Every year I offer my picks for best books of that year, today we are doing fiction. I nominate:
1. Karl Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book Two: Man in Love.
2. Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs. Great fun.
3. Amy Sackville, Orkney. Not every honeymoon works out the way you planned.
4. Mohsin Hamid, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.
5. Kathryn Davis, Duplex: A Novel. Non-linear, not for all.
Since I think the Knausgaard is one of the greatest novels ever written, I suppose it also has to be my fiction book of the year. (Except, um…it’s not fiction.) But otherwise I found many books disappointing, perhaps because my own expectations were out of synch with contemporary writing.
Elizabeth Gilbert and Donna Tartt produced decent plane reads, but I wouldn’t call them favorites. The new Thomas Pynchon I could not stand more than a short sample of. I sampled many other novels but didn’t like or finish them. I read or reread a lot of Somerset Maugham, which was uniformly rewarding. The Painted Veil may not be the best one, but it is a good place to get hooked. I reread quite a bit of Edith Wharton and it rose further in my eyes. Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence are my favorites, more intensely focused than the longer fiction. I loved discovering the Philip Pullman trilogy and vowed to give George Martin another try this coming year.