Overall I found this to be a weak year for fiction, with most of the highly anticipated books disappointing me, including those of Murakami, MacEwan, and David Mitchell. Even the third volume of Knausgaard had extraordinary material through only about fifteen percent of the text; it was worth reading but most of it did not hold my attention very well. Here are the ones I really liked, with the first two being my favorites:
1. Michel Faber, The Book of Strange New Things: A Novel. A missionary visits space aliens, some of whom embrace the Bible eagerly, almost too eagerly. Meanwhile he and his wife on earth write letters back and forth, showing they are the true aliens to each other. This is the fiction book this year I enjoyed most, and the one I kept on wanting to pick up after I had put it down. It is one of the most resonant portraits of space aliens I have read. yet without it being a science fiction novel. Here is a useful NYT review, describing the book as “defiantly unclassifiable.”
2. Emmanuel Carrère, Limonov, The Outrageous Adventures of the Radical Soviet Poet Who Became a Bum in New York, A Sensation in France, and a Political Antihero in Russia. This work blends fiction, non-fiction, and occasional social science (was a non-corrupt transformation of the Soviet Union really possible?, Gaidar ultimately decided it wasn’t), but in terms of the subjective experience of the reader it is most like a novel. In addition to its literary quality, this is a deep book about why liberalism will never quite win over human nature. Here is an interesting Julian Barnes review, although it is insufficiently appreciative.
3. Andrés Neuman, Talking to Ourselves, “Women who know what they want never want anything interesting.”
5. Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North. The Booker Prize winner, I thought this was at times too sentimental but an excellent story with some depth too. It deals with an Australian in a prisoner of war camp in WWII and his escapades surrounding that time in his life.
I have yet to start the new Colm Tóibín novel, and I often like his work. I read some of the new Sarah Waters, which struck me as a little too belabored for the time I had to give to it, but a quality work which will please her fans. Cesar Aira wrote some more and he continues to be interesting. I continued a reread of Moby Dick.
I am preparing my list of my favorite non-fiction books of the year and that should be ready before the Christmas shopping season starts.
In the meantime, what new fiction can you all recommend to me?