Perhaps it says something that many of my most memorable classics were read as part of my ‘geographical exploration’ challenges: either the #EU27Project or the One Country per Month option. The non-fiction books appeared as additional reading for many of my fictional interests this past year, although Deborah Levy’s Cost of Living was recommended by somebody on Twitter.
Ramuz: Beauty on Earth, transl. Michelle Bailat-Jones – reads like a long prose-poem, with all the looming menace of a devastating storm about to break out
Strugatsky Brothers – started off with the story Monday Starts on Saturday, transl. Andrew Bromfield, dripping with sarcasm and surrealism, then the book Roadside Picnic, transl. Olena Bormashenko, which formed the basis for that strange Tarkovsky film Stalker
Miklos Banffy, transl. Patrick Thursfield and Katalin Banffy-Jelen – I started the first in the Transylvanian trilogy back in 2018 and then couldn’t wait to get back to that lost world, recreated with all its magic but also its flaws
Mihail Sebastian: For Two Thousand Years – memorable fictionalised account of living as a Jew in Romania in the period between the two world wars
Eileen Chang: Lust, Caution – a book of stories with several translators; the title story a particular standout tale of love, politics, self-interest and betrayal
Dorothy Whipple: Someone at a Distance – my first Persephone and a truly heartbreaking story of a dying marriage
Elizabeth Jenkins: The Tortoise and the Hare – highly recommended by everyone who had read it. I thought that this additional story of betrayal and loss in a marriage would kill me off completely, but it was exquisitely written, so well observed
Sarah Bakewell: How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and 20 Attempts at an Answer – really made Montaigne come to life for me and ignited my interest in his essays and philosophy
Deborah Levy: The Cost of Living – rediscovering your self and your creativity after marital breakdown, the right book at the right time
Julia Boyd: Travellers in the Third Reich – wonderful collection of contemporary narratives from those travelling in the Weimar Republic and early years of Nazi power, demonstrating how easy it is to believe in propaganda
Mihail Sebastian: Journal – even more heartbreaking than his novel, his diary describes life just before and during WW2 in Bucharest, and the compromises and excuses his friends make in order to survive
Rupert Christiansen: Paris Babylon – very readable account of the lead-up to the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune, in which the city of Paris becomes a main character in all its infuriating, incomprehensible beauty and chaos
8 thoughts on “Best of the Year Books (Classics and Non-Fiction)”
These all sound great, Marina Sofia. And an interesting mix of topics, themes, and so on. Some of them sound very powerful, too. I think I’m especially interested in the Bakewell and the Boyd…
So glad to see Someone at a Distance and The Totoise and the Hare getting a mention. Such brilliant books.
Really interesting selection of books, Marina, and interested to see the Banffy books on there. One day I’ll get to them….
This is a fascinating list and a testament to your expansive reading interests: wow!
Such an interesting and diverse selection of books, Marina. I’ll certainly be adding a few to my TBR. Seems like you’ve had a good reading year 🙂
Great list, Marina! I also read (& loved) Whipple’s Someone at a Distance this year. And I am curious about Levy’s The Cost of Living… 🙂
A great selection featuring a few of my personal favourites alongside other new discoveries (for me, at least). I’m delighted to see the Banffy Trilogy in your list, a truly absorbing series of books, Hopefully you’ll inspire a few other readers to consider it too!
I too enjoyed the Banffy trilogy a year or so back, and the Bakewell a little before that. Both worthy of their place on your list!