December 20, 2010 – This year provided actual (and virtual) bookshelves with great reads as well as some incredibly packaged tomes that no downloadable app could ever replicate. The 2010 top picks offer a little bit of everything: fiction, humour, movies, pop culture and comics.
10. The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by J.W. Rinzler
The best of the Star Wars films gets an in-depth, comprehensive look by the author of the coolest “making of” books in the galaxy. Stuffed with more photos, artefacts and unbelievable goodies than the Millennium Falcon’s cargo hold, the book offers the kind of deep, intensive look that you almost never get but wish you did.
9. Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler
Yes, she works here, but more than that she works it. A teller of hilarious tales and misadventures, the host of E!’s Chelsea Lately knows what you want in a book: jaw-dropping, funny tales that you can’t believe she commits to paper. And all you fans clearly love it, because she’s been all over The New York Times bestseller list and just a signed deal to create her own publishing imprint. So there!
8. Simpsons World: The Ultimate Episode Guide Seasons 1-20 by Matt Groening
The second-heaviest book on the list, Simpsons World collects 20 years worth of data on the longest running animated family sitcom ever. Ever wonder about…well, anything having to do with the show? There are more than one thousand pages that include every “D’oh!” Homer’s uttered and lots more pointless delights. If you want to know it, it’s in here.
7. Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi
What could seem like an impossibly glamorous life from the outside turns out to have been a personal nightmare for the actress best known for Ally McBeal and Arrested Development. This book chronicles her struggle to overcome an eating disorder that was causing her to wither away and to find peace as an openly gay woman. It’s a moving, powerful story.
6. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book): A Visitors Guide to the Human Race by Jon Stewart
OK, the concept—a book to explain our planet to aliens—is a little odd, but if you’re looking for a book to make you laugh, make you think and make you want to tune into The Daily Show, well, this is it. Plus, it’s got pictures!
5. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
You know that this is the next Twilight, right? Maybe it is (and most probably it isn’t), but Mockingjay, the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy, isn’t about vampires. Set in a messed-up, post-apocalyptic America, the trilogy follows the trials of Katniss Everdeen, a disaffected teen who volunteers to take the place of her young sister in a violent, televised battle to the death. Though she’s skillful with a bow and arrow, Katniss is totally unprepared for the carnage of the games, the political manoeuvring of the government and the choice between the two manly beaus who love her. What comes next in battle, in love and in revolution is absolutely thrilling.
4. Life by Keith Richards
Who knew this guy was paying attention all those years? Keith Richards, the most unlikely autobiographer ever, has a sharp eye for detail, a raconteur’s sense of storytelling and a history of misadventure both romantic and pharmacological that is unparalleled. Even if you have no clue who the Rolling Stones are, you will want to read this blueprint on how to be a rock star—and survive.
3. 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Mythmaking by Paul Levitz
As megaproportioned as Superman’s biceps, this massive tome is super-sized with hundreds of photos, reproductions and cool foldouts. Beautifully designed and executed, 75 Years takes a larger-than-life look at the comic book company responsible for bringing us Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and many more less iconic funny book heroes, as well as the men who made them. Totally super.
2. Just Kids by Patti Smith
Winner of the National Book Award and our own unofficial prize for awesomeness in autobiography, poet-turned-rock star-turned memoirist Smith was once a shy young woman fresh to New York City, but soon enough she and her best friend, lover and partner in art Robert Mapplethorpe seem to come into contact with everyone who’s anyone in late 1960s NYC, from Janis Joplin to Andy Warhol and many, many more. But at its heart—and this book has a big, big heart—Just Kids is about love of a time, a place, a person and art.
1. Decoded by Jay-Z
Nothing Jay-Z does surprises us anymore, because we know the guy is full of surprises (like how he came to get the clearance to use the Annie sample for his hit “Hard Knock Life”). And here he breaks down his rhymes and influences and offers a history lesson about the streets of New York City streets of his youth. Ultimately escaping the drug game for the rap one, Jay-Z emerges both wiser and still driven.