2010 booklist

Below please find the books I read in 2010.  Only four of these came out this year, and two of those were books I reviewed; so I think I’m officially out of touch again.  (Though four more on the list came out in the second half of 2009.)

Best of the Year:  Tough choice:  I read a lot of novels this year which had great features but made bad choices, too.  In the end, I’ll pick the one book I unreservedly liked all the way through, Matthew Derby’s Super Flat Times. There is this genre that Ben Marcus invented for The Age of Wire and String, and Derby is the first person other than Marcus to use it.  Maybe more precise would be to say that Super Flat Times is the proof that the genre is a genre, adaptable to different purposes, and not just the class of books Ben Marcus can write.  From “The Sound Gun” (click to read the whole story at Conjunctions)

The Sound Gun has four settings. The first one is Make Scared. Make Scared makes a big loud noise that makes people scared. It is louder and scarier than the noise a bomb makes as it explodes, because the people we’re fighting have not been scared by that sound for three wars. The sound that Make Scared makes is like a herd of elk tumbling into a cauldron of hot, resonant dung, or, at night, the frail puff of air conjured up by a dying child. Make Scared worked for a while, but then the enemy started putting soaked wheat pods in their ears, so we had to move on to Hurt.

Should have blogged about but didn’t: The Halo Effect, a bracingly skeptical business book that dares to ask whether we have any way at all of telling good CEOs from bad ones in real time.  The charming American Nerd, from which I learned that Continental literary theory is now an important part of high-school debate.

Books mentioned on the blog are linked, as usual.

28 Dec 2010:Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro.
22 Dec 2010:Colors Insulting to Nature, by Cintra Wilson.
1 Dec 2010:Fame, by Daniel Kehlmann. (Carol Janeway, trans.)
24 Oct 2010:The Bridge on the Drina, by Ivo Andric. (Lovett Edwards, trans.)
4 Oct 2010:Eating the Dinosaur, by Chuck Klosterman.
28 Sep 2010:Shut Up, I’m Talking: and other diplomacy lessons I learned in the Israeli government, by Gregory Levey.
24 Sep 2010:Stalag Wisconsin: Inside WWII Prisoner-of-War camps, by Betty Cowley.
18 Sep 2010:Tragic Magic, by Wesley Brown.
4 Sep 2010:Under the Dome, by Stephen King.
1 Sep 2010:Proofiness, by Charles Seife.
25 Aug 2010:The Halo Effect: and the eight other business delusions that deceive managers, by Phil Rosenzweig.
11 Aug 2010:My Life As a Fake, by Peter Carey.
9 Aug 2010:The Financial Lives of the Poets, by Jess Walter.
2 Aug 2010: Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin.
29 Jul 2010:Eat the Document, by Dana Spiotta.
25 June 2010:Duel at Dawn: Heroes, Martyrs, and the Rise of Modern Mathematics, by Amir Alexander.
27 May 2010:Then We Came To The End, by Joshua Ferris.
11 May 2010:American Nerd: The Story of My People, by Ben Nugent.
7 May 2010:The Ask, by Sam Lipsyte.
18 Apr 2010:A Gate at the Stairs, by Lorrie Moore.
11 Apr 2010:Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville.
23 Mar 2010:The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope.
8 Feb 2010:His Illegal Self, by Peter Carey.
20 Jan 2010:Super Flat Times, by Matthew Derby.
16 Jan 2010:In Persuasion Nation, by George Saunders.

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One thought on “2010 booklist

  1. Richard Séguin says:

    One title in your list that drew my attention was Stalag Wisconsin: Inside WWII Prisoner-of-War Camps. Since I live here in Wisconsin, I was curious about this book, so I looked at the Amazon page for it. One of the reviewers said,

    “It would probably have been more interesting if the author dug around to talk to some of the Nazi sympathizers in the state. How about the German Bund’s presence in Wisconsin? The Nazi flag flying from businesses in Wisconsin?

    I wonder how many in Wisconsin sympathized with their prisoners? I wish that the author would have explored this, instead of just telling us how many POW’s worked in each town’s cannery & who ate at whose dinner table throughout the state.”

    Not having read the book, I assume that these are good points. There were a large number of German immigrants in Wisconsin and they clung to German culture and language. I first became aware of Nazi organization in Wisconsin from a program of the NPR show On Point several years ago. It was about a woman who had been in Nazi youth camps in Germany.* At least one person called in to say that when they were a child in Wisconsin prior to WWII, they were sent by their parents to a Nazi youth camp located in Wisconsin. They recalled their camp counselor having a photograph of Hitler on their nightstand.

    Here is one good discussion of Nazis in Wisconsin:

    http://www.americainwwii.com/stories/americansforhitler.html

    My guess is that the Nazi culture went deep underground as WWII approached, and it is still among us in some form or another, particularly in eastern Wisconsin.

    There is definitely a good story here if someone put in the effort to pull all the pieces together.

    To those heading to New Orleans for the Joint Mathematics Meetings: have fun, and please blog about it for those who won’t be there! I hope to be at the one in Boston next year.

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