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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

    My name is James Black. I'm on Facebook and Twitter. Friend and/or follow me if you like.

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My 2010 Book Picks

As a rather slow reader, I don’t get around to reading every book I should, nevertheless during the year it’s released. Instead of offering you a best-of list, I’ll simply comment on what I got around to reading. Keep in mind: it’s not the size of the list but what you do with it that counts. 

I usually don’t even know what books are soon to be released, so it was unusual to anticipate the release of Yield, a novel by Lee Houck, one of my Facebook and Twitter friends. As much as I looked forward to reading it, I realized that telling him “I’m about to read your book” was about the dumbest thing I could have done. What if I hated it, or worse, what if I just didn’t care about it. As it turns out, I worried for nothing. I absolutely loved it. What impresses me most is the effective portrayal of a someone who happens to be a sex worker. Pretty much every story I’ve read that involves a sex worker draws on stereotypes, but Lee has created a character whom I had no interest in making assumptions about. I wanted him to tell me his story and show me his life. As a writer, I found so much to admire. There’s not an unnecessary word in the book. The prose drew me in, made me want more and more, and left me satisfied. If it sounds like an engaging and kind of sexy reading experience, well, that’s because it is. And more important, it’s simply gorgeous.

Another book from this year that I love is The Side Door, a novel by Jan Donley, a friend of a friend whom I also know from Facebook. The story focuses on two high school students who come out (one as lesbian, the other as a gay man) during the mid-80s. Jan contrasts the characters’ experiences, emphasizing how the parents’ responses affect the kids. Furthermore, their coming out stories is overshadowed by the suicide that occurred five years earlier; it’s an open secret that the boy killed himself because he was bullied. I’m impressed by the honest and unflattering portrayal of the parents (of the main characters and of the boy who committed suicide). Jan honors their difficult situations without letting them off the hook. The book is a great accomplishment, plus it’s a great read.

The only other book I read this year was The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano, whom I’ve never met, not even via Facebook or Twitter. I already revealed my love for this book in this potentially embarrassing blog post, which you’re welcome to read.

I look forward to the great books coming in 2011. And I hope to finish a better-than-decent draft of the novel I’m writing. That would make it a very happy year.

2 Responses

  1. James!!!!!! Thank you, your vote is a big one.

  2. “Yield” is on my “to be read” stack. I’m looking forward to it even more now.

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