Saturday, 26 November 2011

Books of the Year, Part 1 - Amazon UK

I am always interested in the lists of books of the year which begin to appear around now, although it seems that "around now" becomes a little earlier each year.  Almost inevitably the lists are in categories, and of course it is the fiction section where I look first.  One of the first to appear in my inbox this year has been the Amazon UK list, which seems to be based on the editors' selections (although I am sure informed by sales).  If nothing else these lists provide a few pointers for Christmas presents, and perhaps in some cases future collectibility.  The Amazon top ten is provided below, along with links to my previous recommendations where relevant.  I have picked five of their top ten previously, and also have copies of a couple of the others - I am not sure whether to be pleased or depressed by this.......

1. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.
Jennifer Egan's novel circles the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Egan weaves the details of their past and secret lives together in what is something between a novel and a collection of short stories.

2. Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton
After a devastating fire tears her family apart, Grace is determined to find the person responsible and protect her children from further harm. Each page in this emotionally-packed book radiates with the strength and depth of Grace's love for her family.

3. When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
Spanning four decades and moving between suburban Essex, the wild coast of Cornwall and the streets of New York, this is a story about childhood, eccentricity, the darker side of love, the pull and power of family ties, loss and life.

4. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
the story of one man coming to terms with the mutable past. Laced with trademark precision, dexterity and insight, it is the work of one of the world's most distinguished writers. Winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2011.

5. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: devotion, passion, and love. But for Victoria Jones, after a childhood spent in the foster care system, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like grief, mistrust and solitude. Unable to get close to anybody her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

6. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides creates a contemporary and fresh story.

7. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
In a jazz bar on the last night of 1937 there were certain things Katey Kontent knew: the location of every old church in Manhattan; how to sneak into the cinema; how to type eighty words a minute, five thousand an hour, and nine million a year; and that if you can still lose yourself in a Dickens novel then everything is going to be fine.

8. Wall of Days by Alastair Bruce
In a world all but drowned, a man called Bran has been living on an island for ten years. He was sent there in exile by those whose leader he was, and he tallies on the wall of his cave the days as they pass. Until the day when something happens that persuades him to return, even if it means execution. An Amazon Rising Stars finalist in 2011.

9. On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry
Narrated by Lilly Bere, On Canaan's Side opens as she mourns the loss of her grandson, Bill. The story then goes back to the moment she was forced to flee Dublin, at the end of the First World War, and follows her life through into the new world of America, a world filled with both hope and danger.

10. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
The year is 1984. Aomame is in a hurry to carry out an assignment and, with the traffic at a stand-still, the driver proposes a solution. Meanwhile, Tengo is leading a nondescript life but wishes to become a writer. While their stories influence one another, at times by accident and at times intentionally, the two come closer and closer to intertwining.

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