Two years in a row of spotty blogging but "my cup runneth over" type reading experiences. Just scanning my reading list for the year, I am astounded at the number of highly enjoyable and stimulating books I enjoyed. And yet, it was not difficult to pick the favorites. These are titles I would recommend unreservedly to anyone who might be reading this now.
- The endpapers you see above are from T.H. White: A Biography by Sylvia Townsend Warner, my favorite book of the year. Warner does the almost impossible of not flinching at White's darker side at the same time she celebrates his "innocent eccentricities" in a narrative style so gorgeous that you might mistake this work for fiction in moments. White craved goodness and faithfulness and sincerity, all traits he instilled in The Once and Future King, the things that have captured my imagination and love of the book since childhood, but those very things often eluded him in what was a sometimes unhappy and isolated life. A book for fans of White as well as those who cling to possibilities even when darker impulses try to loosen their grip on that optimism.
- Loved Warner's writing so much that I turned to her fiction next. Lolly Willowes is a clever and unsparing book about spinsterhood (the true type and not the current fashionable version of "I just need alone time" spinsterhood) with a little bit of witchcraft blended into the mix. Read in one sitting and am contemplating a reread already.
- H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald was a natural companion to the White biography, added more to my understanding of White, and was, in short, the most raw and engaging exploration of grief that I have read in recent memory.
- Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck was one of the titles I read for German Lit Month (and did not write about). I am always up for a house as a main character of a novel but this delivered in a unique and powerful way, at once celebrating the house and diminishing its importance in the scope of war and human atrocities, and then even further diminishing its significance in comparison with the timeline of the natural world.
- A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. You have heard me gush so I will not say much. Part of the best group reading experience I have had in some time with the brilliant ladies of the (Wo)Man Booker Shadow Panel.
- Satin Island by Tom McCarthy. Again, the whole Booker experience. Not quite as much love as for the James novel but loved more than all the rest of the longlist. Existence as seen in the reflection of technology's glass. Heady and clever and very funny. To me at least.
- A Heart So White by Javier Marias. Actually wrote about this one. And all my best reading years have a Marias title on the favorites list.
- The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud. That's two I actually posted my thoughts on here. I was afraid of the simplicity of the concept, but I had no cause for my reservations. Highly recommended that it be read side by side with The Stranger.
- The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. This one attracted what I thought was a frustrating and odd amount of attention around the topic of genre, missing out on the elegance of the writing, the literal and figurative fogs that Ishiguro so artfully constructs and the gut-wrenching ending of this beautiful book.
- And the mysteries. I read a huge amount of Georges Simenon Maigret titles as well as new-to-me Margery Allingham Campion novels, thanks to A.S. Byatt and Teresa's recommendations. Saved my sanity a few times when I had space in my head for nothing else.
Wishing you all a healthy and happy new year, filled with excellent books!