BOOKS THAT MATTERED
1. Obama’s Wars, Bob Woodward It helps to have the pages of The Washington Post to excerpt your accounts of Beltway sausage-making, but Woodward’s look at how the president decided to surge-ify Afghanistan revealed juicier tidbits about policy prima donnas in 440 pages than WikiLeaks mustered in a quarter-million.
2. The Big Short, Michael Lewis Lewis examined the worldwide financial collapse from the perspectives of several insiders, including investors who saw what was coming and made a killing on their prescience. With the new GOP House gearing up to lay the blame on Fannie Mae’s doorstep, Lewis’ tale should remain influential in 2011.
3. Freedom, Jonathan Franzen The newly Oprah-approved author returned to bestseller-dom with Freedom, a consideration of that iconic American value, and its perversions, as reflected in the Bush-era tribulations of a Midwestern family. The New York Times liked it, too, putting it on its 10 best books of 2010 list.
4. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, Siddhartha Mukherjee This oncologist traced the history of the human body’s intractable nemesis, along with our—and his own— attempts to combat it.
5. The Autobiography of Mark Twain As Garrison Keillor points out in his Times review, the always brand-burnishing Samuel Clemens hit upon a clever marketing strategy in prescribing a century wait for his autobiography. At times tedious, his memoir is nonetheless an antidote to humbug, which keeps a toehold in the 21st century—kind of like books.
J. CALEB MOZZOCCO
1. Picture This, Lynda Barry Barry tackles some of the toughest questions imaginable in the realms of aesthetics, language development and even mental health in this inventive, relentlessly charming graphic novel/memoir posing as a how-to activity book.
2. Eden, Pablo Holmberg This collection of the Argentinean artist’s four-panel comic strips distills the medium to its purest form, telling super-short, romantic, fantastical and surprisingly complete stories using a few words, a few pictures and the manipulation of the passage of time.
3. Temperance, Cathy Malkasian Blessed with a Dr. Seuss-like ability to evoke the most serious problems and bleakest emotions in personalized, original, timeless fantasy elements, Malkasian has constructed a graphic epic involving a handful of colorful, tragic characters and their interlocking lives.
4. Flesh and Bone, Julia Gfrörer In delicate lines and occasionally furious cross-hatching, Gfrörer renders a strange romance about a young man mourning his deceased lover and the witch who helps him when no one else can.
5. Werewolves of Montepellier, Jason A successful jewel thief disguises himself as a werewolf during heists, eventually attracting the attention of real, actual werewolves in Jason’s latest deadpan dramedy masterpiece. While that might sound like the protagonist’s most urgent problem, his doomed crush on neighbor-turned-friend Audrey is the only thing truly eating him.
BUZZWORTHY VIDEO GAMES
1. Angry Birds (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad) Twelve million Mac users have paid $0.99 to fling obese cartoon birds at green pigs. Many of these game players, myself included, affectionately refer to Angry Birds as “the best 99 cents I ever spent.”
2. Dance Central (Xbox) This game grabbed headlines for what it is (Dance Dance Revolution, minus the dance pad), and for what it represents: the controller-free future of gaming.
3. Red Dead Redemption (Xbox/PlayStation) Before 2010, gamers wondered, Is Grand Theft Auto creator Rockstar Games a one trick pony? Red Dead Redemption answered that question in no uncertain terms: nope.
4. Fallout: New Vegas (Xbox/ PlayStation) If the franchise ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Bethesda Softworks served up more of the glorious same with FNV. Fans responded by purchasing 5 million copies in one month.
5. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) One of the most creative, best-rated games of the year. Mario now farts clouds and runs up walls in his quest to save the Princess. Bowser hasn’t changed.