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:
- Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl.
- The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger.
- The Brutal Language of Love, by Alicia Erian.
- Ilustrado, by Miguel Syjuco.
- How I Became a Famous Novelist, by Steve Hely.
- Cecilia, by Linda Ferri.
- Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, by Justin Taylor.
- How We Are Hungry, by Dave Eggers.
- 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:
- Shopgirl, by Steve Martin
- Young Hearts Crying, by Richard Yates
- After the Workshop, by John McNally
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
- The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields
- Crazy Heart, by Thomas Cobb
- A Gate at the Stairs, by Lorrie Moore
- Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
- Skylark, by Desző Kostolanyí
- What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt
- Looking for Alaska, by John Green
- The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer
- Suite Française, by Irène Némirovsky
- The Easter Parade, by Richard Yates
- Beside the Sea, by Véronique Olmi
- Wish Her Safe at Home, by Stephen Benatar
- Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton
- Anagrams, by Lorrie Moore
- The Duchess, by Jude Deveraux
- Nightmare Alley, by William Lindsay Gresham
- House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
- Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert; trans. by Lydia Davis
- The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen
- 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:
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories, by Raymond Carver
- My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides
- The World is the Home of Love and Death, by Harold Brodkey
- Break It Down, by Lydia Davis
- The Secret Lives of People in Love, by Simon Van Booy
- Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, by Maile Meloy
- The New York Stories of Elizabeth Hardwick
- What He’s Poised to Do, by Ben Greenman
- Don’t Look Now, by Daphne du Maurier
- 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:
- Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World, by Nicholas A. Basbanes
- Burning Down the House, by Charles Baxter
- Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, by William Styron
- The Architecture of Happiness, by Alain de Botton
- Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman
- The Pleasure of the Text, by Roland Barthes
- 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!