OK, so here are my top ten novels of the year. Lemme know what you think, and what your own favourites are. I won’t write much about each here, but you can click on the book covers for my reviews in either The Independent on Sunday or The Big Issue magazine from throughout the year. Let’s do this!
1. James Sallis, Others of My Kind (No Exit)
Amazing novella about psychological and physical damage, and how we might possibly survive both and thrive. Sallis manages to pack so much into so few pages. As far as I can find, I was the only person to review this in the UK’s national press, which is a scandal.
2. Helen FitzGerald, The Cry (Faber)
Classic dilemma fiction, as a couple with a newborn baby try to cover up a terrible accident. Truly horrifying because it’s so believable.
3. Sara Gran, Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway (Faber)
Loads of authors do fucked-up detectives, but Claire DeWitt is so much more, an ultra-cool, fierce as fuck, existential force of nature. Gran is such a brilliant writer. I also read her older novel Come Closer this year, and it was extraordinarily good.
4. Alissa Nutting, Tampa (Faber)
Written from the point of view of a female teacher who abuses the teenage boys in her class. Brutal and uncompromising, a really brave piece of writing.
5. Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being (Canongate)
A poignant and life-affirming tale that spans the Pacific Ocean as well as several generations of life and loss in both Canada and Japan. Remarkable.
6. John Niven, Straight White Male (William Heinemann)
I’ve been a fan of Niven’s since his debut Kill Your Friends, but this is the first time he’s added real depth and heart to his usual coruscating satire and self-loathing. Quality!
7. Alan Glynn, Graveland (Faber)
A big but beautifully controlled narrative takes in corruption and collusion between politics, big business and the media, with some modern urban terrorism thrown in. Kind of mind-blowing.
8. David Vann, Goat Mountain (William Heinemann)
This felt like the logical end-point of Vann’s obsession with violence between fathers and sons. Intense and terrifying aftermath of a shooting trip gone wrong. Oof.
9. Derek B. Miller, Norwegian By Night (Faber)
A thriller with a difference, as an elderly man and a small boy go on the run across rural Norway. As much a character study as anything else. Lovely writing.
10. Marcel Theroux, Strange Bodies (Faber)
A very smart update of the Frankenstein story, with a handful of literary allusions thrown in. Sharp, sharp writing about identity and self.