It’s Thanksgiving in the United States, which means it’s time for my annual buying guide entry. Here’s where I pick the best books I’ve read since Thanksgiving last year, and encourage you to buy them as holiday gifts for your reading friends. Also known as King Rat’s Best of 2010 post, but with a slightly different title.
These are books read between Thanksgiving 2009 and Thanksgiving 2010, not books published this year. Since this is a buying guide, I also have the criteria that they must still be in print, so you, my consuming public, can purchase them. These are in no particular order.
There were a bunch of books that almost made this list, but it was important to me to keep this list reasonably short. That forces me to think about what truly was the best reading of the year.
- Split by Swati Avasthi (my review)
I know I wrote above that these books were in no particular order. I lied. This one goes first because it was so damn good. Easily the best thing I’ve read this year. Don’t let the fact that it’s Y.A. turn you away. Don’t let the fact that it’s about child abuse scare you. Swati Avasthi wrote a great story about the aftermath of child abuse that hits all the right notes. The kids are messed up and broken, but they are human too. Split makes it relatable. Great characters. Great story. It will be a travesty if this doesn’t make best of lists.
- Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead (my review)
This is a boy book. While not every teenage boy will identify with having a summer house near the beach on Long Island, many of us have had similar summer experiences. Staying with grandmother, camps, or in my case at my grandfather’s cabin. The tinge of
how did I get to where I am now?that Whitehead added to the book, without ever once telling the reader where the character is now, is the whipped cream on this pie.
- The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (my review)
The Knife of Never Letting Go is one big chase scene, and that’s the only bad part about it. It takes an awesome idea: a virus infects the population so that men’s thoughts can be heard, but women’s cannot. It won the Tiptree Award for exploration of gender roles. It’s also fun to read has the best title of any book I can remember reading.
- Interfictions 2 edited by Delia Sherman and Christopher Barzak (my review)
I’m hesitant to put an anthology in any best of list because there’s more points of failure. The nature of Interfictions is that the stories cross genres and conventions and thus are not something you’d see every day. It’s also the case that some of these stories really didn’t work for me. But the ones that did, really worked well, and you can’t find them anywhere else. M. Rickert’s
The Beautiful Feastis beautifully confusing. And David J. Schwartz’
The 121gives an explosion a mind of it’s own. Read the review for some of the other great inclusions.
- Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon (my review)
I’m going to digress a bit here.
I really liked this book because the protagonist was definitely in senior citizen range. That’s rare in science fiction. I also think Moon did a really good job making alien aliens. I enjoyed reading it. Then Elizabeth Moon went and said something offensive and stupid.
The problem is somewhat outside the book. Moon’s bigoted comments told Muslims and foreigners their ways aren’t welcome here, where god-fearing American types get to determine who is and isn’t worthy. On the scale of racist things to say, it wasn’t the worst of possible things. She wasn’t advocating pogroms or internment cams. But what she wrote was offensive, and very public, and then she kept on digging her hole deeper.
So despite that I thought that this was a very good book, I won’t be reading her other books for now. I hate giving publicity and sales to someone who uses that influence and money to push an agenda that offends me. I don’t read Orson Scott Card any more. That was made easier by the fact that he’s turned out crap since the mid 1990s.
Still, the book is excellent, so I’m putting it here. Make your own decision as to whether to read it in good conscience.
Despite the fact that I read a fair amount of economics, I’m somewhat surprised that the best non-fiction I’ve read were both economics books. Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion might have made the list had he not gone off into minimizing sexual molestation. I still don’t see why he went there.
- Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo (my review)
- Not exactly the most scintillating of topics, but figuring out how to get Africa on track economically is something that’s very important for the future of the world. I thought Ms. Moyo underestimated how realistic it would be to get her solutions in place, and I question whether they are even good solutions or not. But they aren’t obviously wrong either. She makes a good case for them.
- The Myth of the Rational Market by Justin Fox (my review)
- The biggest influence on Republican economic policy over the last few decades has been the efficient markets hypothesis. It gives a nice theoretical cover to letting businesses do whatever the hell they want. Investors are playing a classic of game theory, betting on what they think other people will do, rather than making rational decisions about what’s best for them. In addition, individually best decisions don’t always aggregate to societal good. Fox’s book traces the evolution of the hypothesis from inception to general rejection by economists. This isn’t so much his argument (though perhaps it might be) as a good history of how economists viewed the efficient markets hypothesis.
Bonus Worst Book!
Buy this book for people you hate, or for people you want to piss off. Or for that white elephant gift exchange you really don’t want to go to. Had I my druthers, I would have James Hogan’s Inherit the Stars here, but it’s out of print.
- Big Big Sky by Kristyn Dunnion (my review)
- This could have been good. A band of lesbian genetic experiments break from the control of their alien overlords, and then get sidetracked in a meandering plot that goes all over the map as well as drops subplots with abandon.