As an editor I’ll always champion publishing in hardcover, but I confess as a reader I prefer to crack open a paperback. So in 2010 I caught up with two extraordinary works of nonfiction that were hits last year: Nick Reding’s Methland and Dave Cullen’s Columbine. These are books that feel like the best documentaries: intimate, raw, alive. Plus, their authors achieve that ineffable combination of reporter and writer with ease and grace.
I also spent much of 2010 reading Primo Levi. There are three full biographies, but I liked Ian Thomson’s Primo Levi: A Life best: a book as full of life as its subject. I continue to find that The Periodic Table bears re-reading as often as possible, for a reminder of Levi’s curiosity and and his humor. I was also struck reading Levi’s The Monkey’s Wrench for the first time: a wonderfully strange book, a novel I suppose, narrated largely through the stories of a ribald Piedmontese construction worker who is somehow both wise and clueless. Finally, I’ve been reading a lot of children’s books aloud to our little boy, and I can’t say enough about the deep (and often near wordless) pleasures of Donald Crews’ books, especially Freight Train and Parade, and Tim Egan’s sublime Dodsworth series, featuring a deadpan duck and the best straight-man in literature, Dodsworth.
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