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In Case You Missed It: Books, Music of 2010

John Heald tests confetti that will be used in the New Year's celebration from a window above Times Square
John Heald tests confetti that will be used in the New Year's celebration from a window above Times Square

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DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson.

This week, a special year-end show, we answer a question about the famous New Year’s Eve party in New York City’s Times Square.

Play some music we missed.

And talk about the best books of two thousand ten.


DOUG JOHNSON: In December, many American newspapers publish a list of the best books of the year. Mario Ritter tells us about some of the favorite books of two thousand ten.

Books of 2010

MARIO RITTER: “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen is one of the most repeatedly praised books on this year’s lists of favorites. It tells about the ups and downs of the Berglund family over many years. Mr. Franzen fills the book with sharp observations about American politics, culture and society.

In Case You Missed It: Books, Music of 2010
In Case You Missed It: Books, Music of 2010

Jennifer Egan’s book “A Visit from the Goon Squad” takes place in thirteen chapters over forty years. The story moves back and forth in time, from different viewpoints. One main character is former rock musician Bennie Salazar who works for a record company. The other main character is a troubled young woman named Sasha who works for Bennie. The reader learns about their pasts and those of their friends.

The main character in “The Imperfectionists” by Tom Rachman is a failing English language newspaper published in Rome, Italy. Each chapter of the book tells about a reporter or editor working for this paper. Their stories are filled with intelligence and great personality.

“Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simonson takes place in a small town in England. Retired British army officer Ernest Pettigrew feels lonely after the death of his wife. He becomes friends with Mrs. Ali. She is a Pakistani-born shop owner living in the same town who has lost her husband. The two must decide between their feelings for each other and the opinions of friends and family about their relationship.

Two of the most popular non-fiction books of two thousand ten were about rock and roll stars. “Just Kids” is by rock singer Patti Smith. It tells about her friendship with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe in the nineteen sixties and seventies before they became famous.

“Life” is the autobiography of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. It is an honest and exciting look at the development of rock and roll and the wild times this famous band has experienced.

“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand tells about a man named Louis Zamperini. She tells about his extraordinary survival story after his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean during World War Two.

Stacy Schiff has received great praise for her book “Cleopatra: A Life.” It tells about one of the most misrepresented and famous women in history, Cleopatra. She ruled ancient Egypt about two thousand years ago. One critic said Ms. Schiff has brought Cleopatra to life again by unearthing her story from centuries of lies.

New Year’s in Times Square

DOUG JOHNSON: We have a very timely question this week from Burma. Ko Maw Gyi asks if the New Year’s Eve celebration in New York City’s Times Square is the happiest place in the United States.

That is hard to judge. People all over America seem to have fun on New Year’s Eve. But, the Times Square New Year’s Eve party is surely the biggest, oldest and most famous in the country. It has been taking place for more than one hundred years.

This year, city officials say they expect one million people to attend the free outdoor event. Performers include musicians Taio Cruz and Kei$ha. There will also be a wedding of two Marines who met in Iraq. They won a competition to be married on stage at the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square.

Fireworks go off as the New Year's Eve ball is raised for the celebration in Times Square last year
Fireworks go off as the New Year's Eve ball is raised for the celebration in Times Square last year

And, of course, at one minute before January first the beautiful, shiny New Year’s Eve ball will drop. The colorful crystal ball weighs almost five thousand four hundred kilograms. It is placed on top of the flagpole on the roof of One Times Square. It will slowly fall to the bottom of the pole at the exact start of two thousand eleven. Then, one ton of bright colored papers will rain down on the people below. On these papers people from around the world have written their wishes for the New Year.


We can not possibly play all the music we would like to on American Mosaic each week. So it has become a tradition at the end of the year to share some of the music we missed. Fritzi Bodenheimer has our story.

Music We Missed


Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is at the top of Spin Magazine’s list of forty best albums of two thousand ten. We covered that one just a few weeks back. However, number two on Spin’s list is “Halcyon Digest” from Deerhunter, a band we have never played. The indie-punk group formed in two thousand one in Atlanta, Georgia.

Here is “Helicopter” from “Halcyon Digest.”


Nicki Minaj performing in June
Nicki Minaj performing in June

Nicki Minaj was on almost all the lists of critics’ favorites this year. Her album “Pink Friday” was also a big seller. It is currently number eight on Billboard’s Top Two Hundred Albums chart. And she is on Billboard’s list of ten top new artists. Here is “Moment 4 Life” from “Pink Friday.”


We have played music from the Killers. But, this year, its leader Brandon Flowers also did some work on his own. Flowers’ album, “Flamingo,” was released in September. Here he performs his young son’s favorite song from “Flamingo.” It is called “Crossfire.”


The band Sleigh Bells is very new. Members Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller met in a restaurant in Brooklyn, New York in two thousand eight. Their first album, “Treats,” was released in April. Sleigh Bells is described as noise-pop. And it is loud. Just listen to “Infinity Guitars,” from “Treats.”


Finally, we hear from country-folk performer Elizabeth Cook. She began making music as a small child with her parents who play guitar, bass and other instruments.

Cook hosts a weekday radio show. She plays CDs, talks about cooking and gives advice on home care.

We leave you with a song from Elizabeth Cook’s album “Welder.” Here is “Not California.”


DOUG JOHNSON: I’m Doug Johnson. Our program was written by Dana Demange and Caty Weaver, who also was our producer.

We wish you all the best in the New Year. Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.