Deciding to put my money where my mouth was, in 2010 I only read books from independent presses. Excluding thin volumes of poetry, and children's picture books, I read 61 books. This is down on a normal year - Five Leaves' annual report (see last posting) makes it clear why. The year is not quite over but I know that the books I am due to read by the end of the year will not make it into my top ten, as they are for background research. I should confess the number does include three books from conglomerates - a William Trevor book I read to settle an argument (don't ask), a Stanley Middleton novel, because I wanted to remind myself what he was like and The Time Traveller's Wife, because I had to lead a discussion on it. There are some very big independents here - Bloomsbury being the most obvious, but they are members of the Independent Publishers' Guild, and Quercus. But I did say indies, not small indies. Here's my top ten - in no particular order. Not all were published in 2010.
* Bringing it all back home - Ian Clayton (Route) - a memoir of music, and working class life in Featherstone
* Just my type: a book about fonts - Simon Garfield (Profile) - stories about typesetting
* Once upon a country - Sari Nusseibeh (Halban) - Israel and Palestine, Nussebeibeh lives in East Jerusalem, and I read his book while staying down the road from his mother
* Even the dogs - Jon McGregor (Bloomsbury) - a novel, by the best fiction writer in the East Midlands
* The lowlife - Alexander Baron (Black Spring) - Hackney Jewish life in the 1960s, round the dog track
* Before the earthquake - Maria Allen (Tindall Street) - another Nottingham novelist. Her first novel, set in rural Italy a century ago
* A bookman's tale - Ronald Blythe (Canterbury) - not his best set of essays but many are still excellent
* Millennium Trilogy - Steig Larsson (Quercus) - cheating I know, but I read them one after another
* Common Cause - Francis Combes trans. Alan Dent (Smokestack) - the story of communism, in verse, on the basis that next time we'll do it better
* Depresso - Brick (Knockabout) - a graphic novel on depression; read it twice to spot the visual gags scattered throughout
runner up - White Tiger - Aravind Adiga (Atlantic)
Did I feel that I missed out by only reading books by indie presses for a year? Not really. But I would have read, and will soon start Tony Judt's The Memory Chalet, Colm Toibin's Brooklyn, and Stanley Middleton's posthumous A Cautious Approach. And, gritting my teeth, I'd better read The Finkler Question.