A Year in Reading: Dan Kois

December 4, 2010 | 1 book mentioned 5 2 min read


coverGoddammit, I’m choosing Freedom.

Oh, how I wish I could be talking about some other book! A book that’s weirder or fringier or cooler. A book that didn’t get on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, or if it did get on the cover, it wasn’t also chosen by Oprah. Maybe even, for Christ’s sake, a book that’s not by a dude.

But as much as I loved the books I read this year by Jennifer Egan and Belle Boggs and Tim Hensley and David Mitchell and Vanessa Davis and Ian Frazier and Paul Murray and John Waters and Daniel Clowes and Natasha Vargas-Cooper and Moto Hagio and Matthew Gallaway and Dyna Moe, I loved Freedom more. Believe me: I’m not proud of myself. I feel like a real douche.

But I loved Freedom in May, when I was so wrapped up in the novel on a family trip to Carolina Beach that I shamefully abandoned my family to hide in a locked bedroom and read it in half-hour chunks, only emerging when the screams of my bored children made it impossible to continue. I loved it when I finished it and didn’t know anyone else who had read it and I wanted to talk about it so much. I loved it when I sent it to a friend in film who really wanted the summer’s status galley. I loved it when I got a first unexpected glimpse of Tanenhaus’s review. I loved it when debate broke out about whether it was worth all the attention paid to it, and I loved when wealthy female pop-fiction writers whined about the attention they didn’t get from the Times, and I loved when Meghan O’Rourke reminded us of the real gender gap in literary fiction. I loved defending Freedom in comment threads from people who hadn’t read it yet. I loved it when B.R. Myers wrote that review, and when Garth Hallberg took the occasion to rip B.R. Myers a new one. I loved it when friends tweeted their rage about Patty’s behavior, or their wicked delight with Joey’s shit-sifting, or their mockery of Jonathan Franzen’s hilarious notions of how viral videos work. I loved talking about it for most of a coffee date in which we were ostensibly supposed to be talking about business. I loved it when Oprah shouted, “FrrrrrrrrrrrEEEDooooooooommmmmmm!!!!!!!!!!!!!” And I loved it when my wife read it in September and started mysteriously disappearing into the basement for half an hour at a time.

I loved Freedom. But I also loved that everyone else loved (or hated, or poo-poohed, or was enraged by) Freedom. So I guess I’m glad that this overhyped, overwritten, overrated, too-popular doorstop by yet another old white guy with glasses was my favorite book of the year.

More from a Year in Reading 2010

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

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is a writer and editor at Slate. His novel Vintage Contemporaries will be published by Harper January 2023. He's the author of How to Be a Family, Facing Future, and (with Isaac Butler) The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of "Angels in America." He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his family. His website is www.dankois.com.


  1. Thank you for such a great article! It’s good to read about someone’s complete enjoyment of the novel, rather than all the negatives that Franzen seems to attract. I loved the way you summed up the reactions to the book. Great! Thanks.

  2. Nice read! I agree, hype or not Freedom is one of the stand-out novels of the year. It’s not my #1 favorite of the year (I also prefer The Corrections to it), but I definitely enjoyed reading it and find the anti-Franzen hype from those who have not even bothered to read it tiresome.

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