For the first time I kept a list of the books I read during past year and looking back over the months, 2013 was a rich year for literary pleasure. In total I read 76 books. That averaged out at about six books a month I only managed three in June yet nine in May (that’s the luxury of holidays). Apart from reading all the books on the Booker Prize shortlist there was no particular rhyme or reason to my selections. Sometimes I would just see a book in a book shop, other times it was the book selected by my book club. Sometimes it was a review or a news item in a newspaper or magazine or because an author was appearing at a literary festival I was attending (Dublin, Hay-on-Wye in England and Byron Bay in Australia).
Despite all that, I when I read other people’s end-of-year Best Of book lists I was stunned at the number I had not even heard of let alone all those wonderful authors whose books are sitting on my bedside table or in my e-reader but which I haven’t got around to reading yet. I did live up to the promise I made myself to read more collections of short stories and was richly rewarded. I read a pathetically small number of non-fiction which I hope to remedy in 2014. There were one or two which, if it were not for the “I’ve started so I’ll finish” rule, would have immediately been relegated to the bottom of the book pile but thus is the delicious serendipity of reading.
So, before the clock ticks over to a new day and new year, here is my top ten for 2013
The hype that always surrounds the prestigious Booker Prize has already begun with the news that the Long List for 2013 will be announced on July 25th.
Last year’s list provided some treasurers. Apart from winner Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists was probably my favorite read of the year and a book that everyone to whom I recommended it seems to have enjoyed too, Other memorable ones are Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, The Lighthouse by Alison Moore and Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil.
It’s a big deal, for reputation and sales, to make it onto even the Long List of what is one of the world’s most prestigious literary competitions. So, who will make it into the spotlight in 2013? Apart from the judges, my guess is as good as any, so here are some possible contenders.
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann: McCann’s novel, is divided into a series of narratives
‘’Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.’’
Life has not been good for 15-year-old Marnie and her 12-year-old sister Nelly. Their parents Gene and Izzy are self-absorbed junkies living in squalor in a rough Glasgow public housing estate. Gene, when he’s not high, has a vicious streak and has to be kept from Marnie by a lock on the door. Unhinged, Izzy is unknowing or uncaring. Nelly, who is a “wee bit touched, not retarded or anything, just different’’ wants nothing more than a normal family in whatever guise it presents itself.
When Gene dies (under slightly ambiguous circumstances) Izzy hangs herself in the garden shed while her two daughters sleep. To Marnie, it’s no real loss: ”They were never there for us … at least now we know where they are.’’
Marnie isn’t your usual drop kick kid. Despite her rebellious attitude