In terms of books, of course. I know the year is not quite over, but I am stuck in a huge book, so I don’t think I’ll get to read much else.
I’ve done a summary of my top five crime reads (books published in 2013 and reviewed by me) on the Crime Fiction Lover website. These, however, are more of a motley collection of books I’ve loved, regardless of genre, reviews, whether they were published recently or not. And they don’t fit neatly into a list of ten.
Elizabeth Haynes: Into the Darkest Corner The most frightening description of OCD, conveyed with a real sense of menace. Psychological shudders guaranteed.
Jean-Claude Izzo: Marseille Trilogy Just glorious, despite the darkness – a symphony for the senses.
Birgit Vanderbeke: The Mussel Feast Damning, elegant prose, as precise as a scalpel, dissecting families and tyranny of all kinds.
Katherine Boo: Behind the Beautiful Forevers Somewhere between anthropology and fiction lies this utterly moving book, an unflinching look at the everyday life, hopes and horrors in an Indian slum. The book that I wish more than anything I could have written.
Esi Eudgyan: Half Blood Blues Who cares about accuracy, when it has the most amazing voice and melody, all of the whorls of the best of jazz improvisation?
Denise Mina: Garnethill Another book strong on voice and characters, perfectly recreating a Glasgow which I’ve never known but can instantly recognise. Initially depressing but ultimately uplifting.
Karin Fossum: Calling Out for You Almost elegiac crime fiction, with uncomfortable portrayals of casual racism, the cracks in an almost perfect little society/ This was an eerie and haunting tale, almost like a ghost story.
Ioanna Bourazopoulou: What Lot’s Wife Saw The most imaginative novel I have read all year, it defies all expectations or genre categories. I felt transposed into an Alice in Wonderland world, where nothing is quite what it seems.
John Burdett: Bangkok Eight Clash of cultures and unsentimental look at the flesh trade in Thailand, this one again has an inimitable voice.
Carlotto: At the End of a Dull Day If you like your humour as black and brief as an espresso, you will love the tough world of Giorgio Pellegrini. So much more stylish than Tarantino!
Karl Ove Knausgaard: A Man in Love Perhaps it’s too soon to add it to the list, as I only read it last week, but it felt to me like an instant classic.
So what strikes me about this list?
1) They are none of them a barrel of laughs, although there are occasional flashes of (rather dark) humour in them.
2) With the exception of the Katherine Boo ethnography, I wouldn’t have expected to be bowled over by any of the above. So keeping an open mind is essential for discovering that next amazing read.
3) There were other books which initially made much more of an impression (the Fireworks Brigade, shall we say), but when I look back on what really stuck with me, what made me think or feel differently as a result of reading them, those are the books I would have to point out.
4) They are each set in a different city and country: London, Marseille, a dining room in Germany, Mumbai, war-time Paris, Glasgow, Norway, the Dead Sea sometime in the future, Bangkok, Venice and Stockholm. What can I say? I love to travel!
On that more upbeat note, I’ve discovered many new (to me) writers and series this year. Some of them are gentler, funnier reads, perfect to unwind. Here are a few that I hope to read more of: Louise Penny, Martin Walker, Pierre Lemaitre and Anne Zouroudi.