Reading Rainbow: 2010 Favorites

It feels a little silly to write about what I read last year now that I’ve read Barbara Kingsolver’s Lacuna. It outshines everything else I’ve read recently and I think it even outshines most of her prior novels (with the exception of Animal Dreams which remains a favorite).

Lacuna was pretty much everything I want a novel to be: through very memorable characters, it brought to life places I’ve never been (Mexico City and Asheville, NC) and it looked back at history in a way that shed new light on the present.  But there are still some very worthwhile things about my other favorite 2010 reads: One Day and The Commitment.

One Day by David Nicholls
This book got under my skin in a way that few books have — perhaps because One Day echoed certain elements of Mr. WholeHog and I’s story: it  follows the lives of two people who connect early on and, although their lives go in different directions, they stay in contact, always flirting with the idea of becoming more than friends.

It’s easy to dismiss the book because the crux of the story isn’t new and because it reads almost too easily (Nick Hornby called it “the perfect beach read for people who are normally repelled by the very idea of beach reads“), but One Day accomplishes something surprisingly rare: it offers a realistic look at the confusing and difficult process of becoming an adult, an area that too few other books try to tackle.

The Commitment by Dan Savage
The Commitment chronicles Savage’s thoughts on whether or not to marry his partner of 10 years. For me, this wasn’t a very compelling premise. Marriage is such personal choice, why would I care how one person makes that choice? Especially if that one person is Dan Savage, a writer perhaps better known for answering questions about whether or not one could make cheese from human breast milk.

But to my surprise, Savage turned out to be exactly the right person to write about marriage after all. He  doesn’t pretend that marriage is perfect. Instead, he looks at the reality of marriage and acknowledges that some marriages end in divorce, some aren’t monogamous, some don’t produce children and that not all marriages are between a man and a woman.  His clear-eyed-look at marriage  isn’t at all disheartening. Instead, it’s funny, hopeful and true. The book gave me a greater appreciation of marriage — and of Savage’s talents as a writer — and it inspired much of what I said at my sister’s wedding ceremony.

(Note: my sister believes that The Commitment may mention gay sex too often for some readers. Having read Dorothy Allison, I found The Commitment quite tame.)

Short Story I can’t seem to forget “Foster” by Claire Keegan in the New Yorker was easily one of the most memorable reads of 2010.


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