The second installment of my favorite books from 2010 continues the somewhat offbeat — at least far from the bestseller list — choices that delighted me over the past 12 months. Most of my reading tended toward nonfiction, but of the contemporary novels I read, one stood out: Thomas Mullen’s wonderfully clever “The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers.” Tom Mullen lives in Decatur and is a friend, I should acknowledge up front, but I’d love this book even if he were a stranger. Tom does a marvelous job of creating a lively and very real Depression-era landscape, filling it with a strong cast of characters, most notably the bank-robbing, time-hopping Firefly Brothers, and tells a highly original, page-turning tale that seems as honest now as then.
Pat Conroy once wrote that he didn’t care how many outrageous things James Dickey did — or was rumored to have done — in his life, it was his poetry that mattered. And Dickey’s best book, “Poems: 1957-1967” still matters. I re-read it in 2010 and came away again awed by the power and passion of Dickey’s words, the beauty and fire of his voice, and the fact that a handful of the most unforgettable poems ever written in the English language may be found in these pages.
I read, learned from and deeply admired a pair of biographies during the year. Ronald White’s “A. Lincoln” and Ron Chernow’s “George Washington” are both seminal studies that give us revealing looks at these larger-than-life figures. There are already more books about these two Presidents than anyone could digest, but there are no finer one-volume accounts that measure so perfectively and fully their complexities and contradictions and find for us the sources of their greatness.
And finally — perhaps because I seem to lack the last ounce of humility — I am duty bound to disclose another source of great personal pleasure: the publication of my new book, “Whisky, Kilts, and the Loch Ness Monster: Traveling Through Scotland with Boswell and Johnson.” Few things have given me as much joy as researching and writing that book, and my hope is that some others will find in its pages an equal reward.
Regardless, of course, I hope for everyone who has been with this blog at any point throughout the year the best of holidays and best wishes for a very happy new year!