2010: Things I Read

December 28, 2010

2010: Things I Read, originally uploaded by erin m.

Last year, I lamented that I had wandered away from books and words. This year, I think I read even less. I still always carry one in my bag, but something about my habits has changed so significantly in the last few years that I read fewer books than I once did. I still look at it as a temporary thing, and I embrace the other pursuits that have taken the time once devoted to stories between pages–including the words that come to me in other ways, maybe in a shorter format or a digital one.

Still, though they are fewer, they are no less mighty. Here, then, are the Top 5 Things I Read in 2010:

This essay by Neil Gaiman, reviewing a show by his fiance, Amanda Palmer, as she reunites with Brian Viglione to perform as the Dresden Dolls again. The essay speaks beautifully of love, creativity, partnership, friendship, loss, healing and the quiet moments that can exist when people give each other the space to be who they are.

“Cash,” by Johnny Cash. I started this book years ago; the bookmark left in it was an Amtrak stub from a trip home in 2006. This spring, I grabbed it again one morning on my way out the door, and it was a grand way to spend a few afternoons at Peregrine. The life was not an easy one, but the sentences relating its stories are pure poetry. I would have expected nothing less from Mr. Cash.

Which is why I also picked up “Composed,” by his daughter Rosanne. One exceptionally angsty August afternoon, I desperately needed to get out of my apartment, and Rosanne Cash was scheduled to speak at 6th and I Synagogue downtown. I went, fell in love, stopped to buy the book on the way home, and devoured it in a day or two. The Post’s Jonathan Yardley wrote a love letter to Cash and her book in which he says “Rosanne Cash isn’t just a writer and performer of songs, she’s a writer, period.” Just as you can hear the legacy of her father in some of Cash’s music, the structure of her writing has similarities to her father’s way of telling stories. It’s an honest structure, built with sentences that wrap you up in their twists and leave you feeling wiser by the time you finally reach the end.

This was also the year I finally finished “Pattern Recognition,” by William Gibson. The first in a trilogy of sorts, this one builds the universe in which “Spook Country” and “Zero History” also take place. It’s a universe I like inhabiting for a while and, like a lot of Gibson’s stories, you read it with the tingling sense that it’s more a cultural manual than a mere fiction.

Finally, it might not have been the smartest idea for me to pick up Nick Hornby’s “Juliet, Naked” this fall, but reading it actually told me a lot more about my own emotional health than I could have discovered without the book–namely, that it was in better shape than I had expected. Nostalgia? Heartbreaking music? A long, drawn-out breakup? Christ, Erin, are you sure? As Hornby often is, though, the book was just the right story at just the right time, and I was able to appreciate it as just a really good story told with the usual self-deprecating British charm that makes his world such a thoughtful one to visit from time to time. But man, after the year I’ve had, I wouldn’t want to live there.

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