Another banner year for reading fiction comes to an end, and here again is my list of the best fiction I have read in the past twelve months. Of course my list is subjective to the extreme, but that is half the fun of these lists anyway.
Click on the picture or title and author to see my original review.
1. ‘Fates and Furies’ by Lauren Groff (2015) – Here is a writer who can comfortably put Greek myth and Shakespeare into a modern marriage story. There is a manic energy and an inventiveness here that puts this novel above the rest.
2. ‘Honeydew’ by Edith Pearlman (2015) – Finally a collection of stories that is at least as good as the quotes on the back cover. Each story is dense, warm, and poignant. A quirky weirdness permeates most of these stories, all for the better.
3. ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking’ by Colum McCann (2015) – The title novella here is the finest fiction I’ve read this year. The prose is lyrical and hypnotic.
4. ‘The Story of the Lost Child’ by Elena Ferrante (2015) – The final novel about Lenu and Lila, the two girls from a Naples neighborhood now grown up. Now that it is over, will I face Ferrante-withdrawal?
5. ‘When the Doves Disappeared’ by Sofi Oksanen (2012) – A novel about Estonia from the German occupation in World War II through the Soviet occupation which lasted 44 years after the war. The doves disappeared, because the occupying Germans liked to eat doves.
6. ‘How to be Both’ by Ali Smith (2014) – A playful novel of two parts. One part follows the Italian Renaissance painter Francesco del Cossa. The other part is about a 16 year old girl living in modern England named George who hates the song ‘Georgy Girl’ for which she was named.
8. ‘The Sellout’ by Paul Beatty (2015) – This is the comic account of the town of Dickens, a rural suburb stuck in the middle of Los Angeles. The sentences in ‘The Sellout’ take so many twists and turns you wind up in a different place than when you started them.
9. Purge’ by Sofi Oksanen (2010) – A second entry for Sofi Oksanen who is my discovery of the year after Groff. It is the story of Zara, a young woman taken up by two violent Russian male pimps, and Aliide Truu, an old woman living in the Estonian countryside. This novel confronts deeper truths of good and evil than other novels do.
11. ‘There Must be Some Mistake’ by Frederick Barthelme (2014) – A humorous novel about modern junk culture where everyone under thirty looks like a gas station attendant even though there are no gas station attendants anymore. A guy who shows up in cowboy regalia is ‘cowboyed up’. Our food arrives ‘thick, gloppy, greasy, misshapen, lukewarm, and inedible.’
12. ‘The Dog’ by Jack Livings (2015) – Perhaps the best description of China’s current government is “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. General Motors now sells more cars in China than in the United States. These stories give us the lively inside story about what’s going on in China today.