Saturday, 5 December 2015

End of 2015 Book Lists

As the year draws to a close, the "Best of 2015" lists begin to be published. Inevitably these lists contain very few books that I have actually read, so I enjoy being introduced to books and authors I may have overlooked. I particularly like lists that choose quirky, unusual titles that don't normally get much attention. So, before I compile my own list, let's look at what some of the others have to say...

The New York Times list features 100 notable books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Given that I am always reading, I would have thought that I would have instantly recognised the bulk of the titles with a nod of agreement that they are in fact notable. In turns out however that I have only read one title - the very notable One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad.

I  have started but not yet finished H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, her memoir of raising a goshawk as she mourns the loss of her father. But there are quite a few titles that I am interested in, such as Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff which looks at marriage from the points of view of both husband and wife. Chigozie Obioma's The Fisherman also makes this list and is on my to be read pile.  I have also been hearing a lot of good things about A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and I am keen to get hold of this novel.

The Guardian has invited a variety of writers to nominate their favourite books of the year. I always find it interesting to hear from writers I admire about what books they have enjoyed. I will take Julian Barnes' advice and read Colm Toibin's Nora Webster as I absolutely loved his previous novel Brooklyn (2009). Margaret Atwood recommend's My Life on the Road, a memoir by Gloria Steinem. I enjoyed Paula Hawkins debut novel The Girl on the Train, so when she recommends Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff I am keen to take a look.

Jeanette Winterson recommends Atwood's The Heart Goes Last, her latest dystopian novel. Laura Barnett suggests Anne Tyler's A Spool of Blue Thread which I have started and not yet finished. Edna O'Brien's Little Red Chairs gets a couple of mentions and, since I enjoyed her Down By the River (1996),  I may seek out her latest. A number of writers have recommended the works of Elena Ferrante and I might check her out in 2016.

The Guardian list also has a Part 2! From this list I appreciate Ali Smith's recommendation of Jeremy Gavron's A Woman on the Edge of Time, a memoir of his mother which I think would make an interesting counter point to Kate Grenville's One Life.  The other memoir of interest is Patti Smith's M Train. Damian Barr recommends Alan Cumming's memoir Not My Father's Son which I am currently reading. Naomi Alderman mentions one book I have actually read and enjoyed, Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed.

Slate's Book Review writers Laura Miller and Katy Waldman identified 10 books worth reading. Of Miller's list, The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith is one I think I would like. Jonathan Frazen's Purity is another novel I might get around to next year. Katy Waldman's list appeals more to me. Of the ones she has listed, I am attracted to Groff's Fates and Furies, Macdonald's H is for Hawk, Yanigihara's A Little Life, Ferrante's The Story of the Lost Child, and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Time magazine names 10 works of fiction including Louis de Bernieres' The Dust the Falls from DreamsUndermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt, A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, as well as the novels of Groff, Ferrante and others. Time's non-fiction list includes The Witches by Stacy Schiff, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Marilynne Robinson's The Giveness of Things, and Macdonald's H is for Hawk.

The biggest list I could find was from Canada's National Post, which lists 99 best fiction and non-fiction books of 2015. Despite the length of this list, the only book that I have read is Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed (#29). This tells me that the awesome Australian authors I have read this year need more exposure overseas as certainly authors like Joan London and Emily Bitto are worth reading!  However this list provides plenty of other titles to be added to my "to be read" pile, including:
  • Hanyi Yanigihara's A Little Life (#98),
  • At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen (#90), 
  • Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt (#87),
  • Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last (#82), 
  • Miranda July's The First Bad Man (#77)
  • The Cartel by Don Winslow (#73)
  • Gut by Guilia Enders (#61)
  • Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bolick (#57)
  • H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald (#27)
  • Submission by Michel Houellebecq (#21)
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (#1)

Newsweek published a list of the best and worst books of the year. The article is a bit stupid, with categories like most overrated, worst cover, most stupefyingly boring work of history, least essential celebrity biography and the like. Amongst the nonsense is some worthwhile content. The best books include Hanya Yanigihara's A Little Life, TC Boyle's The Harder They Come, and history of the Nazi regime KL by Nikolaus Wachsmann.

Buzzfeed has chosen 24 works of fiction for their "Best of" list. I have not read any on this list, but in addition to Groff's Fates and Furies and Yanagihara's A Little Life, the books on this list that interest me are The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante and Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt.

I have yet to see any Australian publications list their "best of...." for 2015, but I suspect there may be some titles on those lists that I have read. The cumulative effect of all of these lists leads me to prioritise some reading for next year and acquire some new books by Yanagihara, Ferrante, Coates and other authors I have not previously read.