If anyone has ever paid attention to the sidebar of this blog, you can see that I chart my reading for the year. In part, this is an exercise in motivating myself to keep reading (lest I wind up with a list comprising a single book by the time we reach November). It is also a way of allowing me to remember everything that I read, and not just the good books. Too often, I finish a book that I enjoyed, but didn’t necessarily love, and after a few months, I completely forget that I ever read the thing.
So, I’ll save the good stuff for articles like this where I can blather on about the amazing books that I’ve read this year.
I’ll focus, for now on the three best books I’ve read so far this year.
By the way, this does not mean that other books in that list were not so great: I really enjoyed Stephen King’s crime novel Joyland, his son’s fantasy novel NO54R2 and had a great time with Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black. I loved Stephen May’s Life! Death! Prizes! and Graham Joyce’s Some Kind of Fairytale.
But seriously, none of them could compete with these.
First up is Guardian First Book award winner The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. A remarkable novel about US soldiers in the Middle East with easily one of the most horrific sequences I’ve ever come across in a novel. More frightening than any horror fiction would dare to be, and more moving than any other book I’ve read this year. A true masterpiece of fiction.
The Skies Belong to Us is my pick for the best non-fiction so far this year. The tale of a Vietnam veteran who hijacked a plane during the so called ‘Golden age’ of plane hijackings, and his relationship with a young woman is presented alongside shorted stories about other plane hijackings. At times hilarious, and completely bizarre, this story takes in the Black Panthers, and French movie stars. Unbelievable, and yet, completely true: the way all great non-fiction should be.
Finally, my pick of novels in translation is All Dogs are Blue by Rodrigo De Souza Leoa and published by wonderful small press And Other Stories. The book tells the story of a man committed to a mental health facility, and is told in a stream of consciousness as he survives day by day. It’s beautifully written and the final note on the author is an absolutely devastating coda to the piece.
I hope you go out and pick these books up, if you haven’t read them of course. If you have, I’d love to know what you think, add your comments below! And pop a comment down there giving me your favourites so far this year!