Presented below is a full list of the books I read in 2010 as well as my “favorites” from several categories. Last year’s list can be found here. (Disclaimer: All book links in this post are Amazon affiliate links).
Favorite Fiction Book: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. I read the majority of this book while on vacation in Florida, and it sort of messed me up. Although it’s written (I believe) with my parents’ generation in mind as the primary audience, the novel’s themes nevertheless burrowed into my psyche and have been sitting there since — I still don’t think I’ve fully digested it. Freedom also had some of the best prose writing I’ve read in a long, long time.
Favorite Non-Fiction Theology Book: This one’s a tie between The Reality of the Gospel and the Unreality of the Churches by Douglas John Hall (DJH) and The Promise of Despair by Andy Root. I don’t feel too bad about declaring a tie because much of Root’s book builds upon DJH’s work anyhow. Potentially interesting tidbit: I’m currently reading DJH’s The Cross In Our Context for a class I’m taking next week with Andy Root.
Favorite Non-Fiction Non-Theology Book: If I didn’t feel like it was cheating, I’d say Kenneth G. C. Newport’s comprehensive and engrossing academic study The Branch Davidians of Waco: The History and Beliefs of an Apocalyptic Sect was my favorite. But since that could be considered theological, I’ll have to say Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma a couple years ago, and In Defense of Food was a good refresher of some previous ideas and chock full of interesting food industry practices and practical advice on eating well.
Did you know that probing the seamy underbelly of U.S. lexicography reveals ideological strife and controversy and intrigue and nastiness and fervor on a nearly hanging-chad scale? For instance, did you know that some modern dictionaries are notoriously liberal and others notoriously conservative, and that certain conservative dictionaries were actually conceived and designed as corrective responses to the “corruption” and “permissiveness” of certain liberal dictionaries? That the oligarchic device of having a special “Distinguished Usage Panel … of outstanding professional speakers and writers” is an attempted compromise between the forces of egalitarianism and traditionalism in English, but that most linguistic liberals dismiss the Usage Panel as mere sham-populism? Did you know that U.S. lexicography even had a seamy underbelly?
My purchase of Garner’s Modern American Usage is directly tied to my reading of this essay.
Best Reference Book: Garner’s Modern American Usage by Bryan A Garner.
Favorite Footnote: #42 in “Authority and American Usage” by David Foster Wallace 1
Here’s the complete list:
Astute readers will notice that while I read all three books of Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, I only listed the first two books of the Hunger Games Trilogy. Well, I’m about halfway through the third book right now, and I just didn’t feel right listing it with 2010’s books.
So, what did YOU read?
The footnote reads, in full: “To be honest, the example here has a special personal resonance for this reviewer because in real life I always seem to have a hard time winding up in conversation or asking somebody to leave, and sometimes the moment becomes so delicate and fraught with social complexity that I’ll get overwhelmed trying to sort out all the different possible ways of saying it and all the different implications of each option and will just sort of blank out and do it totally straight — ‘I want to terminate the conversation and not have you be in my apartment anymore’ — which evidently makes me look either as if I’m very rude and abrupt or as if I’m semi-autistic and have no sense of how to wind up a conversation gracefully. Somehow, in other words, my reducing the statement to its bare propositional content ‘sends a message’ that is itself scanned, sifted, interpreted, and judged by my auditor, who then sometimes never comes back. I’ve actually lost friends this way.” (Wallace, David Foster. Consider the Lobster and Other Essays. Boston: Back Bay Books, 2007. Print. 97.) ↩