Everybody's making top 10 lists, so I will too. Here goes--what I read, heard, and saw in 2010 and really, really liked.
(1) Ian McEwen, Solar. A brilliant Nobel-prize winning womanizer and glutton gets involved in a project that's supposed to solve the problem of global warming. Beautifully written, hilarious, and thought-provoking. Must we become virtuous for global warming to be dealt with?
(2) Margaret Atwood, After the Flood. In the not too far future, environmentalism-cum-religion are set against rampant technology, genetic engineering, and all sorts of toxicity. The end of the world is very, very nigh. Unpredictable, complex, lush, poetic, challenging. Oryx and Crake, the first part of the trilogy, is great too. Can't wait for book III.
(3) Jumpha Lahiri, Unaccustomed Earth. Short stories about Indian immigrants in college towns. Her writing never calls attention to itself, but quickly evokes a world, a state of mind, a scene. Your are gripped by the third sentence. So good I read her other two books this year as well--The Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake.
(4) Keith Richards, Life. I don't know why Keith told me all his secrets, but he did, and I really enjoyed it. Subject of my next TPM column.
(5) Steig Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Crime thrillers aren't usually my thing, but this is unique, atmospheric, and pleasingly strange. The Julian Assange story will seem like a sequel, to anyone who's read Larsson's three bestsellers.
(6) Arcade Fire, Suburbia. Big rock sound, with complexity like a symphony. Subtle lyrics, interesting emotional range, a cool Neil Young-ish voice. So good...
(7) Eminem, Recovery, and other albums. Rap is constantly blaring in my house. Don't know if this is Stockholm syndrome, but I've become a fan. For skeptics: try this or this or this.
(8) "The Social Network" Fascinating movie, interesting question: can you cut a few moral corners, but still be (basically) a good guy? The movie made me think the answer is yes. Perfect movie for discussing Susan Wolf's well-known article "Moral Saints."
(9) "The Hereafter" Being able to communicate with the dead sure makes life complicated. This movie would be irksome if it were really trying to make the case, but it isn't. It's a "what if?" character study. Engrossing and entertaining.
(10) "Inception" It took seeing it twice to make me a fan. Maybe that's because I hate being confused. The second time I realized it really wasn't just another virtual reality movie. It's about being powerfully drawn into unreality, not about how we can('t) tell the real from the unreal.
What did you read, hear, see in 2010?