No matter how hard you try and fight it, 2010 will be remembered as Franzen’s year. Freedom is the book that everybody talked about whether they were hating on it, or planning on making it the only book they were going to read. Whether it be Oprah embracing him after his public shunning of her endorsement for The Corrections, or Lev Grossman’s profile on him making the cover of Time (we talked to Grossman about that here), Franzen left his stamp on all 365 days of the year that was.
We liked Franzen just as much as the next guy, but there were ten works of fiction we liked a whole lot more.
1. The Instructions by Adam Levin (McSweeney’s)
We loved The Instructions for reasons beyond the fact that it was over a thousand pages. Levin’s book is #1 on our list because it’s a debut novel that was epic, ambitious and a hell of a lot of fun to read.
2. The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg by Deborah Eisenberg (Picador)
This was more than a collection, it was a blessing considering that Deborah Eisenberg is possibly the greatest living short story writer in the English language.
3. Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever by Justin Taylor (Harper Perennial)
Justin Taylor is like the Luke Skywalker of Jewish writers: he’s the next great hope, and this collection of short stories was a perfect introduction for what might be in store.
4. The Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer ( Spiegel & Grau)
Langer, who is on a book-a-year tear, gives us his best work yet with this Thieves. It was hard to put down this highly entertaining and stylish literary caper.
5. The Ask by Sam Lipsyte (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
2010 will hopefully remembered as the year Sam Lipsyte became formerly recognized as one of the greatest fiction writers with this fantastic comic novel. [Read our interview with Lipsyte]
6. The Melting Season by Jami Attenberg (Riverhead)
Attenberg got to the heart of so many different things with this novel: self-liberation, the dynamics of female friendships, letting go, and hitting the open road.
7. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart (Random House)
Shteyngart gave us the the years best novel on the subject of a future where people don’t like books. Encouraging? No. Great book? Yes.
8. What He’s Poised to Do by Ben Greenman (Harper Perennial)
What Greenman was poised to do in 2010 was put out this collection of stories (as well as the hilarious Celebrity Chekov) and leave us asking what he’s poised to do next?
9. Something Red by Jennifer Gilmore (Scribner)
Family and country are the themes of Gilmore’s second novel; how those things can let you down are also themes. [Check out our video interview with Gilmore and Gal Beckerman]
10. Bad Marie: A Novel by Marcy Dermansky (Harper Perennial)
An ex-con attempting to adjust to post-prison life becomes the nanny to a two-and-a-half-year-old. We have to admit that we were lured in by the tag of “wickedly nihilistic,” but were sold by the time the book was closed.
Also of note: Witz by Joshua Cohen, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan