Until I sat down to do this task, I would have described the past 12 months as a fairly average reading year. I read a lot of books I awarded four stars and several that I thought worthy of five stars, but there were few that really stood out in the memory. And yet, when I went back through my archives, I recalled so many fabulous books that I began to find it hard to narrow it down to just 10 titles.
Without further ado, here’s what made the cut. The books have been arranged in alphabetical order by author’s surname. Hyperlinks take you to my original review.
I loved this book for its insights into human nature, its political and social commentary, its spotlight on hypocrisy in the Church and people’s spiritual obsessions — all told in such a simple, crisp prose style and at a surprisingly gripping pace.
Plainsong by Kent Haruf (2001)
Plainsong is a beautiful, sincere story about real people with complicated, messy lives — and I loved every single carefully chosen word of it.
I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun reading a novel. It transports you into a strange world of art, deception, troubled families, disturbed children, grumpy housemaids and caged greenfinches, and then takes you on a rollicking good ride that you don’t want to end.
The Devil I Know, came out in the summer and I greedily gulped it down in a matter of days. It is an extraordinarily funny satire about the recent collapse of the Irish economy — and certainly the best Irish book I read all year.
The Colour of Milk is a truly compelling book because Mary’s voice is so urgent and authentic. And the ending, which is shocking, unexpected and heart-breaking, is the kind that makes you gasp out loud — and then you want to have a big sob.
This is a truly beautiful and devastating story set before and during the Great War. I read it in two sittings and felt stunned by the sheer power and emotion that Malouf wrings from just 144 pages of eloquently written prose.
I loved that from such a tiny package — the book is less than 200 pages and can be comfortably read in a handful of sittings — Moore has crafted a delightful, tightly crafted and incredibly suspenseful story.
It is so filled with home truths — about relationships, friends, family and society — that if you don’t recognise yourself within these pages you will see someone else you know, perhaps a friend, a sibling or work colleague.
The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler (2012)
I loved the detailed world that Richler creates here — her characters are wonderfully alive, flawed and judgemental, but also hard-working, determined and independent. Her prose style is clean and elegant, and she has a terrific ear for dialogue so it feels like you are eavesdropping on real-life conversations.
Heaven and Hell is a powerful story about friendship, redemption, despair and the ocean. It was an unexpected delight to read it and certainly the most enchanting book I have read this year. It deserves a wide audience.
Have you read any from this list? Or has it encouraged you to try one or two? Care to share your own top 10?