PopMatters has chosen The Poacher's Son for its list of "Best Books of 2010." Not best mysteries, but best books. The list also includes Philip Roth, Stephen King, Emma Donoghue, and my old college drinking buddy Chang-rae Lee.
End of year lists are fluid; the best book you read in January may not make a list made in December, even if it is, in many ways, a better book than one you read in November. Stellar prose, tight plotting, even memorable characters are not enough to keep a book in mind for three months, let alone 12. This may seem harsh, but for a book to truly belong on a Best Of list, it has to meet one extra, often forgotten criterion: it must be engaging. “Best books” must capture the reader on not just an intellectual level, but on an emotional one, too.
If booklists have their own particular trend—and I think they do—this list presents an interesting, even surprising, take on 2010. Five of the 30+ titles present here are comics collections; many are dark and twisty, full of horrors that are sometimes a little too close to home (Super Sad True Love Story). More are “retro” or “vintage”, written in, or inspired by the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s. Yet most unexpected is the number of crossover titles on the list—not just two young adult novels (The Thief, For the Win), but adult novels with teenage protagonists, like Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation, Jayne Ann Philips’ Lark & Termite, and Emma Donoghue’s Room, narrated by five-year-old Jack.
While these reflections on the past—and somewhat dreary prophecies of the future—may seem depressing, they’re not all as pathos-inducing as the reissue of Brian Moore’s The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne. Tucked into this list are several small glimmers of something sweeter, something to temper the Literary Drearies we all love and appreciate. And that’s just the way it should be.
All I can say about this is that I'm honored—and speechless.