Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Which is the Chinese zodiac Year of the Bookworm?

Lots happened to me in 2010--I got a job, for one, though I think we've already been over that--but I'm pretty sure I will always remember it as the year of reading. I typically read about 120 books a year, so it's not like 2010 was the year I learned to read for fun or anything, but still, having a job did wonders for my reading time, and my 2 hour daily commute certainly didn't hurt. (I read new book every day for the first two months at my job, a reading pace that eventually had me looking around for new hobbies.)

After that introduction you're probably expecting some amazing stat about books completed, but really, I only finished 150 books in 2010, and I didn't even come close to completing my life goal of reading every novel that has ever won a Booker prize. (29 down, 15 to go.) I did, however, complete my goal of reading every single article in every single issue of my year's subscription to
The New Yorker, which, frankly, was exhausting: it's a weekly magazine. Weekly!

(On the plus side, I can add "I read a New Yorker article about that once" to my list of most-spoken phrases; whenever I say it now, Mike just laughs and replies, "Of course you did.")

I can't name a favorite New Yorker article, besides "anything by Anthony Lane or Adam Gopnik," but since I keep a list of all the books I read, I thought it would be fun to look back at what I've read and play favorites; plus, I'm obsessed with end-of-year lists and wanted to clutter the internet with my own version...even if it doesn't happen until February. Without further ado, then, I give you the best books I read in 2010, with no particular order to the lists, as that would be too hard.

Fiction Top 10
Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell
Sacred Hunger, by Barry Unsworth
A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall
The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver
A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain, by Robert Olen Butler
The Believers, by Zoe Heller
March, by Geraldine Brooks

Fiction Honorable Mentions

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, by Geoff Dyer

Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris

The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga
Cloudsplitter, by Russell Banks

Non-Fiction Top 10

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain

Game Change, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

The Big Short, by Michael Lewis
Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine
Bonk, by Mary Roach
Complications, by Atul Gawande

Manhood for Amateurs, by Michael Chabon

Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers

John Adams, by David McCullough

Non-Fiction Honorable Mentions

The Wisdom of Whores, by Elizabeth Pisani

The White Man’s Burden, by William Easterly

How Women Got Their Curves, by David Barash and Judith Lipton

Discuss amongst yourselves.


Katya said...

I inherited 3 shelf feet of back issues of The New Yorker when our circ department was getting rid of them. The oldest issues are about 5 years old, so some of the stuff in them isn't really relevant, any more, but a lot of it still is. I just finished an article about movie marketing that was pretty interesting.

claire said...

Excellent! Year end lists outside of December/January make my day.

Heidi said...

I feel invincible because I've read TWO of these. That should show you how awesome you are.

Also, I'm going to dive into this list as soon as I can!

Jennifer said...

I shall have to add those to my to-read list. Are you on goodreads, perchance?

Petra said...


I didn't get around to read some of my New Yorkers until months after publication, but I still found the articles (for the most part) fascinating. One of the marks of very good journalism, I'd say.


I'm glad, since I was kicking myself for waiting until the end of February...


Please do! I've enjoyed recommendations from you, so I'm glad to return the favor:)


I think I set up an account once, but I've never used it. It just seems like yet another thing, you know?

Th. said...


Please clarify:

At first I assumed you meant you had purchased the full electronic all-issues thing for the New Yorker and read every article in every issue ever, which pretty much blew my mind. Then I thought maybe you meant you just read all the articles from 2010. Which is impressive but not nearly so much so.

Which was it?

Petra said...

Clearly I need to go to writing group for my blog...or I at least need to proofread. I just meant every article in every 2010 issue, but the extra info explaining that got cut in revision. Siiiiigh.

I wish I were impressive enough to read every article ever!

alea said...

So, your goal for 2011 should be to read more Shriver and let me know if anything else she wrote is worth it? Thanks!

Diane said...

Your new goal should be to listen to NPR constantly so you can have a variation on the "I read an article in the New Yorker" theme: "I heard on NPR."

Confuzzled said...

I envy that you have a specific source you can cite. My response is usually that "I read"

Also, three of your fiction books have been on my to-read list and they are not yet read. And so was one of your non-fiction books. I should seriously avoid looking at anything that lists books.

It only and inevitably leads to me acquiring more books...