2015 has been an utterly rewarding Year of the Book. In all, I read 104
novels, works of non-fiction, short stories and one collection of poetry Waiting for the Past by Australia’s brilliant Les Murray, surely one of the most down-to-earth yet potent poets anywhere. January got off to a great start with books like Patrick Modiano’s Suspended Sentences and The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber. February had The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins’ international sensation as well as Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Thread and Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X. March brought Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven, April had Atticus Lish’s superb Preparation for the Next Life as well as Laline Paull’s original and quirky The Bees. In May there were treasures like Asne Seierstad’s penetrating One of Us and Amitav Ghosh’s ravishing Flood of Fire.
June I raced through books like The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck,
My Brilliant Friend the first of Elena Ferrante’s quartet, One Life by the extraordinarily talented Kate Grenville and Falling in Love by a favourite, Donna Leon. Highlight of July was Ta-Nehisi Coates’ challenging Between the World and Me. In August it was the publishing double-whammy of Haruki Murakami’s Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973 released together. September saw the beautiful The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop and both US President Barak Obama and I went for Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies. November brought Colum McCann’s Thirteen Ways of Looking and Adam Johnstone’s Fortune Smiles, two of my 2015 favourites. My reading year has concluded on a huge high with Michel Houellebecq’s typically clever Submission, Tony Birch’s evocative Ghost River and Charlotte Wood’s daring The Natural Way of Things.
I’d set myself the task of trying to broaden my literary geographic horizons and by year’s end had read books by authors from 23 different countries. Although my final list was still heavily skewed to authors from America, Britain (22 each) and Australia (21) I also enjoyed books by authors from Japan (6), Italy (4), Finland, France, Germany, India and Israel (2) and one each by authors from Colombia, the Congo, Denmark, Holland, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Zimbabwe.
One unexpected joy was the number of wonderful collections of short stories that were published. I was not a fan of the genre feeling but the quality of this year’s collections resulted in a complete convertion. In particular I have found myself going back again and again to Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann and Adam Johnston’s brilliantly inventive collection Fortune Smiles. Read on for the full list of books. Tomorrow I’ll post my Top 10.
JANUARY: Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano (Yale University Press); Malford by Jacqueline Yallop (Atlantic); The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami (Harvill Secker); Nobody is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey (Granta); The Heart Has Its Reasons by Maria Duenos (Pan Macmillan); A Possibility of Violence by D.A. Mishani (Quercus); 10:04 by Ben Lerner (Granta); The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber (Random House); The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachan (Random House).
FEBRUARY: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Transworld); Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (Penguin); The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino (Little Brown); The Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw (Text); The Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino (Little Brown); The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan (Faber); The Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (Random House).
MARCH: The Sacrifice by Joyce Carol Oates (HarperCollins); The Goldfinch by Donna Tarte (Hachette); The Best Place on Earth by Ayelet Tsabar (HarperCollins); Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (Penguin); Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clark (Hachette); Mr Seldon’s Map of China by Timothy Brook (Profile); He Wants by Alison Moore (Salt Books); Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel (Picador); The Strays by Emily Bitto (Affirm); Nora Webster by Colm Toibin (Picador); The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna (Allen & Unwin); Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven (QUP).
APRIL: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (PanMacmillan); Blood on the Snow by Jo Nesbo (Penguin/Random); Daughter by Jane Schemilt (Penguin/HarperCollins); Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish (Tyrant); Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt (Two Lines Press); Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (Granta); The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango (Text); The Book of Aron by Jim Shepherd (Hachette); The Shoe-Horn Sonata by John Misto (Currency Press).
MAY: The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry (Faber); One of Us by Asne Seierstad (Virago); Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh (Hachette); The Museum of Things Left Behind by Seni Glaister (Harper Collins); Golden Boys by Sonia Hartnett (Penguin); The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower (Text Classics).
JUNE: The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck (Portobello); The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton (Hachette); Girl at War by Sara Novic (Random House); Waiting for the Past by Les Murray (Black Inc); One Life by Kate Grenville (Text);
Falling in Love by Donna Leon (Random House); The Song Collector by Natascha Solomon (Hachette); The Unbroken Line by Alex Hammond (Penguin); After Darkness by Christine Piper (Allen & Unwin); The Girl with the Dogs by Anna Funder (Penguin); The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock (Macmillan); My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (Text).
JULY: The Paying Guests by Sara Waters (Virago); My Salinger Years by Joanna Rakoff (Blooksbury); I Saw A Man by Owen Sheers (Faber); The Dust That Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres (Harvill Secker); The Ecliptic by Benjamin Wood (Simon Schuster); The Lights of Pointe-Noire by Alain Mabanckou (Serpents Tail); The All Saints’ Day Lovers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez (Blooksbury); Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
AUGUST: Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy (Quercus); Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami (Harvill Secker); Pinball 1973 by Haruki Murakami (Harvill Secker); Lila by Marilynne Robinson (Virago); The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami (Periscope); A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones (Random House); The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (Scribe); The Green Road by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape); Did you Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (Jonathan Cape); The Girl in the Spider’s Webb by David Lagercrantz (Maclehose Press).
SEPTEMBER: Satin Island by Tom McCarthy (Knopf); Travelling Light by Tove Jansson (Profile); A Little Life by Hanya Yanagira (Picador); The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop (Hachette)
OCTOBER: So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick Modiano Quercus); The Man Without a Face by Masha Gessen (Granta); Norwegian by Night by Derek B Miller (Scribe); Dark As My Heart by Antti Tuomainen (Harville Secker ); Sweet Caress by William Boyd (Bloomsbury) ; The Secret Son by Jenny Ackland (Allen & Unwin); The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (Hachette); A Few Days in the Country by Elizabeth Harrower (Text); Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (Riverhead); The Clasp by Shane Crosley (Hutchinson); The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah (Faber); Freeman’s edited by John Freeman (Text.)
NOVEMBER: Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann
(Bloomsbury); Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnston (Penguin); Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life by Jonathan Bate (Fourth Estate); Gilgamesh by Joan London (Vintage); The Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa (Faber); The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida (HarperCollins); The O Henry Prize Stories 2015 edited Laura Furman (Anchor).
DECEMBER: Journey Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashimo (Little,Brown); Numero Zero by Umberto Eco (Harvill Secker); Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber); Submission by Michel Houellebecq (Heinemann); Ghost River by Tony Birch (UQP); The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood (Allen & Unwin); Dead Joker by Anne Holt (Corvus).