I’m going to have a few days’ rest from blogging and celebrate Christmas – let’s face it, there have been plenty of reviews recently for you to get your teeth into! But I shan’t leave you abandoned, oh no.
I love lists, I really love ’em. Putting things in order has delighted me ever since Mum used to empty a big tin of buttons on the table for us to sort. That’s why I don’t make a top-ten-in-no-order list – I rank my most loved books of 2011 in strict order, even when it is a far from exact science. It’s how much I liked them, how much I admired them, how much I enjoyed reading them (all of which are slightly different) all rolled into one.
Some amazing books have been left out, but it’s still a nice mix of male and female authors (7.5 each), various decades, and… well, three non-fiction books in there. And a lot of funny books too, or at least books with funny elements (numbers 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 6, 5, and 1 would all qualify). Enough jabbering, over the list – do link to your own list, if you’ve made one.
A wonderfully surreal, oddly detached, and brilliantly written novel – which I’d recommend to any fans of Muriel Spark or Barbara Comyns.
The best ending I’ve ever read, and plenty of other good pages before that – an amusing and ultimately heart-breaking view of Edwardian high society.
Further evidence that two lacklustre reads shouldn’t put me off trying a third – hilarious, clever, and deservedly a classic.
This wins the year’s prize for Book I Thought I’d Hate and Ended Up Loving – Ignatius J. Reilly is utterly obnoxious, but tales of his arrogance and verbose ineptitude made for uproarious reading.
To recycle my line, more Provincial Lady than Headless Lady – and utterly delightful.
The second volume of this extraordinary (and yet somehow ordinary) woman’s observant and moving diaries.
The only 2011 book on this list (and one of only three I read this year) this is easily the most moving book I read, but far, far more than a melancholy memoir.
The only novel in translation on the list, this novella is beautiful and a must for any fans of fallible memory narratives. Better than Atonement.
Such a perceptive, calm take on the infidelity narrative – and one which shows how exceptionally well Young could write about families.
Somehow both cynical and life-affirming – an utterly joyous romp of British-German twins through wartime America.
Comyns never lets me down, and this surreal novel with its utterly matter-of-fact narrator is no exception. Nobody else could do anything bizarre and brilliant in the same way.
A girl falls in love with the puppets from a puppet theatre? Sounds enchanting – but Gallico’s novella gets pretty dark, and is an ingenious tale which is too fairy-talesque ever to be too disturbing.
The best novel I’ve read from the 21st century. A simple plot of an old minister writing to his young son, Robinson captures a voice in a way which is much more convincing than most autobiographies, let alone novels. So beautiful, and makes Robinson, from my reading, the greatest prose writer alive.
Only recently reviewed on SiaB, these letters show the best talents of both of these wonderful writers – a collection which I will revisit many times, and the benchmark against which I’ll set all future published volumes of letters.
From the first page onwards, Hamilton’s writing was so good that it left me actually astonished. How could an author be this talented? He is the 1940s missing link between writers as disparate as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. A shy woman bullied in a boarding house is an unlikely topic for great literature, but this is one of the best novels I’ve ever read – and Hamilton one of the most exceptional writers.