Friday, 31 December 2010

Some 2010 highlights

OK folks, time for a round-up of some of the highlights of 2010:

Best albums

1. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – I admit it, this album is obscene, misogynistic, aggressive (occasionally murderous), and generally morally depraved. It’s outrageously scandalous and hilariously funny in equal measure. It’s also a tour de force: a work of breathtaking musical intensity and lyrical inventiveness, with brilliant rhymes of Dylanesque proportions. Probably one of the best pop albums I’ve ever heard.
2. Bob Dylan, The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 (The Bootleg Series Vol. 9)
3. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
4. Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz
5. The National, High Violet
6. Joanna Newsom, Have One on Me

Best films

1. The Social Network
2. A Prophet
3. The King’s Speech
4. Toy Story 3
5. Monsters
6. Chico and Rita

* Worst trends: 3D movies. (Honestly, two-dimensional black and white is far more immersive.)
** Most overrated: Inception. (I enjoyed it on the whole. But if you want a film that convincingly explores the texture of dreaming, see Waking Life; and if you want a film that compelling explores the relation between perception and reality, see Blowup.)

Best TV shows

American: Mad Men, Season 4 (Not as good as the first three seasons, but it's still the best show on television.)
British: Rev
Australian: Rake

Best books

Theology – John Flett, The Witness of God: The Trinity, Missio Dei, Karl Barth, and the Nature of Christian Community (Eerdmans); and Angel F. Mendez Montoya, The Theology of Food: Eating and the Eucharist (Wiley-Blackwell)

Biography – Avril Pyman, Pavel Florensky: A Quiet Genius: The Tragic and Extraordinary Life of Russia's Unknown da Vinci (Continuum)

Translations – Johannes Heckel Lex Charitatis: A Juristic Disquisition on Law in the Theology of Martin Luther (Eerdmans); and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (Bonhoeffer Works Volume 8) (Fortress)

Political philosophy – Eric Nelsen, The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought (Harvard UP)

Memoir – Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir (Eerdmans)

Literary criticism – Robert Alter, Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible (Princeton UP); and G. Douglas Atkins, T. S. Eliot and the Essay (Baylor UP)

Literature – I didn't read much new fiction this year, since I’ve been devoting myself to Latin American fiction. So my personal highlight of the year was reading (nearly) all the works of Roberto Bolaño – his big novel 2666 is a masterpiece, an epic of despair, that challenges the whole genre of the novel, and The Savage Detectives is also a stunning novel. Another highlight for me has been the huge new edition of the The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard.

Addendum: Jason's post reminds me that I forgot to mention Ernst Käsemann, On Being a Disciple of the Crucified Nazarene: Unpublished Lectures and Sermons (Eerdmans) – definitely one of the year's publishing highlights.

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