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The Year in Review 2010

Best of 2010

Critic: Carlo Wolff

1. The Tiger

John Vaillant

A fabulous inquiry into the rapidly disappearing Siberian tiger and the men who attempt to preserve it. The book is also a thrilling look at revenge.

2. Snakewoman of Little Egypt

Robert Hellenga

Hellenga reminds me of Mark Twain in his affection for old, weird Americana and his bemused attitude. Rarely is depth such wry fun.

3. Freedom

Jonathan Franzen

Franzenís structure was a bit cumbersome, but his social observations more than made up for it. Probably the most ambitious novel of the year. I couldnít put it down.

4. Life

Keith Richards with James Fox

Funny, acid and insightful, the Richards autobiography exceeded my expectations, providing fresh insights into familiar ground. An appropriately wiry, key addition to the bloated rock canon (enough with the McCartney bios already).

5. Secret Historian

Justin Spring

This biography of tattoo artist/homosexual pioneer/academic Samuel Steward illuminates early 20th-century American history by unearthing the story of a man who was simultaneously ahead of his timeóand victimized by it.

6. The Lonely Polygamist

Brady Udall

Udall is a prodigiously gifted writer who tends to overwrite from exuberance. His novel explores territory similar to that of the HBO series Big Love, rendering a polygamous Mormon family in bright, affectionate colors.

7. The Same River Twice

Ted Mooney

Paris stars in this moody thriller about the interface between politics and the art world. Mooney is a sharp art critic, deft at characterization. This is modern noir at its best.

8. Bodyworld

Dash Shaw

From its laminated cover to its watery, palimpsest imagery, Bodyworld is a knockout of a graphic novel. The Boney Borough Shaw invents is a world you wonít want to leave, no matter how creepy. A visual and philosophical delight.

9. Collusion

Stuart Neville

This sequel to The Ghosts of Belfast, also starring conflicted hit man Gerry Fegan, is a dramatic thriller about the aftermath of political compromise in Ireland. I wonder what Nevilleís going to write about Irelandís latest troubles.

10. A Visit From the Goon Squad

Jennifer Egan

Eganís twined, decidedly nonlinear narrative about aging rocker Bennie Salazar and his paramour Sasha scrambles time and viewpoint to intoxicating effect. This novel is the literary equivalent of trompe líoeil painting. Eganís finest trick is to craft characters as engaging as her technique is dazzling.

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