Best nonfiction books of 2010
The one drawback to "Travels in Siberia" is that, like its subject, it's somewhat too big for its own good. For a shorter take on Russia, there's Elif Batuman's "The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People who Read Them." Here, a PhD in literature waxes funny and philosophical — not to mention gloomy, incredulous, curmudgeonly, profound, and snide — about academic life, Uzbekistan, and pretty much everything in between (which is a lot). The miracle is, it mostly works. This book isn't perfect, but Batuman is a writer's writer, and my hat is off to her for pulling off an improbably delectable book.