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Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine’s Top 10 Books of 2010

Shelf Media Group, List of Books, Staff Posted: Nov 18, 2010

Amid all the discussions this year about ways of reading books — Kindle? Nook? iPad? print? — one thing is for sure: The quality and variety of new books available for us all to read this year has been outstanding, and small and indie presses have garnered more top awards and recognition than ever. In no particular order, here’s Shelf Unbound magazine’s Top 10 Books of 2010. We’d love your feedback and recommendations. — Margaret Brown, Publisher

East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres by Andrew Lam from Heyday Books. Our review: Part of a ’90s-era peer group that includes first- and second-generation Asian Americans who achieved elite educations and discovered new levels of acceptance and wealth in the process, Lam insightfully and artfully examines the underpinnings of our immigrant nation that keep certain cultural divides untranslatable, all while pointing out the dichotomies in his own beautiful words.

The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich from Two Dollar Radio, www.twodollarradio.com. Our review: The Orange Eats Creeps is a relentless existential nightmare as baffling as it is brilliant. Krilanovich dispenses with so many writing norms that the reader is required to figure out a new way to read. It’s a thrilling ride.

Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles by Kira Henehan from Milkweed Editions, www.milkweed.org. Our review: Orion is a Pop Noir masterpiece filled with inventive, ingenious intrigue. We love this book!

I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita from Coffee House Press, www.coffeehousepress.org. Our review: A National Book Award finalist, I Hotel is a remarkable literary feat, telling the story of Asian American lives and activism in early 1970s San Francisco in 10 novellas, from numerous perspectives, and in a variety of styles from prose to graphic art.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas from Penguin, us.penguingroup.com. Our review: Critics have called it vulgar, racist, and misogynistic. Fans have called it brilliant, gripping, and one of the best books of the decade. Should it have won the Booker Prize? In our book, absolutely.

If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home by John Jodzio from Replacement Press, www.replacementpress.com. Our review: For all its odd characters, John Jodzio’s writing is simply about the folly of being human. Every one of the stories in his debut collection is succinct, funny as hell, and spot-on smart.

Tengo Sed by James Fleming from University of New Mexico Press, www.unmpress.com. Our review: I read straight through all 130 pages then started over again with page 1. It is the best piece of medical literature I have read since Atul Gawande’s Complications and one of the most insightful and strikingly original books I’ve read in years.

Maple Leaf Rag by Kaie Kellough from Arbeiter Ring Publishing, www.arbeiterring.com. Our review: Echoing the Scott Joplin title, Kellough’s poetry is syncopated and ragged, a brilliant language of jazz beats and African rhythms. Canadian Kellough’s poems comment on place, identity, race, and history. It’s a compelling collection that we highly recommend.

Detroit Disassembled, photographs by Andrew Moore from Akron Art Museum and Damiani Editore (Italy), www.akronartmuseum.org. Our review: Moore takes us beyond the individual toll of a failed economy to something more Pompeiian in scope. To an empty city falling in on itself, in unspeakable tragic beauty.

Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson, translated by Damion Searls, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, us.macmillan.com. Our review: Originally published in the Netherlands in 1947, long out of print, and finally translated into English, Comedy in a Minor Key is a finely crafted story of a Dutch couple hiding a Jewish man in their attic in during the Nazi occupation of Europe. The novel is spare and nuanced, examining humanity and atrocity from the vantage point of one small house.

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