My Favorite Reads of 2010: #4, #3, #2

January 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

4. Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware

Some thoughts:

To be honest, it took me a few tries to get into this graphic novel. Not because it was bad or boring, but the way the story is structured is so different from anything else I’ve ever read, even other graphic novels, which is saying a lot. The plot is very simple, at least initially: Thirty-something Jimmy Corrigan deals with his sub-par life by imagining himself as “the smartest kid on earth”. And then he meets his dad for the first time. Sounds kinda boring, right? But the intelligence of Ware’s writing/illustrating is that he’s able to rely on subtlety, stream-of-consciousness, and scale (some drawings are an inch tall, others are full page) to convey the major emotions of all characters, as well as the in-between shades of emotion that everyone feels but can’t necessarily articulate. It sticks with you.

Read it if:

  • you’re in the mood for an every day odyssey
  • you want to experience a book in a new way
  • you want something big on character, not necessarily on plot

Shelve it if:

  • tiny type annoys you (seriously, some of the lettering is small)
  • you want something fast-paced and definitive

3. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Some thoughts:

So, who is sick of the constant barrage of media telling us what we should and shouldn’t eat? You, too, huh? It’s confusing and disheartening, especially when you have to wade through pages of Google searches to find out whether or not eggs are actually healthy.

Thankfully for us, Michael Pollan felt this way at one point, too, and wrote In Defense of Food. It’s not a diet book, but it will make you take a hard look at the food you consume every day. The main premise is that the things we’ve done to food in the last fifty years to make it more convenient (packaging, “nutritionism”, food science) actually makes it harder to make good decisions about what to put into our bodies. I include it on this list because it is insightful, throws evidence behind its claims, and makes a big, complex issue that scares a lot of people into something manageable and lucid. I’m going to lay down (imaginary) money right here and gamble that this book will become a non-fiction classic.

Read it if:

  • you’re curious about what all those ingredients on food packages mean
  • you think diet books are the devil
  • you’re looking for insightful arguments without a lot of hot-headed steam

Shelve it if:

  • the show 60 Minutes bores you
  • you feel confident that what you’re eating is fine

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Some thoughts:

This was shortlisted as my first choice book of the year initially, and I had a tough time with placing it at number two. The main reason I put it here instead of the number one spot is the language. It was written in 1818, and it reads that way. While the story is still compelling, I know many people struggle with old-timey English and so I reserved the number one spot for something a little more versatile. Still, Frankenstein has the honor of being one of my favorite books of all time. I went into it thinking it would be a book about a big dumb monster with some screws in his neck who chases people around, and what I found was a so-good-you-can’t-put-it-down thriller about ambition, loss, and the morality of science and creation. It is still as relevant today as I’m sure it was almost two hundred years ago. What’s even better is that the story holds its consistent quality throughout the beginning, middle, and end, which is almost unheard of for books of any time period (I love ya, Dickens, but can we pick up the pace before page 300? Please?). Pick it up, and you won’t want to stop.

Read it if:

  • you want something brainy but fast-paced
  • you’ve read and liked other Romantic authors: Edgar Allen Poe, John Keats, etc.
  • you want to brag to people about how you’ve read Frankenstein

Shelve it if:

  • violence bothers you
  • science fiction makes you yawn (but don’t let it be a total turn-off)

Up next…my number one pick for 2010! Anyone excited?

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