With the madness of Christmas receding a little, I thought I’d catch my blogging breath and try to put together a post on my favourite books of the year. It’s a hard thing to do, as looking back over the list I’ve kept of this year’s reading, there are so many wonderful volumes I’ve enjoyed. So I’ll probably summarise a little, but here are my thoughts about my favourite literary bits of 2014!
No reading year of mine would be complete without some of my favourite Russian authors, and 2014 was a bumper one! As well as Dostoevsky’s long and involving “The Idiot“, I also lost myself in Bely’s “Petersburg”, a huge, impressionistic masterpiece. But there were also shorter works – newly translated gems from Teffi and Gaito Gazdanov, as well as previously unavailable treats from old favour Bulgakov and newer favourite Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. I have plenty more Russians on Mount TBR – in fact, I could probably spend a good few years of the rest of my life reading only them! 🙂
I spent time with a good number of European authors this year, including several from Germany. Christa Wolf, a Virago author long on my must-read list, was a revelation when I finally encountered her “The Quest For Christa T.” Timur Vermes shocked and impressed with “Look Who’s Back” and Laurent Binet’s unusual take on the historical novel, “HHhH”, was very special. I read more of the wonderful Stefan Zweig and also discovered Antal Szerb‘s very individual, quirky storytelling. And of course I made my first inroads into Proust, making my way through the first two volumes of his mammoth sequence.
I guess Perec might well be my favourite discovery of the year. His writing is individual, brilliant, thought-provoking and very, very special. After being knocked out by “Life: A User’s Manual” early in the year, I went on to read several more of his books. All are different, all are excellent and none have disappointed me. I wish I’d discovered Perec earlier…
The North by Paul Morley
Another chunkster – a huge, personal, absorbing and idiosyncratic book about what the north is and what it means to be a northerner by one of my favourite ever writers, Paul Morley. I guess you’d class it as non-fiction – I didn’t read a lot of that genre this year, but The North was probably enough on its own!
Rediscovering my Roots
Well, sort of. “Lanark” by Alasdair Gray is a very Scottish book and its epic, inventive and unconventional narrative really hooked me. One of those reads I couldn’t put down!
A Special Mention
“Where There’s Love, There’s Hate” by Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo was a short but exceptionally entertaining read, parodying the classic crime genre beautifully but with hidden depths. I wish the authors had written more in this vein!
I could go on and on – looking back I’ve been lucky enough to read some *amazing* books this year – but these are the ones that stand out and strike me most. Let’s hope 2015’s reading is just as wonderful! 🙂