A Year in Reading: Stephen Elliott

December 4, 2010 | 8 books mentioned 1 2 min read


covercoverI kind of hate to say this, but the very best book I read this year was Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. It’s cliche, and he doesn’t need the boost. I read a number of smaller press books, some of which were excellent. Bluets by Maggie Nelson in particular springs to mind. But still, I really think Freedom is a masterpiece. I read it as an advance copy, so I had the fortune to read it when there was hype, but not as much hype as there became.

I will say this, it was not my best year for reading. It was a year where I read a lot of really good books but almost no great books. Last year I read three books I would consider better than Freedom, though only one of them was a novel, 2666 by Roberto Bolaño. It took me six months to read 2666. In the meantime, I also read We Did Porn by Zak Smith, which was also a better book, as was Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. But that was last year, and that’s not what this is about.

coverBut I don’t care. I want to talk about something else. You know what’s a great novel? Lush Life by Richard Price. That’s from my 2008 list (I keep a list of every book I read). Also, in 2008, I read the novella Ray by Barry Hannah. Are you kidding? You want to talk about great literature, you have to read Ray before you can even have the conversation. And those two books weren’t even the best books I read in 2008. Because in 2008, I read the absurdly underrated Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker, which impacts the way I think about creative non-fiction still to this day.

coverAnd then in 2007, I read Stoner, which would probably top the list of “Best Books I’ve Read In The Last Four Years.” 2007 was a glorious year for reading. Sylvia by Leonard Michaels, Advertisements for Myself by Norman Mailer, The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm, The Places In Between by Rory Stewart.

I’m not even going to get into 2006. I’d start to cry.

More from a Year in Reading 2010

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is the author of seven books including The Adderall Diaries. He edits The Rumpus.

One comment:

  1. My wife, Shana, found the quote below. She is reading A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse (and liking it so far). We are in your nearly-70 demographic and sometimes we think we have no age cohorts here. Anyway a character (former literature major at the Sorbonne and now a police detective) says:

    “I’m passionate about literature, and like anyone who’s passionate, I suffer. I expect a great deal from novels. I’ve been disappointed so often that over the last ten years or so I haven’t dared to open a new book. I wait for time to do the sorting. I only read classics now. …….”

    I have asked my library to ILL the Barry Hannah novella; I love Nicholson Baker, too–he blew me away with his first book The Mezzanine and I have read everything by him. For the same reasons as others who are so conflicted about Freedom, I keep putting it off. Despite the raves. Maybe the quote above is the truest reason of all.

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