Best books of the year

cafeTime to quickly move on from twee punk. Make yourself a coffee, and let’s take a look at the best books written over the past 12 months, at least according to the Folio people who have just announced their contenders for the 2015 prize of book of the year. I find this easily the most interesting award of the year, whereas more traditional book prizes like the Booker Prize every year seem to become more of a joke seemingly giving the award to those who cozy up to the bookish editors of certain newspapers and ignoring those out there writing anything originbooksal.

The Folio Prize, thankfully,  isn’t like that. It features a lot of independent publishers and seems to really look at the quality of writing (rather than heavyweight names to guarantee media coverage). It only began last year  and they give the first award of 2014 to George Saunders “Tenth of December”, a brilliant collection of short stories. This year their shortlist looks ace too, every one of those books I want to read. I remember writing here about that Jenny Offill last spring, and I’ve just started the Ali Smith book too which I’m really trying (and failing) to get into. Maybe I’m just not smart enough? 😉

Folio Prize 2015 Shortlist

  • Rachel Cusk Outline
  • Ben Lerner 10:04
  • Jenny Offill Dept. of Speculation
  • Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor  Dust
  • Akhil Sharma Family Life
  • Ali Smith How to Be Both
  • Miriam Toews All my Puny Sorrows
  • Colm Toibin Nora Webster

Still none of those are as good as the books from the last century :

“She liked dogs, horses, sailboats, airplanes, climbing apple trees, staying up late at night, walking in the rain, driving around and around in an open car on a summer afternoon, sitting by a beach fire at night, lying on the ground and looking up at the underside of leaves and at lightning bugs and falling stars dividing her attention between a book that she had read many time and an apple, watching the sun go down and the moon go up” – William Maxwell “The Folded Leaf”

the secret world of books

peanutsRural England, where I live, is don’t get me wrong – very beautiful and tranquil.  You feel a strange connection with nature and the passing seasons, and I don’t want to live anywhere else right now. But I always love going to the city because there you can find treasure and life. No, I’m not talking about the cattle market at H+M, I’m talking about book shops.

The little town near us, just a 15 minute drive away, is where I spend a lot of my time.  At the moment I’m working at the school there, and it’s a busy little market town that has everything I pretty much need. Supermarket, bakery, town hall café, hair dresser, green grocer, travel agent, cinema, but the best of all is the library. It’s a small library, there’s probably only a few hundred books, but I always find something interesting (Last week I picked up two books one called “The Internet Delusion – how not to liberate the world”, and the new Goldsmith prize winning sensation Ali Smith novel “How to be both”. (I like to mix things up a little!) There’s also a really ace childrens section in the library and there’s nothing cooler than hanging out with my kids there on Saturday mornings while they’re checking out the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and I’m leisurely reading the Saturday Independent newspaper (I forgot the other cool thing about libraries is the free newspapers!)

But then if I really want to discover something magical, I need to go further afield. To a city either Brighton or Tunbrdige Wells and the Waterstones Book Shop.  It’s a beautiful old fashioned bookshop with lush wooden exterior. Every time I go in there I see pearls and rubys – last week if was a new biography of Stefan Zweig, and a book called “My Salinger Year” written by JD Salinger’s literary agent.  It’s where I first discovered Richard Yates, and it’s where I have just discovered my “New favourite writer” William Maxwell.

mwaxI never heard of this guy before, but I am totally blown away by his elegance and writing prose. You know sometimes you read a paragraph and it just knocks you down, you have to re-read it again and it fills you with a sense of joy and wonder?  Someone who seems to “get” human nature, and explores all the love and the heartbreak of life in a compelling and, most important, enjoyable way. I have no idea if his other books are any good, but the one I’m reading – “the folded leaf” is my book recommendation to you. I guess it was written around 1950, a golden time as far as I’m concerned in literature. life.

Ok got to go. I wish I could go and read Maxwell now, but Open Hands awaits….