Best of the Best Ofs
If you’re going to be writing a Best Books of 2010 list, it seems compulsory to include Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. It gets a mention in two New York Times lists, including one by critic Michiko Kakutani who also give Keith Richards' Life a hearty thumbs-up - calling it “a book in which Mr. Richards has magically translated the fierce emotion of his guitar playing to the page”.
In the Age’s round-up of authors' picks Andrea Goldsmith and Andrew Riemer both gave Franzen the nod. The list featured last year’s Booker-winning Wolf Hall, a volume so long that some authors are only just getting through it in 2010. It was recommended by both Geraldine Brooks and Chris Wormersley who found himself “jump[ing] aboard the Wolf Hall bandwagon. A smart, brutal, affecting novel that satisfies on every level”.
Wolf Hall also got a mention on the Grattan Institute’s top ten alongside George Megalogenis' Trivial Pursuit: Leadership and the end of the reform era (which the Wheeler Centre featured this year with Lindsay Tanner) and Andrew O'Hagan’s Our Fathers.
Internationally, Publisher’s Weekly also gives Freedom a guernsey in their list, but the only Australian novel worth a look was Peter Carey’s Parrot and Olivier in America in which Carey “finds, via a snobbish Frenchman and an earthy Brit, a truly American story”.
Keen to derail the Freedom ride, Slate called their Best of “Better Than Freedom” picking out a few little known books including The Ask by Sam Lipsyte (which they called “The Gen-X coming-of-middle-age novel we’ve all been waiting for, and, fittingly, none of us bought it”). But they also picked more predictable choices like Booker-bagging The Finkler Question and Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story (including this year’s must-see trailer).
The Times has a list compiled from several authors that is mercifully Franzen and Mantell free though Julian Barnes is looking back on authors who have passed away over the last year (notably Barry Hannah for whom the “short story was his best form, and Airships, an ear-perfect array of voices from the American South, was his best book”.) AS Byatt picked Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes as “gripping and surprising”.
To really escape Franzen fandom and Mantell mania, Readings has a wrap-up of Most Overlooked Young Adult Books of 2010 including Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon (called “lyrical new YA novel from the award-winning author”) and, proving you can’t keep the bloodsuckers at bay, there’s vampire-with-a-difference title, Solace and Grief by Foz Meadows. Readings full list of its 100 bestsellers had Franzen narrowly pipped at the post by David Marr’s Quarterly Essay 38: Power Trip: The Political Journey of Kevin Rudd.