Indie Booksellers' Favorite Books of 2010


Thirteen finalists have been chosen and only one book will win this year’s Indie Booksellers’ Choice Awards. Aren’t you excited? The winner — as chosen by employees of independent bookstores across America — will be announced on May 23rd at Housing Works Bookstore in New York, and additional details are here. There’s a great amount of debut novels in this bunch, plus some work from writers who have been toiling in relative obscurity. We think The Orange Eats Creeps is one of the best titles we’ve heard in awhile, but we also love Barbara Comyn’s twisted posthumous publication, so we’re torn. Who do you think should win, dear readers?

The Black History of the White House by Clarence Lusane (City Lights)

Clarence Lusane is the program director for Comparative and Regional Studies at American University in DC and is the author of nine books, including The Black History of the White House. In his latest contribution, Lusane examines the role of slaves in the early years to the unjust treatment of black Secret Service agents by their peers.

Contingency Plans by David K. Wheeler (TS Poetry)

David K. Wheeler’s debut poetry collection, Contingency Plans, is out now by TS Poetry Press and has been praised by Olivier de la Paz for its “spiritual crisis and consequence.” Wheeler’s metaphysical view of the waking world runs through each of these compact poems, and it will be interesting to see what he does next.

The Instructions by Adam Levin (McSweeney’s)

Adam Levin’s debut novel, The Instructions, centers around four days in the young life of Gurion Maccabee as he endures a particularly harsh education at Aptakisic Junior High. This book was recently nominated for the NYPL’s Young Lions Fiction Award and the winning writer will be awarded a $10,000 prize on May 9, 2011 at a ceremony hosted by actor Ethan Hawke. Fancy.

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall (W.W. Norton)

In Bradly Udall’s second novel, The Lonely Polygamist, a feckless protagonist by the name of Golden Richards keeps four wives unhappy through his indecision. You can read Eric Weinberger’s review of the novel in The New York Times Book Review here.

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (Grove/Atlantic)

Sebastian Junger writes in The New York Times, “[Karl] Marlantes pushes you through what may be one of the most profound and devastating novels ever to come out of Vietnam — or any war.” Marlantes’s debut novel, Matterhorn, surrounds a group from the Fifth Marine Division during the war in Vietnam, told from the perspective of a young second lieutenant.

Nox by Anne Carson (New Directions)

In Nox, Anne Carson compiles an epitaph to her older brother, Michael, who died some years ago. Meghan O’Rourke writes in The New Yorker: “Despite the inclusion of personal details, Nox (Latin for ‘night’) is as much an attempt to make sense of the human impulse to mourn as it is a story about a lost sibling.”

The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich (Two Dollar Radio)

Grace Krilanovich was recently named one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” authors and her debut novel, The Orange Eats Creeps, is set in the 1990s in the spongy muck of the Pacific Northwest and involves a group of GG Allin-loving “hobo vampire junkies” who are strung out on Robitussin.

Orion You Came and Took All My Marbles by Kira Henehan (Milkweed Editions)

Kira Henehan’s debut novel, Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles, involves a female detective named Finley on a very curious assignment to find a puppet master. Matthew Shaer in Bookforum calls it “a happily messy prose poem in search of a plot.”

The Report by Jessica Francis Kane (Graywolf)

Jessica Francis Kane’s debut novel, The Report, explores the events on the night of March 3, 1943, when nearly 200 people died in Bethnal Green tube station in London during World War II. You can read an excerpt from the novel at Granta here.

The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel (Unbridled)

In Emily St. John Mandel’s second novel, The Singer’s Gun, Anton Waker has to choose between his corrupt family and a new life as a self-made man. You can read Sarah Weinman’s LA Times review here.

Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns (Dorothy)

Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead is Barbara Comyn’s 1954 novel about the Willoweed family, who live in a bucolic English village and are confronted with a series of strange deaths. Comyn died in 1992, so she is no longer able to defend herself against being compared to various authors “on acid,” as Emily Gould recently wrote at The Awl.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade Books)

Paolo Bacigalupi lives in Colorado and has written a slew of science fiction short stories so far. His debut novel, The Windup Girl, was decreed by TIME Magazine as one of the best novels of 2009. It follows the violent story of an iconoclastic young girl in Thailand’s future who fights for her independence against the ruling corporations and despots.

Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr (Akashic)

Nina Revoyr’s Wingshooters is set in an insular Wisconsin town called Deerhorn and revolves around the story of a young biracial girl named Michelle, whose mother is Japanese and father is white. When left with her grandparents in this small town, Michelle has to deal with racist insults from her peers until a new black family moves in from Chicago, which predictably upsets many of the residents.