So Long, and Thanks for All the Galleys: Thirteen Books for Ten Years

In October 2007, I introduced myself in the very first Omnivoracious post by recommending some books: my four favorite novels from what turned out to be a very good year for fiction. Now I'm saying goodbye, and I'd like to do the same. My fellow Omnivores, knowing how I am liable to turn what should be a little newsy post into a giant, digressive treatise--and knowing how much Omni has meant to me over the years--have been expecting an endless, Melissa Leo-style swan song (I've even been told there's an over/under line on the word count). And no doubt I won't disappoint. But since two things I love best are telling people about books and making top ten lists, I thought the best way to depart would be with some recommended reading: ten okay, thirteen books I loved from my ten-plus years as an Amazon Books editor (I don't even want to know how many that is in dog years).

Ah, but first about me! Why am I saying goodbye? Well, it's the simplest and most American of stories: I won a lot of money on a TV show, and I'm using it to buy some time away from Amazon to write. (I know, I'm still bewildered by this plot twist.) And Omni has already moved into the hands of some of my trusted colleagues, whose names are likely new to you but whom I've known for some time as great readers and enthusiasts, and who have some excellent plans for Omni in the coming months. Meanwhile, I'm going to be focusing mainly on some longer-term projects of my own, but I'm sure I'll find a way to surface online as well, and I hope the folks here will point you there when I do. (And of course I still know the password to my Omni Typepad account...)

And now the books. This isn't my top 10 list from the past decade, though I'm perfectly capable of a stunt as crass as that. I thought that rather than tell you about books you already know about, I'd point you to some that may have never made it onto your radar. So yes, I loved Oscar Wao and Henrietta Lacks and The Corrections and The Savage Detectives too, and Suite Francaise and 1491 and Nixonland and Fiasco, and Atonement and The Omnivore's Dilemma and Never Let Me Go (not to mention Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus). But here is a baker's dozen I hope find as many readers as those deserving favorites have:

  • Black HoleBlack Hole by Charles Burns. I'm not actually sure where this book falls: is it an undisputed modern classic that's so familiar you're a little embarrassed for me that I'd bring it up in this context, or is it new to you? My guess is: if you're a comics reader of any kind, then it's the former, but if you're still on the other side of that genre divide (which I thought the last decade had mostly erased), it's the latter. But whatever kind of reader you think you are, this is it: weird and wonderful, gorgeous and grotesque, and quite possibly my favorite book of the whole decade. Burns uses his deep and deliciously exact black ink to give teen life the horrible and humane treatment it deserves. (See my longer celebration here.)

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Comments (14)

Best of luck on the writing plans. Was always impressed with the depth and intelligence you brought to your book reviews (and when we worked together) and am looking forward to reading some longer-form stuff from you.


Posted by: ron | Monday March 21, 2011 at 2:46 PM

I'm quite saddened by your departure, Tom. I've enjoyed reading you very much. I wish you the very best as you move forward.

Posted by: Susan Tunis | Monday March 21, 2011 at 6:18 PM

You will be missed. I loved your States posts during 2008. Looking forward to your future books.

Posted by: Aging Lit Major | Tuesday March 22, 2011 at 4:59 AM

If I had known it would lead to this; I would not have rooted so hard for you to do well on the "TV Show"!! Enjoy and write fast so we can read you again soon.

Posted by: lillian | Tuesday March 22, 2011 at 5:20 AM

Tom, you will be missed! I've enjoyed reading your posts and your insightful comments and critiques. Your good fortune (and intelligence and grace under pressure) which enabled you to win big on Jeopardy! will take you far. I will await the first "Nissley creation" to hit the Amazon book list, and wish you well. Bon chance!

Posted by: Western Reader | Tuesday March 22, 2011 at 9:31 AM

Happy Trails, Tom!

Posted by: James Marcus | Tuesday March 22, 2011 at 9:54 AM

So long, Tom, and thanks for the reviews of all those galleys--and, you know, for everything else.

Posted by: Alex Carr | Tuesday March 22, 2011 at 10:14 AM

Money! Didn't I recommend that to you? God that's a great one.

Good to see another shout-out for NYRB and especially High Wind in Jamaica.

Posted by: Mike Smith | Tuesday March 22, 2011 at 1:02 PM

Sorry to see you go, Tom.

Good luck and well done on that game show - that's the way to go in this world, I've found.


Posted by: arthur | Tuesday March 22, 2011 at 4:05 PM

Good luck in your new ventures, and thank you for your recommendations; I have enjoyed getting Omnivoracious in my in-box each day. I don't know if you saw that Philip Hensher has a new book coming out in a few weeks, The King of the Badgers, which I have on pre-order from Amazon.UK. It looks like it will live up to The Northern Clemency, which I also loved.

Posted by: Claire | Tuesday March 22, 2011 at 5:19 PM

Good luck, Tom, and thanks for all the knowledge and passion that went into those late-night Omnivoracious posts.

Posted by: David Horiuchi | Tuesday March 22, 2011 at 9:29 PM

Bye, Tom! I already miss working with you!

Posted by: Daniel | Tuesday March 22, 2011 at 10:18 PM

In October 2007, I introduced myself in positions of first Omnivoracious recommending books: four novels my favorite of which proved to be a very good year for fiction.

Posted by: London escorts | Wednesday March 23, 2011 at 3:59 AM

Now it's almost the end of July, Tom, and I am still missing your weekly roundups of book reviews from other sources. Rich might be nice for you, but your fans are poorer.

Posted by: Mary B | Friday July 22, 2011 at 7:55 PM

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