It’s February of 2011, and a good time to do my 2010 Year in Reading wrap-up. There’s so much pressure in December when I’m still trying to finish a handful of books and bouncing around the internet reading everyone else’s lists. Now there is a pleasant calm: no one cares about 2010, the massive traffic boost that followed my pat-down post has slowed, and I’ve had time to consider last year’s reading as a whole.
It was a strange year. When I look at the list, it seems impossible that I read some of those books in 2010. They feel much more distant, my Janet Malcolm spree at least two years old, Meditations on Violence even further back. All of the nonfiction before April feels far-off and foggy. In April I started taking notes as I read, the first time outside of school I’ve done so, and it’s changed the way nonfiction feels to me.
Despite thinking at the start of last year that I would slow down from the pace of 2009, I read more books than I ever have: I would mention the growing number to reader friends and watch their faces to see if it was out of hand, something I needed to worry about. When I had to call the library to ask about a glitch with my account, the man at my branch recognized my voice (a trip a week, maybe two, a few days I went twice when requests came in). Then I read two books by one of the librarians, the kind one with round glasses.
I let myself indulge my desires for sudden topics and authors: Janet Malcolm and Lionel Shriver, Irvin Yalom and Adam Phillips, addiction memoirs and positive psychology. There was so much that I wanted to know. The stack of books to take notes on, write up my thoughts about, grew until it was two piles, then three. There are still 27 books waiting for me to type up summaries, some of them so far back that all I retain are a few images and characters and my vague emotional feelings about them. I wish I had paused to appreciate them before I lost that initial burst of reaction.
That’s the grim stuff, the balance to the beauty and knowledge and connection that kept leaping up from all those pages. There were a dozen novels that knocked me out of my shoes (with language, tension, terror, laughter, insight); there were even more nonfiction books that made me feel like I knew myself and others differently and better for having read them. Books attached themselves to travel and places (DC, Disneyland, Amtrak to and from Fresno in dread summer). Coincidences—people I’d never heard of showing up in two books simultaneously, information from nonfiction being essential to subplots in consequent novels—gave me that feeling that it is deeply right to follow my reading whims, and by extension, the inner voice I’m prone to doubt. I have some killer quotes to share, sentences I’ve read again and again for their ability to make print meaningful or explain what I hadn’t known was murky.
Here’s the plan, subject to my usual freaking out: I’ve divided up all the books into ten rough chunks, and I’ll give each chunk an entry. That should keep the length manageable (so many quotes) and me from losing it when trying to summon up feelings about 122 books. I’ll link from this page as I post them.
1. Poetry and Graphic Novels
3. Nonfiction (mostly not psychology)
4. Nonfiction Psychology part 1
5. Nonfiction Psychology part 2
6. Short Stories
7. Novels part 1 (that weren’t really for me)
8. Novels part 2
9. Novels part 3
10. Novels part 4 (the favorites)
All books, in chronological order, are listed without comment here.