These are my favourite books of the past year (last year's here) - films tomorrow.Rules: not all of the things were released/published this year, because I still don’t read enough brand-newly-published-still-in-proof-or-hardback books. I’m just here to tell you what I loved. I was working around lists of ten, but, um, I’m allowed to cheat. My rules.
I read 50 books this year (potentially 51 by the time we hit midnight on the 31st), and I’m in the middle of Marilynne Robinson’s The Givenness of Things, Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo’s Movie Doctors, and Philip Marsden’s Rising Ground. I managed to re-read Station’s Eleven, The Code of the Woosters, Fangirl (straight after Carry On) and some Harry Potter (obviously)
These are the books I’m recommending / throwing at the heads of most of the people I know, that I can’t get out of my head, that are heading onto my all time greatest hits list. They’re incredibly powerful, perception-shifting books.
The very-very good
Underworld - Don DeLillo
The Brief, Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro
The Country of Ice Cream Star - Sandra Newman
All the Light we Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
Slade House - David Mitchell
Beneath the Bonfire - Nickolas Butler
Dept. of Speculation - Jenny Offill
I had a ball reading all of these, in their wonderful variety, by authors who build absorbing (occasionally extremely creeeeeeepy, Mr Mitchell) worlds out of words. I was particularly delighted that Butler’s short stories were as captivating as his Shotgun Lovesongs, that Dept. of Speculation was just as precise in its beauty and its pain as I’d been hoping, as it had been on my list for a while, and that I enjoyed Ishiguro’s post-Arthurian myth-making, dragon and all. The only one that was a slight disappointment was All the Light We Cannot See, but that was simply because it had been so hyped that it couldn't possibly live up to it (and I didn't need the MacGuffin)
The ‘I changed my mind about this book over two-thirds of the way through’ book
I spent the first third of the book waiting to get to the middle third, and the final third moving from desperately trying to finish, to applogising to Vera for misunderstanding what the book was about.
The Blazing World - Siri Hustvedt
Outline - Rachel Cusk
I really, really wanted to like both of these, especially the Hustvedt, and I just didn’t. It felt like they were both trying too hard to be important books about what it’s like being a woman, and one them overloads (Hustvedt) and one of them underloads (Cusk).