2010: Secondary Stars and Other Satellites

on Sunday, December 26, 2010
Only a few days before I unveil my top 10 for 2010, but in the meantime here are the honourable mentions. I've gone out on a bit of a limb this year and added a couple of less literary categories. My therapist suggested that it would make me seem like a more 'well-rounded' person. Or I'm sure they would have had I actually had a therapist.

Close But No Cigar (The Ones That Almost Made It)

The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman. A daring and oddly plausible rendering of the Jesus mythos, Pullman pissed off a lot of believers but garnered significant praise from pretty much everyone else.

Light Boxes by Shane Jones. A little gem about a town at war with the month of February, Light Boxes was testament to the oft-underappreciated brilliance of independent publishing.

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel. Generally panned by the critics, this much-anticipated follow-up to Life of Pi was a morally complex and enjoyably absurd take on genocide. But for its overly neat ending, I really couldn't see why it was so viciously savaged.

The Elephant's Journey by Jose Saramago. Saramago was always at his best when writing about animals, and this was no exception. A wonderful novel from the late great Nobel curmudgeon.

Books I'm Sure I Would Have Loved Had I Gotten Around to Reading Them

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. Supposedly one of the great novels of the Vietnam War, this debut came out of nowhere to universally glowing reviews. A must read sometime later in life...

To the End of the Land by David Grossman. Grossman is one of my favourite Israeli writers, as much for his politics as his stories, and this is supposedly his masterpiece. Hopefully I'll get the chance to read it before he is given the Nobel.

The Wind-Up Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi. Sci-fi is my guilty pleasure and, if we are to believe the hype, The Wind-Up Girl is the most exciting book to grace the genre in years. Some have gone so far as to dub Bacigalupi the new William Gibson. High praise indeed.

The Soundtrack to my 2010 Downtime (Yep, this is a list of albums, not books)

1. The Gamits - Parts. Reformations are all the go at the moment, and these punk legends did it in style. Can't quite work out what Chris Fogal has been gargling in his downtime, but the new gruffness of his vocals added another dimension of greatness to an already kick-arse band.

2. Foxy Shazam - Foxy Shazam. Plastic, bombastic and goddamned fantastic, Foxy Shazam have the spirit of Freddie Mercury shining down on them in all its sequinned glory.

3. AC4 - AC4. Bite-sized hardcore chunks from the latest incarnation of Refused's Denis Blixen.

4. Smoke or Fire - The Speakeasy. These guys just keep getting better. Neon Light is a strong contender for my favourite song of the year.

5. Manic Street Preachers - Postcards From a Young Man. MSP are a very hit and miss affair, but Postcards saw them in full flight. Catchy, literary and thought provoking guitar pop, an almost complete 180 turn from their last effort, the drudgery that was Journal For Plague Lovers.

Book Podcasts That Helped Me Survive the Long Drives and City Traffic

1. KCRW's Bookworm - Michael Silverblat might have the most annoying nasal voice imaginable, but he can dissect a book like nobody else. It is little wonder the great authors literally line up to be on his show.

2. New York Times Book Review - Editor Sam Tennenhaus fleshes out a select few articles from each edition of the NYTBR. Always interesting listening, no matter how obscure the topic, it is Tannenhaus's rapier wit and willingness to look a gift horse in the mouth (and usually tell it its breath stinks) that makes this an absolute podcasting treasure.

3. The New Yorker Fiction Podcast - Each month a notable writer comes in and reads their favourite short story from The New Yorker short story archive. A brilliant way to rediscover some lost literary masterpieces.

4. Slate's Audio Book Club - I've always avoided joining a book club, but listening to this mob makes it sound kind of fun. They're not all lit wankers either, so the podcast is refreshingly accessible to anyone interested in reading.

5. Book on the Nightstand - Two Random House Reps shoot the breeze in this light-hearted, convivial gabfest. Sometimes it verges on the twee, but for the most part it is an enjoyable escape when you find yourself stuck in traffic.

Well, that's it for the honourable mentions. Stay tuned for the Top 10...


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