Before I sat down to write this post, I briefly thought about the past year in reading. I had a feeling that it had been, to quote Frank Sinatra, “a very good year,” and I also thought that it was probably going to be harder to pick my favourite books.
I was right.
Catalina by Liska Jacobs
This is the story of a self-destructive young woman who flees New York and returns home to California. Connecting with old friends, Elsa pops pills, drinks too much and generally wrecks everything around her.
One Station Away: Olaf Olafsson
A neurologist whose research focuses on MRI studies of patients in vegetative states wrestles with questions of subconscious, the conscious, denial and avoidance.
The Done Thing: Tracy Manaster
A novel that explores our darkest behaviours. After her sister is murdered by her husband, Lida adopts her niece, Pamela. Now decades later, as the day of the scheduled execution nears, Lida assumes an internet identity to connect with her brother-in-law who’s on Death Row.
The Arrangement: Sarah Dunn
A young married couple, feeling trapped (and bored) by life and with middle age on the horizon decide to try an experiment and give each other carte blanche when it comes to extra marital relationships. What could possibly go wrong???? I enjoyed this one very much indeed, so special thanks to author Sarah Dunn for making me laugh out loud.
The Confusion of Languages: Siobhan Fallon
This novel has a very unusual setting–the US ex-pat community in Jordan. The novel examines the relationships between two very different cultures through two married couples who are forced, by proximity, into a pseudo friendship. While we are expected to modify our behaviour in a different country, do we also modify our morality?
A Lovely Way to Burn: Louise Welsh
Ok, so an Apocalypse novel–not normally a genre I care much for, but I LOVED this novel.
The House of Paper: Carlos María Dominguez
A cautionary tale for any book lover. This a short, playful tale which tells the story of the ultimate book lover, a man who bought so many books, they destroyed his life.
The Blinds: Adam Sternbergh
This one has to be the most unusual premise I read this year. The novel concerns an experimental witness protection programme out in the middle of nowhere. The residents, who’ve been accused and convicted of the most heinous crimes, agree to have their memories wiped and live out their days in this ad-hoc, miserable, primitive western-style town. Oh but wait … someone is murdering residents.
The Newspaper of Claremont Street: Elizabeth Jolley
I love Elizabeth Jolley’s dark sense of humour. This is the story of a hard-working charwoman who plans to retire to the country. And nothing is going to get in the way of her plans.
The Executioner Weeps: Frédéric Dard
Dard has been a relatively new find for me. In this short novel, a man finds a woman, in mysterious circumstances, who is suffering for anemia. Morally, he becomes obligated to help her and discover her identity.
The Locals: Jonathan Dee
A post 9-11 state-of-the-nation novel which explores the unity and then the divisions within North America. A big, bold novel.
But A Short to Time to Live: James Hadley Chase
A short noir novel with a femme fatale and more than one desperate character
I could call 2017 the year of Anita Brookner. I read 9 of her novels this year, and stopped myself from going any further in order to save some titles for the future.
This year, I didn’t use categories. I just picked the books that have stayed with me–the ones that I remember the most. As I look over the list, one thing strikes me: I prefer books about people behaving badly, but this isn’t news.
Disclaimer: These are the best books that I read this year. I’m sure I missed many other great books, but such is life.