The major discovery for me this year has been the work of the American writer Paul Hendrickson: having started with Hemingway’s Boat, his most recent book – a brilliant, spiralling accumulation of stories about Hemingway and, yes, his boat, but, more importantly, his family, friends and acquaintances – I read through his other work with equal enjoyment and fascination.
This was part of a tendency, unusual in my past reading history, to get more pleasure from non-fiction rather than fiction. David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers, for instance, an account of being embedded with a battalion of American military personnel in Baghdad, I found utterly compelling, humane and, where individual soldiers were concerned, non-judgemental. Thank You For Your Service, in which Finkel follows some of those same people back into civilian life, is high on my list of books to read in the New Year.
Finally, to note that this list doesn’t include books I’ve re-read during the year and which, since they include such as Middlemarch, Portrait of a Lady, Colm Toibin’s The Master, Mrs Dalloway, and a pile of Hemingway short stories, would have just about taken over.
The list is organised in order of reading.
- Tenth of December : George Saunders
- Benediction : Kent Haruf
- Fourth of July Creek : Smith Henderson
- The Blazing World : Siri Hustvedt
- Dare Me : Megan Abbott
- Another Great Day at Sea : Geoff Dyer
- Hemingway’s Boat : Paul Hendrickson
- The Good Soldiers : David Finkel
- The Living & the Dead : Paul Hendrickson
- Lila : Marilynne Robinson