I thought it would be nice to end the year with a few of my favorite books by women in 2010… If you haven’t read these, I hope you’ll consider them the next time you visit your local bookstore or library.
I don’t know what I admire more about Kim Dana Kupperman’s debut collection of essays, I Just Lately Started Buying Wings, the exquisite prose or the clear-eyed, hard-won insights (particularly into loss and identity). Kupperman won the Bakeless Prize in nonfiction and was also published by Graywolf Press. This book, along with Eula Biss’s Notes from No Man’s Land, inspired me to work on essays this summer.
In writers’ questionnaires, sometimes you’ll get this: “Name a book you wish you had written.” This year, Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks –an important, moral, fascinating work of narrative nonfiction–came to mind often. I bought this book the day it came out and have recommended it to just about everyone I know.
Another nonfiction book I loved this year was Jane Brox’s Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light. I heard Brox read from the first chapter at Bread Loaf this summer and was captivated by her beautiful prose and the attention she pays not just to the history but also to the aesthetics of artificial light–from the earliest crude candles to yellowy gaslight to today’s energy-saving CFC’s and LED lights. A great book to curl up with in the winter.
Mona Simpson’s My Hollywood was a book I waited a long time for, ever since she published “Coins,” an excerpt, in Harper’s (back in 2002, I think). I thought it was worth the wait and was glad to return to her characters, particularly Lola.
I could not put down Michelle Hoover’s The Quickening, a starkly written novel about two Iowa farmwives at the beginning of the Great Depression. I think I read the entire book in a couple of afternoons, in a hammock, and I felt fully immersed in the world Hoover created from the first page to the last. I think this would be a really smart book club pick.
A great book to park beside your bed–read a few of these smart, funny, sometimes heartbreaking stories every night; they are almost all very short and always edifying. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis came out in 2009 but was published in paperback just recently. I think you should probably get the hardcover though; it’s very nicely done.
Another late 2009 title that came out in paperback this year, Lori Ostlund’s The Bigness of the World is a sharply written, funny, unsentimental collection of stories peopled with characters you won’t forget. Winner of the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Prize and a great book club pick.
And I haven’t read this one yet, but:
Wasn’t Jaimy Gordon’s surprise National Book Award win a great story? And is it just me, or doesn’t it seem that she has received less attention than Paul Harding for his small-press Pulitzer Prize-winning Tinkers (a book I loved)? I bought Lord of Misrule for my dad. Early 1970s, West Virginia, down-and-dirty horse racing: it seemed like a perfect book for him. Hopefully he’ll read it soon so I can borrow it.