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There were people who figured we wouldn't be standing here now. People who, a year ago (Two years ago. Ten.) predicted that the book was in its dotage, a dinosaur due to crumble under the weight of technological advance. And yet, here we are, entering still another decade and we’re singing the same songs. Life is good.
If the industry has been surprised by anything over the past twelve months it’s been about how stable the sky has actually turned out to be. Is it possible (and I won’t say “I told you so”) that the sky is not falling, after all? And we have come/are coming to terms with something so important to this conversation: the form that books take may change, the way they are delivered may change, too. But reading itself is not replaceable. I might miss the smell of fresh ink if you took away my bound books, but I could live without it. But reading? That’s different. A life without literature is not a civilized thought, at all. Or, as the Latin quote says, Vita sine litteris mors est: Life without literature is death.
Arguments about the death of the book aside, 2010 was a terrific year for books in the English language. In the face of so much adversary and controversy, many publishers seemed to pull out all the stops in getting the very best of the best into the hands of all-too-willing readers. Increasingly, a lot of those books were delivered electronically, but -- also increasingly -- that’s beside the point. In all fields, 2010 brought us books from sensational old favorites to amazingly talented newcomers and the resulting message -- even if it is only subtext -- was very clear: publishers like making books. Readers like buying them. There might be questions about how to bring those two factions together most effectively but anyone still saying that falling numbers are due to a lack of readers simply hasn't been paying attention.
And so here we are a full 13 years after we at January Magazine began this journey. We have, once again, gone through our stacks and the archives from the year just past to bring you the books that we liked best.
Every year we ask all of our current contributors to give us the title of up to five of the books they liked best through their reading year and a little bit about their choices. Human nature being what it is, some writers can’t possibly hone it down to just five. Others can’t think of more than one or two worthy of comment. Either way, we end up with this delightful selection of books that our seasoned readers liked above all others. They don’t need to qualify their choices or explain them to anyone. There is no board or panel. No quotas from certain publishers, no authors that must be included. These are, quite simply, the books that our well read eyes and hearts liked best, listed in alphabetical order within the loose category in which they fall.
Our Best of 2010 selections rolled out over the week before Christmas. Look for our best books of the year in fiction, crime fiction (sections one and two), non-fiction, books for children and young adults, art and culture and cookbooks. | December 2010
Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.