Friday, September 16, 2011

Best reads of 2010

Not based on when they were released, the following are the best spec-fic books I read in 2010.

The Stranger – Albert Camus
Camus fictionalizes the philosophical concept of ‘the absurd’ perfectly in The Stranger.

Europe: A History - Norman Davies
Too much knowledge to be digested in one read, Davies breaks down the evolution of European history, century by century, to the end of the 20th. Bronze Age, renaissances, industrialization, world wars… my head is still spinning.

One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A fantastical version of Colombian history, Marquez’s language is simply breathtaking at times – reminiscent of Nabokov’s Pale Fire.  The original in Spanish must be euphoric. 

Actually published in five separate books, imagination and allusion have yet to be combined as effectively.  This is fully mature speculative fiction that defies genre.

Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre - ed. by Walter Kaufman
A brilliant collection of the greats who wrote (intentionally and unintentionally) on the subject, Nietzsche, Jaspers, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Camus, Sartre, etc. are all there. No better place to start than this. 

There is no one on earth (that I’ve read or heard) who has imaginary largesse like Jack Vance.  I was floored by his constant ability to top himself with one unbelievable setting or scene after another.  I wish I had discovered Vance at an earlier age.

The Dispossessed - Ursula Le Guin
Science fiction is only a mode in which Le Guin writes, while her  content and theme are as human as human is.  Physics and politics have never had such purpose to mankind.

Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory - Peter Barry
Penguin and Oxford’s accounts of literary theory solid but lacking practical material, Terry Eagleton’s missing whole topics, I have yet to find a book on literary theory as comprehensive as Barry’s. Containing practical work in addition to theory, Barry even throws in some case studies for good measure. Literary –isms have never been described with such clarity. Bravo.
This little book is as unique as literature gets.  Creating its own sub-genre (geometric fantasy--and the only entry to date), it's impossible not to make a person re-evaluate their day – or life!

The Forever War - Joe Haldeman
Wonderful commentary on the Vietnam war through the lens of science-fiction--a fact driven home by the author's own experiences with the war.  Solid stuff.

47 Ronin - trans. John Allyn
Though romanticized, this historical account of the tremendous sacrifice a group of dispossessed samurai went through to uphold their duty to their fallen leader speaks is bursting with culture and insight.


  1. I enjoy your brief reviews. They are very useful. I have read many of the books you have chosen and will look up others