At the end of 2019, we asked readers to nominate a favourite read of the year, and write a micro-review of their chosen book. The book could be from any time or genre - the only qualification was that it had to be a book the reader found particularly memorable, striking or enjoyable during the last twelve months. Here are the responses we received. Wishing everyone a great new year of reading in 2020!
Melissa Harrison, All Among the Barley: "Rich, evocative nature writing, a compelling plot and a surprise ending - perfection."
Madeline Miller, Circe: "A brilliant feminist retelling that breathes life into the shadowy and maligned figure of the witch Circe."
Elie Wiesel, Night: "Absolutely heartbreaking, raw and vulnerable. It makes you live the horrors of the Holocaust and the Auschwitz camp through words."
Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star: "Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector breaks down walls in her novella The Hour of the Star and the reader tumbles through, amazed … I love her!"
Nick Drnaso, Sabrina: "I'm a late (but enthusiastic) convert to the graphic novel, and I loved this one - if 'love' is the right word for a book that, in its meticulous images and words, is so poignant about grief and so harrowing about the violence lying beneath America's bland suburban surfaces."
David R. Bunch, Moderan: "Corporate Man propelled into the far, far future and given a crash! bash! smash! uberviolent and madcap Futurist sheen - Marinetti would have loved it (though he wouldn't have grasped the joke)."
Mary Ann Lund
Raymond Antrobus, The Perseverance: "This debut poetry collection experiments with voices, signs, and broken sounds as Antrobus explores deafness and his Jamaican-British heritage; discussing 'Dear Hearing World' with my first-year students was a real highlight of my teaching year."
Richard Powers, The Overstory: "I haven’t read prose fiction with such reach, depth, and impact for a long time."
Hanne Ørstavik, Love: "Beautifully translated and compelling account of a single winter evening, told through the seamlessly alternating voices of single-mum Vibeke and her son Jon as they move separately and inexorably toward the dead of night and a darkness that lies both without and within."
Don DeLillo, White Noise: "A family’s life in America towards the end of the twentieth century, as viewed through DeLillo’s satirical lens: the noise might be white but the comedy is decidedly dark."
Ian McEwan, The Daydreamer: "This book returned me to the wonderful world that is childhood."
Ashley Lloyd Smith
Emily Maguire, Taming the Beast: "The most disturbing book about sex, violence and jealousy you are ever likely to read, especially if it is the first gift from a new lover ..."
Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: "An odyssey of hope, empowerment, love and redemption; a story for our time."
Arnold Bennett, Riceyman Steps: "No-one does misers like Bennett - and in this claustrophobic and beautifully-observed novel, compulsive miserliness is screwed up to a terrifying degree, a kind of death drive. I can't imagine any reader penny pinching again."
George Seferis, Complete Poems: "This is a beautiful collection of poetry which captures moments of pain, exile and transcendence."
Miranda Taylor, aged 11
Yusei Matsui, Assassination Classroom: "In this manga, the children have to kill the teacher because he's already blown up the Moon, and is going to blow up the Earth next graduation. It is very funny and violent."
Rosalind Taylor, aged 11
Koyoharu Gotouge, Demon Slayer: "I really like this manga because Nezuko, one of the main characters, is very cute. I'm glad she doesn't get killed like lots of other people in the story."
Ernst von Weyhausen
Kamal Salibi, A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered: "A genuinely intelligent examination of the modern problems of an ancient land that has ramifications for far beyond Lebanon."