[Like my 2009 list, this isn’t specific to works that were published in the said year, but rather just a list of things I got my hands on that I specifically enjoyed.]
2010 was a bit of a strange year for my reading habits: it started out voraciously, yet segued into me putting myself on a “time out” from reading books, as I believed that I needed to be doing more and reading less. This was a reverse in policy for me, from which I’ve yet to analyze the effects, but I still managed to experience some damn fine reads. Writing reviews or summaries is not my prerogative here, so I’m just writing whatever first comes to mind.
All in the Timing: Fourteen Plays by David Ives
Absurdity? Sex? Nostalgia? Regret? Sardonic…ness? Golf? All wrapped in delicious comic wit, with more puns than are able to be punished. Thanks to my friend Margaret for this recommendation.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
You can just tell something is wrong even before the shift occurs. Makes one wonder whether it was ever not too late. Reading the foreword made me question whether I—or anyone—really deserved to enjoy her work the way in which it was published. I can’t recall the edition I read, but in it was chronicled the contentious atmosphere of its publication due to its Roman à clef nature. I do readily recall gazing at the image of her on the back cover between reading chapters; being mesmerized by the enigmatic look on her face and beautiful stark composition of the photograph.
Revenge of the Lawn by Richard Brautigan
He’ll wile you, alright. Some of the shortest of Brautigan’s shorts, they offer dream feelings and real feelings, with sincerity and play that can’t be faked. You may just laugh out loud… per page. And then wonder why you aren’t documenting all the little stories in your life and dispersing them as spores and pages.
Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge—A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution by Terence McKenna
The big thinker that pushed my own skepticism to its limits and changed my view of reality. Seriously. Meticulously researched, elegantly presented, and far from infeasible, Terrence offers a theory of human evolution that is so plausible that it’s crazy; crazy that it’s not discussed more, if only just for an exercise in thinking and possibility. For some unique, imaginative vision, and sincere concern about and suggestions for the current state of the human race and planet as a whole, drop a dose of this text.
At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien
Meta-fiction that will blow your mind. Get a pen and paper ready: you may need the aid of diagrams to keep track of the multiple layers of reality that unfold within these pages. Like Inception but with more nightmares, singing, and devils. A masterful debut from a serious literary genius.
Wild Ducks Flying Backward by Tom Robbins
Short essays, poems, musings, odes, and other such things from one of America’s most creative and stylistic minds. If his novels— with their outrageous themes and goofball characters—are too “out there” for you, this collection may be more approachable. Wild Ducks is also strong evidence that this man can write about anything, and that few out there can dance with words the way he does. I keep trying to find a suitable passage to reproduce here, but no snippet does the collection justice. My favorite is an essay entitled “In Defiance of Gravity,” in which Robbins describes his reasons for not taking his own life—as so many other important authors have done before him—and then proceeds to preach the importance of playfulness and its deficiency in the American literati around us.
I’m looking forward to starting up my reading habits with renewed vigor this year, so please, don’t hesitate to comment with your suggestions or give your take on any of these that you may have read!