Best Books of 2010

“What do you have there?”
“It’s a book.”

Lane Smith

These are the best books I read in 2010. Some were published in 2010. Many were not. As most of these books are non-fiction, it means that I’m recommending lots of books with colons in the title. I’ve avoided listing the full titles here. You can seem them if you click on the hyperlinks.

Green Metropolis-David Owen 

Wrestling With Moses-Anthony Flint

Two books from 2009 that I didn’t get around to reading until early 2010. Both books had a profound effect on me, and I find myself still thinking and talking about them months later. Owen’s book is an exhaustive primer on the many issues currently facing municipalities. Flint’s is an excellent overview of the battle between mother-turned-writer and activist Jane Jacobs and planner Robert Moses over the future of Greenwich Village. Their battle, and the issues around it, also shares many similarities to the one currently being waged in Edmonton over the proposed downtown arena, and is a reminder of George Santayana’s declaration that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Anyone interested in issues of sustainability, urban planning and civic politics should pick up both these books. Green Metropolis is now out in paperback, and Wrestling With Moses will be out in paperback in February.

Citizens of London-Lynne Olson 

Breach of Faith-Jed Horne

Game Change-John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

Three books on American politics, one covering World War II, one covering Hurricane Katrina and one covering the 2008 presidential election.  Citizens of London focuses on three Americans—U.S. Ambassador John Gilbert Winant, industrialist Averell Harriman and journalist Edward R. Murrow—and their efforts to convince a reluctant America to aid the British in the war against Nazi Germany. Breach of Faith tells the tale of Hurricane Katrina, and the failure of every level of American government to both prepare for it, as well as respond to the damage it inflicted upon the people of New Orleans. Game Change is an insider’s take on the 2008 U.S. presidential election, and is full of salacious and scandalous details about the campaigns of Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and John McCain. All three are informative, if not always pleasant, reads.

The Plain Janes-Cecil Castelluci

Asterios Polyp-David Mazzucchelli

Blacksad-Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido

Parker: The Outfit-Darwyn Cooke

Incognito-Ed Brubaker

Five excellent graphic novels that I read this year. Blacksad is a particular favorite of mine, but it’s a French comic book, and I’d only ever read the first two volumes. I was very pleased to see this collection, which includes the third volume, released this year. Guarnido’s artwork alone makes this book worth the purchase. Cooke’s second adaptation of Richard Stark’s (Donald Westlake) Parker novels isn’t as good as the first (The Hunter), but it’s still a fine read. The Outfit mixes Cooke’s perfect-for-the-genre artwork with raw, minimalist storytelling. It’s crime fiction, absent the literary flourishes and pretensions of hard-boiled masters Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. It’s pulp, and nothing but the pulp.

The Manual of Detection-Jebediah Berry 

Proof that people should judge books by their cover. On the way to Jasper this spring, with nothing to read, I stopped at a Chapters with the hope of finding something I could get lost in for a couple of days. Perusing the fiction section, I noticed a book with a magical, mysterious cover. It was Berry’s debut novel. In addition to the beautiful cover, the blurbs absolutely blew me away. I’ve never seen a book and its author so praised. No word of a lie, in the advance praise and review snippets, Manual of Detection and Jebediah Berry were compared to the following: Franz Kafka, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Flann O’Brien, Jasper Fforde, Jorge Luis Borges, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, Glen David Gold, Italo Calvino, Paul Auster, Terry Gilliam, David Lynch, the Coen Brothers, Alfred Hitchcock, Wes Anderson, The Man Who Was Thursday, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Encyclopedia Brown, Harry Potter and Brazil. I couldn’t leave the store without it.

The Quiet Book-Deborah Underwood

The Boys-Jeff Newman

It’s A Book-Lane Smith

Three picture books that I absolutely adored. Perfect for boys and girls, young and old. If you have children, and are doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, I’d recommend grabbing one or all of these titles. Works for teachers, librarians, book-lovers and boys who won’t grow up, too.

***For  a complete list of books I read this year, please visit my Goodreads page.***

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