Best-of-2010 Megalist: Poetry and Graphic Works

I’m waiting for one final source which traditionally concludes my compilation of the best books of the year in a single “megalist” spreadsheet. Next week I’ll post the final results and wrap-ups of speculative fiction and the highest overall vote getters. In the meanwhile, let’s take a look at the best reviewed books in some categories that are not traditional book group material, but should be shared more often.

POETRY

1. Nox, by Anne Carson (16 votes)

Nox received more mentions by far than any work of poetry in the three years that I’ve been compiling the Megalist. It’s an unusual work that comes in a box that contains a foldout collage of letters, photographs, quotations, and poetry–an elegy and history of Carson’s brother. This elegant and unique literary work would make a wonderful item to pass around the circle at a book group.

2. Human Chain, by Seamus Heaney (10 votes)

In his fourteenth collection, Nobel laureate Heaney has lost none of his power. The subject matter is earthy: stone and plants and people who work the land. Heaney also explores connections to the past: his own, that of his lost friends, and classical traditions of the underworld.

3. The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, by Kay Ryan (8 votes)

America’s current poet laureate offers this collection of her short, riddle-like poems. She’s an expert observer, capturing a mix of the philosophical, insightful and humorous in slim-lined packages: zen koans for poetry readers.

GRAPHIC WORKS

1. Wilson, by Daniel Clowes (10 votes)

The author of Ghost World is this year’s top vote-getter in graphic works, with this sardonic look at the lonely title character, a divorced man who can’t seem to escape his own misanthropic misery. Although in sum total this is a novel, each page reads like a traditional cartoon strip, except with a punchline that delivers a gut punch as often as a belly laugh.

2. BodyWorld, by Dash Shaw (7 votes)

In a dystopic future, in a planned community called Boney Borough, a new-to-town drug researcher named Paulie Panther discovers a plant that when smoked allows people to telepathically experience the mind and body experiences of others. A variety of results ensue for the town’s varied residents. The experimental graphic style, which blurs, distorts, and combines, and the unusual book design capture the drug experiences aptly.

3 (tie). Acme Novelty Library #20 (Lint), by Chris Ware (6 votes)

Ware’s series is better than it’s rather bland title. This entry concerns Jordan Lint, the CEO of an investment company. The book captures his entire life in a series of one page vignettes. Lint is a fascinating character, an amoral man who readers will love to hate. The detailed, naturalistic artwork is enhanced with juxtaposed panels and creative typography.

3 (tie). Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit, by Darwyn Cooke (6 votes)

Cooke again adapts Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake) to great effect in another round with the tough-as-nails investigator. Using minimal dialogue, Cooke draws body language and facial expression with wonderful nuance. It’s a stark, noir world colored for the most part only in two tones. If you can lay your hands on copies, an evening of graphic novels makes great fun for book groups, as passing the books around and enjoying the varied art work is fascinating and fun.

For the full results in these categories and others, visit the link at the top of the page and download the full Megalist Excel spreadsheet.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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