My Favorite Reads of 2010

I have always found something inherently impossible about lists that claim to name the ten best of anything.  So what follows, primarily for my students who read this blog, is a list of my ten favorite books from 2010.

In fact, I post this with special best wishes to a group of 4 – 5  former students (you know who you are) whose ongoing book recommendations have kept me engaged and entertained. Thanks in particular to Joy, the kind of book lover who  makes teaching such a (I really didn’t start this sentence intending to do this) joy.

These were not all  published in 2010. Some were not published in this decade or century. 

They were simply  the books I most enjoyed reading this year.

If they share anything, and I think they do, it is their unflinching honesty about human nature. We may not be comforted by these “portraits of humanness,” but they seem to come the closest to depicting who we all are as flawed, fragile, and complex human beings.

Bach, Steven. Leni.

Beckett, Samuel. The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume 1, 1929-1940.

Dickens, Charles. Little Dorrit.

Doblin, Alfred.  Berlin Alexanderplatz: The Story of Franz Biberkopf.

Faust, Drew Gilpin. This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War.

Heilemann, John and Halperin, Mark.  Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime.

Leavy, Jane. The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood

Roth, Philip. Patrimony: A True Story.

Smith, Alexander McCall. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built: A No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Novel.

Sorensen, Ted. Counselor.

Charles Dickens Takes on Incompetent Bureaucracy: Welcome to the Circumlocution Office

For many years, I rarely read much about politics and government  that really captured the craziness, the reversals, the betrayals, the hypocrisies, and the double-dealing of that loony world.

Then, in 1991 , I saw Tony Kushner’s Angels  in America. Of course,  the primary topic was HIV/AIDS,  but that issue was so skillfully embedded in the politics of 1980s America that I left the theatre stunned at how perfectly the play “got” the workings of  power and influence. At one point Roy Cohn – played that night by the magnificent Ron Liebman — delivers a brilliant and cynical monologue about who matters and who doesn’t at the highest levels of political combat.

I wanted to share another  take on government in fiction that I find comparably compelling and gut-splittingly hilarious.  Check out Chapter 10 from the Charles Dickens novel Little Dorrit. Dickens delivers an angry and biting satire on the incompetence of government called “Containing the whole Science of Government.” He does this through the creation of a fictional government entity called the Circumlocution Office.

Too true And too funny.

Wise Words from My Main Man: Charles Dickens, Media Scholar

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“Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.”  
–       Charles Dickens