During the first month of 2011, Dzanc Books will be sharing a number of "Best of 2010" lists written by our authors, our editors, and other affiliated folks. Today's list comes from Keith Taylor, author of Marginalia for a Natural History, forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2011.
Top 10 of 2010
1. The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov. I've been carrying this book around for years, and it dawned on me in May, after reading the last couple of stories, that I had now actually read every page of it.
2. Charles Darwin: Voyaging. By Janet Browne. This is the first volume of the Browne's definitive biography. In this one you get the description of the Beagle trip and the first glimmers of evolutionary theory. Tremendously readable. And convincing, if anyone still needs it, that Darwin was the defining genius of his century. And, you know. a really interesting prose stylist, too.
3. Nox. By Anne Carson. You need the juice Anne has to get New Directions to do a gigantic accordion book in a box and keep it under $30. But what a gift they have given us. It pops up on the poetry lists, but it is something else--although the effect works like the best poems--a slowly developing and finally overwhelming image of grief.
4. Canisy. By Jean Follain (trans by Louise Guiney). This was a reread, 30 years later, of a little book published by a small press in Colorado called Loghbridge Rhodes. They have long disappeared--who knows where, who knows why. Follain is a fascinating French poet, run over by a car in the Place de la Concorde in 1971. Despite some incredible English translators (William Matthews, W.S. Merwin, Heather McHugh, and now Christopher Middleton), he has never had his due here. He is able to mix history, memory and imagination where the lines between them seem to disappear. Much the way Nabokov does. This is a prose memoir of his childhood told in tiny little fragments, like prose poems, or flash-memories.
5. Next. By James Hynes. Sure, he's a good friend--but this is a tour de force. Middle-aged male sexual fantasies devolving into apocalypse. The last 50 pages are some of the most amazing pages by any contemporary fiction writer. This should have won all the awards, but ended up only on a couple top 10 lists, including the Huffington Post's.
6. Apparition and Late Fiction and Walking Papers, by Thomas Lynch. OK. Another friend. Book of stories and a book of poems by the world's most famous undertaker. First is his first fiction. One of two NYTimes reviews said Lynch is our best prose stylist since Lamb and Hazlett. Think of trying to live up to that. The poems are his first in more than a decade. Wonderful poems (for which he has taken a little grief) that take on the Bush Secretariat.
7. Words for Empty and Words for Full. By Bob Hicok. OK. A third friend. Hicok has become a major poet, and this one has his extraordinary meditations on the massacre at Virginia Tech, where he teaches. A poet known for his humor is on his way to becoming one of our most serious poetic thinkers. I did a big review of this in Boston Review, which is easy to find on their web page.
8. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Hakuri Murakami (trans by Jay Rubin). In the effort to constantly play catch up--read this because one of my former students was reading it and loving it. I finally got it. Even in translation, Murakami is able to draw us into his weird, trippy dream world.
9. Talking Dirty to the Gods. Yusef Komunyakaa. A book about 10 years old. All in the same form--but Komunyakaa uses it to get in all sorts of things, from jazz to myth. And it never feels strained.
10. Sand County Almanac. By Aldo Leopold. Probably the eighth or ninth time I've read this, and I did it because I teach the book in a summer course I teach on Environmental Writing. The urgencies of this book have not diminished at all--and it remains one of the most compelling pleas for the North American landscape.