Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Best Books (That I Read) in 2010

Faithful subjects,

As you may have noticed, we've entered not only a new year, but a NEW DECADE. What better time for me to tell you everything I did, day by day, including naps, comas, and periods of artificially-induced unconsciousness, since January 1, 2000?!?!

Unfortunately, to do that, I'd have to refer back to my old diaries and you'd get things like "I THINK TREY LIKES ME HE SAID 'HI TORI' IN THE HALLWAY AND WHEN I SAID 'WHAT?' HE SAID 'I DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING!'" (That really happened. Trey, why didn't you just admit it? Girls, listen to me: Trey actually looked like a Precious Moments doll. Those tear-drop eyes! So adorable.)

So instead, let's take a retroactive look at the books I read last year, in the hopes that one day when you're browsing the cozy stacks of ye aulde public library (aka THE DEVIL), asking yourself the age old question that wracks the minds of hipsters everywhere--"Which book will maximize my cool factor on the El and cause hot yet intellectual young people to start up a scintillating and sexually-charged conversation with me?"--you can consult this list. Except--SIKE! These books are not hip. They are just awesome. These books will help you transcend the El ride. When that nubile young homeless person tries to approach you, they'll get nothing but a busy signal...OF GENIUS.

Sadly, I spent most of 2010 reading blood-curdlingly awful submissions, books for the 3-9 year old sector, and volumes upon volumes of The Best American Short Stories (I don't know how I feel about that--part of me regrets it as wasted time and part of me thinks all those varied short stories may have sunk into my blood in a good way). But from the books I did read, here are my favorites.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Probably one of the best "children's" books ever written--I say "children's" because, like Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, these are books that speak volumes to the adult soul and I think are a vital vital part of preserving some facet of our humanity--definitely on par with mah childhood boo Lloyd Alexander, probably on par with my childhood bff Madeline L'Engle. This is like...the most fascinating book I read this year. (I also talked about it here.)

Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford
I don't know anything about biographers, but Nancy Milford is my favorite. Savage Beauty is the bio of the ultra-glamorous Edna St. Vincent Millay, and like any good biography there's plenty of scandal and morphine abuse to please even the most discriminating of palates. I had a gorgeous hardcover version of this book that I left on a JetBlue airplane on my way back from Vermont. Now I own a paperback version. It's like breaking up with the love of your life and having to settle for a cheap lookalike.

Zelda by Nancy Milford
Um, I think I liked this one even more than Savage Beauty. This book single-handedly catapulted me into one of the greatest obsessions of my twenties: the Fitzgeralds! Also, there was at least one moment in this book where my blood literally ran cold. Lots of alcohol and lots of flirtation and the romance of the Fitzgeralds is kind of the Ultimate Handbook of Dos and Don'ts in Love Letters. This book will make you yearn for happier, simpler times: when people sent telegrams in all caps announcing that their novel had been sold; when the French Riviera featured prominently in any self-respecting American's winter plans; when Prohibition, the great enabler, caused the gin to flow like water; and when people apparently had scintillating, genius conversations approximately 5x a day.

The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
It's no Gatsby, but this is a pretty lovely, insightful novel. It was much fun to read. I know I keep saying this, but he's such a voice of an era, and it's captivating.

The Book of Questions and The Yellow Heart by Pablo Neruda
  Nobody does love poetry like Neruda--I really don't think it would be a stretch to compare him to the Song of Solomon--but these two books show that he has a sense of humor, which is kind of like salt--it makes everything else read so much better. Plus, the Book of Questions! The Book of Questions! Ahhhhh GENIUS!

Petit, the Monster by Isol
  This is one of the most accurate depictions of human nature I've encountered. And it's written for approximately toddlers. You can read my (in-depth) review here.

Uhhh...that's it! Books that were good but did not make it: The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates (too unfailingly depressing), Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (too...didn't try hard enough not to be made into a movie), Life Before Man by Margaret Atwood (too unflaggingly pessimistic about love), Room by Emma Donoghue (hated the last line too much dot gov), The General in His Labyrinth by Marquez (felt kinda sloppy, maybe?).

In 2011, I've read two books so far, both for the second time: The Great Gatsby and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I MEAN. I wish there was some way I could keep reading books of such caliber that are still such easy reads for the rest of the year. Which is why I have this one lined up.


  1. strangely enough, we're still in the new decade...

  2. I have found your blog, and it has pleased me. Thank you, kind stranger!


You are truly great.