: the year is almost at its close. Allow me to take this opportunity to apologize for not remembering your names, for squinting astigmatic-ly at your face, hoping for a memory to pop up. That is, I am sorry for my continual rudeness. And for the weak excuse of, “Sorry, I didn’t recognize you — I’m wearing the wrong glasses right now.”

I am sorry, Universe, I have been reading.

If my math did not fail me, I read 187 books this year. And, well, perhaps I am so easy to please, in that I deemed more than half of those Awesome Reads, and had to whittle that number down to 60, and then let that undergo the painful process of more weeding? And still, I ended up with this ridiculously long list. I tried to pare it down, I did.

Before I flood this space with rambly squealing, here is a bit of Yay-Grumpy shiz — what books were The Big, Fat Blarghs of the year? — indulge me, Universe! Wee. Aherm. So. What books do I wish I never read, books I wish I should have left alone, books I cannot even figure out why I read in the first place? Books that were either personal disappointments, or ginormous wastes of hard-earned moolah? Books that I so wanted to work because I had faith in the power of Literature, a faith I doubt can be matched by anything else in my life? Well. This shall be such fun — but I will try to limit the list to the books I now have a personal vendetta against — that is, these books hurt my feewings:

  1. Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl.
  2. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger.
  3. The Brutal Language of Love, by Alicia Erian.
  4. Ilustrado, by Miguel Syjuco.
  5. How I Became a Famous Novelist, by Steve Hely.
  6. Cecilia, by Linda Ferri.
  7. Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, by Justin Taylor.
  8. How We Are Hungry, by Dave Eggers.
  9. Most of The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis.

Glad that can be tossed out of the way. Well then. I should stop whining and start going, Fuck yeah, aPwesome year for books! [I shall soon give a more sentimental, erm, report on how the year went, as far as my reading went. For now — ] Here are The Best Reads of 2010, yum-yum — the books that have made me thankful I could read, books that strengthened my faith in the AwesomeSauce magic powers of literature, books that I want to cast across the room because they are so damned good, and how I dare I even try to emulate them? Yes, those:

»» The best novels [and some novellas] I read this year:

  1. Shopgirl, by Steve Martin
  2. Young Hearts Crying, by Richard Yates
  3. After the Workshop, by John McNally
  4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
  5. The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields
  6. Crazy Heart, by Thomas Cobb
  7. A Gate at the Stairs, by Lorrie Moore
  8. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
  9. Skylark, by Desző Kostolanyí
  10. What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt
  11. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
  12. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  13. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer
  14. Suite Française, by Irène Némirovsky
  15. The Easter Parade, by Richard Yates
  16. Beside the Sea, by Véronique Olmi
  17. Wish Her Safe at Home, by Stephen Benatar
  18. Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton
  19. Anagrams, by Lorrie Moore
  20. The Duchess, by Jude Deveraux
  21. Nightmare Alley, by William Lindsay Gresham
  22. House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
  23. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert; trans. by Lydia Davis
  24. The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen
  25. Fire in the Blood, by Irène Némirovsky

»» The best short story collections and short fiction anthologies I read this year, in the order that I read them:

  1. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories, by Raymond Carver
  2. My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides
  3. The World is the Home of Love and Death, by Harold Brodkey
  4. Break It Down, by Lydia Davis
  5. The Secret Lives of People in Love, by Simon Van Booy
  6. Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, by Maile Meloy
  7. The New York Stories of Elizabeth Hardwick
  8. What He’s Poised to Do, by Ben Greenman
  9. Don’t Look Now, by Daphne du Maurier
  10. How to Breathe Underwater, by Julie Orringer

»» The best of, well, assorted nonfiction [mostly Books About Books, because I am predictable that way, haha] that I read this year, in the order that I read them:

  1. Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World, by Nicholas A. Basbanes
  2. Burning Down the House, by Charles Baxter
  3. Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, by William Styron
  4. The Architecture of Happiness, by Alain de Botton
  5. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman
  6. The Pleasure of the Text, by Roland Barthes
  7. Status Anxiety, by Alain de Botton

Ah, bloggie loose ends almost done being tied. Hee. 2010 was a great year for reading — and for blogging. I say this with a sniffle: As solitary as our times with our books may get, it is always amazing to look up from the pages and find fellow readers smiling at you, willing to listen to what you have to say — even if it is as inane as, Oh my god, my world totally sucks compared to this one’s. Thank you, everyone. Here’s to a kick-ass 2011!

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11 comments

  1. As always, a pleasure to read you! Your lists are superb – even the crappers – and I so concur with many of your awesomest choices. Not sure that I could make such choices … Do I let the readers down if I don’t?

  2. !!!!!!!!!!!!! I haven’t spoken to you in so long!

    Grabe, you read so much this year! And wrote so much, too. I have so many books I didn’t talk about, and that makes me feel a little sad. But maybe that’s what 2011 is going to be for.

    Ugh, this is such a great little round-up.

  3. I hope your 2011 will be “kick-ass” too! (It always feels a little weird to me, using these English “cool” phrases, I am not used to them, I guess – oh, except for awesome).

    Some wonderful reads on that list (I am still half way in Madame Bovary, but loving it) and many that are or are going on my wishlist. I guess I will leave the stories of Lydia Davis alone..

    I am very glad to have met you this year.

  4. I really should read Shopgirl again one of these days. I liked the movie but not the book, which makes NO SENSE. I think I read it too soon after having watched it. Very happy to see John Green and Jonathan Safran Foer on your list – both are among my all-time favourites. Happy New Year, Sasha!

  5. I absolutely love your posts. Great, as always. I’m so glad to see some of my favorite reads of 2010 getting a place on your best-books list, such as The Great Gatsby, What we talk about…, Edith Frome…
    Have a happy and filled -with-great-books 2011!

  6. Ha, I like the way you didn’t stick to the usual number of 10 books;P I’m currently reading Illustrado and also have Special Topics in Calamity Physics (also half-read) so I’m looking forward to finishing them and comparing notes. Ex Libris is also one of my favourite books about books and now I may just have to go and hunt out the Barthes. Happy new year!

  7. Great list, Sasha.

    Happily, I have not subjected myself to any of your “crappers” and it will be my goal to continue to avoid these works in the future.

    Of your favorites in 2010, I have read seven. Of those, four would make my best of any year, I am sure, and another I enjoyed a great deal. You HAVE had a great reading year.

    The joy of these lists, of course, is stealing reading ideas. I already have Skylark in hand, so its appearance on yet another “best of” list by a blogger whose taste overlaps my own is a very good sign. I will read it soon. The thing you have done for me, though, is ensured that Nemirovsky (two titles on your best of? You go Irene!) is definitely in my 2011 reading future. Seems everyone loves her and I want to love her too.

    I am also looking forward to Maile Meloy and her collection with “The Best Title of the Year”.

    Thanks for many new ideas and a few kicks in the pants to read some things I really should have by now.

    Here’s to an equally awesome 2011!

  8. What a great recap. I’m very happy I’ve avoided your worst of list, and sad I haven’t read more from your best list. Though I did read and detest The Great Gatsby last year… hmm… ;) I loved Suite Francaise though so I guess it’s all good! You are right, having bloggers there to talk books with is just fabulous isn’t it? Happy 2011!

  9. I actually thought you liked Ilustrado. Hm. Better crack it open soon and see for myself. So anyway, I got frustrated with The Corrections. It was great for a while and then got really old and annoying. I don’t know. Should I reread it with an open-er mind? Happy new year, Sasha!

  10. I don’t know if I mentioned it, but i found a lovely hardcover of the Suite Francaise for a dollar and so I have that to look forward to! I’m glad to see it on you year end list ….of FAVORITES that is, not the book that hurt your feelings.

  11. Just found your blog. Hated Calamity Physics. Love Jane Eyre. I sense that we are going to be book kindred spirits. :)

    And btw, that is A LOT of books to read in a year!

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