2014: The Final Countdown

on Monday, December 29, 2014
The sun is setting on yet another year and, as always, the pile of books I'd intended to read rests forlornly on my bedside table, their pages withering with lost hope. Here at the pointy end, where I rattle off the books I loved most, where I make high faultin' claims based on highly subjective criteria, I humbly apologise to these (probably) great works:

Redeployment by Phil Klay
All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu
The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
Let Me Be Frank With You by Richard Ford
10:04 by Ben Lerner
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

But enough of the jibber jabber. It's time we got to the almighty list.

The Top 10 of 2014: From 10 to 2

10. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld. I still bristle with indignation when I think of the injustices that play out in Denfeld's stunning debut novel. It's like The Shawshank Redemption but without the redemption and a hell of a lot more shanking. (See my full review here)

9. Ludwig's Room by Alois Hotschnig. Kurt inherits his great uncle's country house and goes through the one door he was never allowed to open as a child. Cue the flood of awful truths about his family's involvement in the operation of a nearby concentration camp during the war and the desperate attempts to bury the evidence afterwards. A ghost story of sorts, where everyone in town turns out to be a Nazi poltergeist.

8. Diary of the Fall by Michel Laub. A gorgeous and structurally brilliant meditation on the fragility of memory, Diary of The Fall centres around the fallout from a childish prank that has repercussions well beyond the children involved. The grandfather's diary of fabrications stands as one of the best narrative devices I've come across in recent years. (See my full review here)

7. The People In The Trees by Hanya Yanagihara. A frightful collision of groundbreaking science and moral ambiguity in this tale based on the Nobel laureate who discovered kuru. How much can we forgive a genius, especially if he turns out to be a monster? Critics might have gone nuts for Lily King's Euphoria, but this was the year's best book about the perils of anthropology (not to mention humanity). (See my full review here)

6. The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis. It beggars belief that the guy who wrote the truly awful Yellow Dog and almost-as-awful Lionel Asbo, the guy who anyone with good sense or taste gave up on a decade ago, managed to pull off one of the most remarkable books of 2014. A Holocaust novel like none other I've read, it brings the everyday operation of Auschwitz to life with droll humour and impeccably observed detail. A high wire act of humanised horror.

5. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. An ordinary marriage plays out in gorgeously crafted nuggets of prose. To see a life reduced like this makes me understand how diamonds are formed. (See my full review here)

4. Falling Out of Time by David Grossman. Grossman revisits the grief of losing a child with this splendid take on the Orpheus myth. Surreal, dark and immensely powerful, Falling Out of Time moved me more than any other book this year. (See my full review here)

3. Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes. Hitler wakes up in modern Germany and becomes a reality TV star. Totally bonkers. Bloody hilarious. And absolutely perfect. (See my full review here)

2. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine. Step one: Watch this video. Step two: Read An Unnecessary Woman. Step three: Thank me profusely. An hilarious, life affirming celebration of all things bookish set against a backdrop of turmoil, war and personal loss. (See my full review here)

Which, of course, leaves only one. Check back on Wednesday for the Bait For Bookworms Book of 2014.


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