What You Didn't Read in 2010

The end of the year calls for end-of-the-year-lists. The problem I have is that I don't read as much as a should/could (about a week or so per book), and I am not reading all books published in a single year (I am glad I don't, I would have to read this...).

But I have always prided myself in reading what others are not. I hate crowd sourced books. I hate people telling me how I should me reading a piece ("this book is about so and so...") Reading, I have always thought, was an intimate, self-absorbed activity, akin to masturbation (you should read Solitary Sex by Thomas W Laqueur, GREAT book on the cultural history masturbation, including a chapter on reading...what do think all those reading women in those calender are doing?). Also, I am an attention whore, and if I can get to a trend before anyone else, I feel better about myself.

Thus, this is not a list of top books of 2010. Instead, it's a list of books I really liked, but you probably never read. I don't even rank this, it's just a list in alphabetical order (by author's last name) of books you probably missed out on in 2010. It's a short list I have to say (I like to balance my reading with stuff I should've read, stuff I discovered in used bookstores, and stuff that was published this year), but it's something...

1. Quiet As They Come by Angie Chau

Why You Didn't Read It: Ig Publishing who?

Why you need to read it: "Chau is a writer of frightening skill. Her understated stories pulls at the heart, yet remains unsentimental."

A Taste of Chau:
"Camp wasn't too bad thogh it was a different world from the city. In our neighborhood, I fell asleep to the steady chop of helicopter blades on ghetto birds. Drunken whoops in the night meant there weas a party or a fight but certainly a sign of life outside our apartment walls. Ambulance sirens were a reminder that someone was rushing to help someone else out. At camp, there was just a lot of open air."

2. Hello Kitty Must Die by Angela Choi

Why You Didn't Read It: Asian girls with sick minds make bad publicity.

Why you need to read it: "...Choi is funny and pitch perfect, writing the type of debut you stay up all night to read."

A Taste of Choi:
"It all started with my missing hymen.
One Week before my twenty-eighth birthday, I decide to take my own virginity with a silicone dildo coated in two-percent Lidocaine gel.
Silicone dildos are the best. Firm, smooth, easy to clean, and most importantly, you can boil them in water. We Chinese folklove to boil things."

3. Krakow Melt by Daniel Allen Cox

Why You Didn't Read It: He's Canadian...(Also, not Alice would help if he knew Alice Munro. It always help to know Alice Munro.

Why You Need To Read It: "...he can break your heart and tape it back together, he'll even staple it next to your brain--no additional charge!"

A Taste of Cox: ;)
"It's kind of silly. Ever since human learned the art of fire--yes, it's an art, not an obsesion or a crime--we have been trying frantically to put it out. We're confirmed as the fourth triangle of an inseparable pyramid, yet some will spend their last kilojoule denying it, refusing to see that the only way to grow is to lose what's precious. Fire, bless its blue and white heart, does not choose indiscriminately. It wheedles out the elements in societies we build and forces us to do it better the next time. It's intelligent.
Nothing is fireproof. Anything will burn, if the fire is hot enough...."

4. Tell-All by Chuck Palahnuik

Why You Didn't Read It: After Snuff you stopped trusting Palahniuk.

Why You Need To Read It: What Tell-All does well is being what Invisible Monsters (his first novel, which was at first rejected) could not--be a spectacular, star-studded novel full of enough stage directions and campiness to excuse the author of being a self-loathing homophobe (until he found out that that actually helped his sales). And this novel is all about camp. We have explosions on stage, grand musical numbers, projection reel flashbacks, a gay best friend (yes, Miss Kathie is a hag!), and Hollywood. In short, this is Palahniuk's gayest novel.

A Taste of Palahniuk:

"No, none of us seem so very real.
We're only supported charcters in the lives of each other.
Any real truth, any precious fact will always be lost in a mountain of shattered make-believe."

5. Bummer and Other Stories by Janice Shapiro

Why You Didn't Read It: Soft Skull Press is a zombie

Why You Need To Read It: Think Amy Hempel and Deborah Eisenberg (if it were possible) tackling the midlife problems of Antonya Nelson (but of course with skill)

A Taste of Shaprio:
"So maybe the best way to picture this next part of the story is to imagine you're looking into a kaleidoscope and in some of those fractured pieces of colorful glass there's me, right? Alison. Did I tell you my name, yet? Well, it's Alison. So there's good old Alison wandering all over the whole stinking place with that sickening feeling you get when you have no idea where you are and no hope of ever figuring it out. See? There's Alison wandering past aisles and aisles of gaudy slot machines, and there she is in the Gala Buffet Restaurant, and there zigzagging through a maze of lounge chairs in the pool area, all the while looking for Jose or Ramon or whatever his name was, but it being Alison, it would be a pretty safe bet that Alison wouldn't find what Alison was looking for, and the fact is, I didn't."

6. Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever by Justin Taylor

Why You Didn't Read It: Little indien (indie writer), in the big house with Rupert Murdoch

Why You Need To Read It: "Taylor, at 28, brings a maturity in short story composition--a type Carveresque minimalism--that should be envy of every writer."

A Taste of Taylor:

"'Well, I've got this psychic thing going for me too, now. It's complicated. Look, I didn't ask for any of this.'"
I remember now how young Bruce is, ghost or no, psychic or no. And I'm not calling him goddamn Malachi. 'Nobody asks for anything,' I tell him. 'Everyday of your life is getting something you never asked for.'"

7. Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong

Why You Didn't Read It: Jonathen Franzen...nuff said.

Why You Need To Read It:  "Truong not only deftly portrays her lost and spiteful characters, she paints the south that is part mythology, part history, part personal tale. In this way, Truong not only writes an immigrant's story, she writes the Great American Story about the hidden America that has never had its story told."

A Taste of Truong:
"I was on my knees in front of the television, and not only my hands but my face was also pressed against the screen. I was no longer as interested in seeing the images as becoming one with the images. I wanted to give the six-year-old girl who would grow up to be Ms. Cordell--not her real name also to proect her privacy--a hug and tell her about Mr. Roland and me. I knew that the information of our existence would have comforted the one in Tuscaloosa because it would have comforted the one in Boiling Springs. i would have written to herthat "Tuscaloosa" tasted of candied sweet potatoes, the kind that we southerners servedat Thanksgiving, complete with marshmallows and crushed pineapples. I wuld have asked er for the colors of the letters l, i, n,d, and a. She would have written back, her words dipped in proprietary ink, indelible to her, made visible to me."

8. Burnings by Ocean Vuong

Why You Didn't Read It: It's his first time!

Why You Need To Read It: "In Ocean Vuong's poetic vision, the world is beautiful with all its tears and fires. Burnings is a major yet compact achievement in this poet's career."

A Taste of Vuong:

     "My grandmother kisses as if history
      never ended, as if somewhere,
       a body is still
falling apart."

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