The Year in Books - 2010
At the start of 2010, I set a goal to read 15,000 pages by year's end, including twelve books of greater then 650 pages. Implicit in this goal was the recognition I was not going to be able to maintain the pace of previous years:
Things are going to have to be different this year. My first child was born about a month ago. I am studying for the one-day Attorney's Exam in February to enter the Georgia Bar. And I start a new job on the 1st of March. I will not have any three-month stretches in Kuwait with little to do after work but read. So the 30,000 pages per year pace I have set the past two years will surely not survive. On the other hand, I want to remain ambitious about reading, and I believe if I can keep it a significant part of my life during a year like this, it will remain so forever.
And what a year it was. My daughter is growing up splendidly, I passed the Georgia bar, and my new job has been both a pleasure and a challenge. In addition to these time consuming endeavors, we unexpectedly decided to purchase a new home and move out of our condo after five wonderful years. Unfortunately something had to give, and I found myself unable to keep up with my blogging and book reviews, and that has continued into the start of 2011 as I was wholly occupied studying for yet another bar exam.
But I still found time for books. Here's what I read in 2010:
- Let the Great World Spin - Colum McCann
- Young Stalin - Simon Sebag Montefiore
- Number9Dream - David Mitchell
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery
- A People's History of the United States - Howard Zinn
- This Side of Brightness - Colum McCann
- Dancer - Colum McCann
- Dressing the Man - Alan Flusser
- A World at Arms - Gerhard Weinberg
- Zoli - Colum McCann
- Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout
- The Prize - Daniel Yergin
- Rostropovich - Elizabeth Wilson
- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
- The Girl Who Played With Fire - Stieg Larsson
- The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - Stieg Larsson
- Lincoln's Virtues - William Lee Miller
- President Lincoln - William Lee Miller
- Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey
- Mystic River - Dennis Lehane
- Shutter Island - Dennis Lehane
- A Drink Before the War - Dennis Lehane
- Ghostwritten - David Mitchell
- The Known World - Edward Jones
- The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen
- Darkness, Take My Hand - Dennis Lehane
- Freedom - Jonathan Franzen
- Sacred - Dennis Lehane
- Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson
- Gone, Baby, Gone - Dennis Lehane
- Prayers for Rain - Dennis Lehane
- Churchill - Martin Gilbert
- The Twelve Chairs - Ilf & Petrov
- First Family - Joseph Ellis
- Great House - Nicole Kraus
- Moonlight Mile - Dennis Lehane
- The Irresistible Henry House - Lisa Grunwald
- Matterhorn - Karl Marlantes
- Room - Emma Donoghue
- The Lonely Polygamist - Brady Udall
- Washington - Ron Chernow
Having read 18,388 pages in those 41 books, my basic goal was met. I was not, however, able to meet the goal of reading 12 books with more than 650 pages, coming it at just 5. Several more came close, including both of the Franzen novels, Matterhorn, and The Lonely Polygamist.
2010 turned out to be a great year for fiction reading, and 31 of the 41 books I read were novels. The two I most enjoyed were Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin, which was the first book I read last year, and Karl Marlantes' Matterhorn, which I finished shortly before Christmas. Two other titles I would single out are Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, and Edward Jones' The Known World.
Easily the worst book I read was The Twelve Chairs by Ilf & Petrov, a relatively obscure Soviet-era satire that was chosen by my book club, and roundly hated by all. While I found Nicole Krauss' Great House a fine effort, it did not even approach the emotional resonance of The History of Love, which I read in 2008.
On the non-fiction side, though only having read 10 titles, I found several worthy of commendation. Gerhard Weinberg's A World at Arms is a massive brick of a book, but it provides an absolutely comprehensive view of World War II, both thematically and geographically, exploring theaters of that war which I had only the faintest notion even took place. I would also recommend Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, which is as notorious as it is famous, but provides a necessary correction to the traditional historical focus on the political and economic elite. Zinn's approach has been so integrated into current historical technique that it no longer seems so groundbreaking, but his book remains a compelling read.
Yet another wonderful year in reading. Later today I will belatedly set my goals for the new year.