I read, listened to, or saw performed a total of 108 literary works during 2015. A full statistical analysis will follow shortly, but today I’m recording a baker’s dozen of my 2015 favourites – listed in the order I read them with links to my reviews, where these exist.
Best literary novel: Eyrie – Tim Winton (January)
I haven’t read an Australian novel I didn’t love. Not that I’ve read many, but this is a reminder to myself to read more.
Best Scottish and most topical novel: This is Where I Am – Karen Campbell (January)
In a world where refugees are increasingly treated with suspicion and worse, this is a wake up call to their shared humanity.
Best comic novel: The Table of Less Valued Knights – Marie Phillips (March)
A spoof on the bravery and general all-round dashingness of the Arthurian knight.
Best historical novel featuring a favourite artist: Will & Tom – Matthew Plampin (April)
The artist in question is Turner.
The quirkiest of them all: A Tabby Cat’s Tale – Hang Dong (Translated from Chinese by Nicky Harman) (April)
I’m not a cat lover, but I have owned dogs, and so I recognise the situation in having your house and life taken over by a four-legged creature … Believe me, this beloved moggy is a malcreant extraordinaire!
Best travelling companion: The Ludwig Conspiracy – Oliver Pötzsch (translated from German by Anthea Bell). (May)
There’s only one thing as much fun as visiting Munich and the Bavarian castles oneself, and that’s reading about a second-hand book dealer doing the same, while fleeing those pursuing him for the valuable and dangerous secret in his possession. Highly unfeasible escapism here but I also learned a few new and quite scurrilous things about Ludwig II of Bavaria ….
Best translation: Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy (translated from Russian by Rosamund Bartlett) (July)
I didn’t review this, because what can I add to the millions of words written about AK – except perhaps that it reads more powerfully in my mid-50s than it did in my mid-teens. (The benefits of experience, I suppose.) Bartlett’s translation is sublime.
Discovery of the Year, best short story collection, and the one I should have read earlier: While The Women Are Sleeping – Javier Marías (Translated from Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa) (July)
What can I say? Thanks to Spanish Literature Month, I finally got round to it.
Best novella and best homage: The New Sufferings of Young W – Ulrich Plenzdorf (Translated from German by Romy Fursland)(August)
Goethe is probably turning in his grave …..
Best neuronovel and best historical novel set in a madhouse: Playthings – Alex Pheby (September)
If the Literary Review can term this the best neuronovel ever written, I can accord it best neuronovel of 2015.
Biggest surprise: Gnädnigster Herr, Ich habe Familie – Friedrich von Schiller (October)
I just cannot believe how much I enjoyed reading this compilation of Schiller’s begging letters, as part of my research for Schiller Reading Week. Still don’t, almost three months later.
Best thriller and young adult novel: Erebos – Ursula Poznanski (Translated from German by Judi Pattinson) (November)
Simply put, WOW!
Best coffee table book and the heaviest, most beautiful and most expensive purchase of the year: Germany Around 1900. (December)
A gift from me to me, financed by the proceeds of a pre-holiday season sale of unwanted knick-knacks and other paraphernalia! I won’t review it because I cannot possibly do the majesty of this book justice without taking pictures that may infringe oopyright. Instead I’ll link to the article that brought it to my attention.
And from these I must pick a book of the year? It’s hard. Excluding the re-reads (Tolstoy, Plenzdorf), there are three front runners. I’ll rule out Germany around 1900 because it’s mostly pictures – breathtakingly beautiful pictures, admittedly. But there’s not much reading in it.
Which leaves Poznanski vs Winton. Both novels have wow factor in spades. At this point, though, I must confess that Poznanski didn’t reel me in right from the start, but with what is possibly the shortest first sentence ever, Winton did and he never let me go. So….
Lizzy’s Book of 2015 is: