I tend to read more novels than non-fiction, but I did read plenty of cracking non-fic books this year, and a real mixed bag of topics and styles. Here are the best:
1. John Jeremiah Sullivan, Pulphead (Vintage)
Essays from a brilliant new American talent. Like Hunter S. Thompson but with research, class, empathy and drive. If that makes any sense.
2. Ewan Morrison, Tales From The Mall (Cargo)
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? A brand new hybrid book – part urban folk tales, part stories, part sociological study – and a brilliant, poignant look at that strangest of modern phenomena, shopping malls.
3. Ioan Grillo, El Narco (Bloomsbury)
Mexico is fucked. How fucked? Very fucked. Drug cartels run everything. This book tells you how much. Fucked.
4. Kathleen Jamie, Sightlines (Profile)
Ooh, I love Kathleen Jamie. These seemingly unassuming essays on nature and humankind wind up being profound and full of insight. Genius.
5. Richard King, How Soon is Now? (Faber)
I love indie music. Always have, always will. This is a fantastic trawl through the indie labels of Britain over the last forty years. Worth it for the KLF chat alone.
6. William Gibson, Distrust That Particular Flavor (Viking)
Welcome to the future. Great essays, reviews, and general cultural missives from a guy who knows a thing or two about the bleeding edge of technology.
7. Jean Sprackland, Strands (Jonathan Cape)
Beautiful nature writing, as Sprackland spends a year writing about what she finds on her local beach. Surprisingly resonant and touching.
8. David Trilling, Bloody Nasty People (Verso)
The BNP are pricks. This is not a nice book, but it is a necessary one, because it highlights just how much of a bunch of pricks the BNP are.
9. David Byrne, How Music Works (Canongate)
David Byrne. Writing about music. Several thousand years’ worth of music. What a great fucking idea for a book.
10. Matt Thorne, Prince (Faber)
His name is Prince. And he is funky. The definitive book on the man.
Sightlines and Pulphead both appeared in my top 5 books of the year. I also had another beautiful piece of nature writing: Olivia Laing – To The River.
Interested to see El Narco there. I recently read Don Winslow’s excellent Power of the Dog and was looking to read some non-fiction about the narcotics trade in that part of the world.