The papers are already full of the books of 2009. That’s far too soon for me as I have a lot of reading left to do. Plus I won’t be limiting the selection of my best books of 2009 to those published this year. What I can do, however, is produce Lizzy’s Best Fiction of the Noughties. Not such a difficult exercise as it turned out. I just thought of the books I would relish rereading.
2001 – Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
Patchett achieves wonders turning a slow-moving story about a hostage taking incident into an emotional melody.
2002 – Clara – Janice Galloway
I will never stop singing the praises of this novel. My book of the decade.
2002 – Niagara Falls All Over Again – Elizabeth McCracken
The first book on my list that I haven’t actually read. I listened to an unabridged audio and immediately bought the book. Set in the days of Vaudeville, this is the tale of a comedy duo, Carter and Sharp. A tale of the theatre, B-movies and the bittersweet nature of their relationship.
2003 – Hey Nostradamus! – Douglas Coupland
A post-Columbine novel told from an number of viewpoints including one devastated survivor. Coupland’s masterpiece in my opinion. If only he’d write more like this …
2003 – The Way the Crow Flies – Ann-Marie MacDonald
… and if only MacDonald would write more novels. This, only her second (and looking like her last), is based on a true unsolved murder case. In complete contrast to the dark subject matter, I have very fond memories of the time I was reading it. I was on a 3-week tour of the Canadian Rockies. Utterly glorious!
2004 Small Island – Andrea Levy
I was so involved with this tale that I completely forgot about the rock concert I was supposed to attend. I was crying with laughter and crying with heartbreak. I’m talking real tears. I didn’t want to put the book down. So I didn’t. I remembered the rock concert 24 hours after finishing the novel … and no regrets either! I do hope that the BBC adaptation (which starts today!) does it justice.
2006 – The Road – Cormac McCarthy
The second unabridged audio book to make my list. Its violent reputation was initially offputting but I eventually decided, after multiple recommendations, that I might be able to handle it in small 20 minute snatches as I drove to and from work. I don’t think I’ve ever “read” anything as powerful in my life. I still haven’t bought the book but only because I want an affordable first edition! I’ll make do with the film in the meantime. Have you seen it?
2006 – The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell
Whenever a girlfriend asks me for a reading recommendation, this is the one I give. I’ve not heard anyone make a bad comment about it and that includes all those who have made my review the most popular post on the blog. Esme has had 5867 hits. In second place is my Books Read Index page with 2568. That’s some lead. Go, Esme, go!
2006 – Mothers and Sons – Colm Toibin
The last two years have seen me develop a love for short stories. This is the collection that sealed the deal.
2007 – The Lizard Cage – Karen Connelly
Turning the harrowing story of a Burmese political prisoner’s solitary confinement into a page-turning thriller is some achievement. It took Karen Connelly 10 years to do so. I’m glad she didn’t lose patience. In terms of power, The Lizard Cage is on a par with McCarthy’s The Road. Although Connelly is a poet, so her style is more ornate. But not in a bad way. I prefer it to McCarthy’s sparseness.
2007 – Measuring the World – Daniel Kehlmann
It wouldn’t be a Lizzy list without a German novel and so I submit this tongue-in-cheek historical novel charting the lives of two 18th century genii who both set out to measure the world. While Daniel “superstar” Kehlmann’s Measuring the World didn’t win the 2005 German book prize, it was the people’s choice. Arno Geiger’s “Es Geht Uns Gut” has yet to be translated into English.
2008 – The Secret Scripture – Sebastian Barry
Don’t know if I’ll ever warm to the neatness of the ending, but everything else is superb.
2009 – Home – Marilyn Robinson
I suspect Gilead will be the novel of the noughties for most other Robinson readers, but I haven’t read it yet. Even so, Home has a permanent place at my hearth.
So there’s my manbooker dozen for the noughties. Let’s slice it and dice it a little: 5 male : 8 female / 4 American, 3 British, 3 Canadian, 2 Irish and 1 German / 3 Orange Prize Winners, 1 Orange Debut Prize Winner, 1 Pulitzer Winner, 2 Costa Books of the Year, 1 Saltire Book of the Year, 2 James Tait Black Memorial Prize Winners. Not a Booker winner in sight – in fact, only one Booker shortlistee! Confirmation that I’m simply not in tune with whatever are the criteria for Booker greatness. Although I’ve still to read this year’s winner – I suspect that it will knock my socks off!