Books of the year is a fairly loose description of a talk I gave recently. At the bottom of this piece is a list of the titles and as you can see they are a fairly idiosyncratic bunch.
I start with some winners of the major prizes, although as this also includes a couple of books shortlisted for next year’s Costa Prize even that is not straightforward. This is followed by some trends – the tendency for every thriller to have “The Girl Who” in the title morphs neatly into the fashion for comedians to write children’s fiction. The “Channel 4” trend of calling books “The Secret Life of” comes next followed by the medical autobiography (confusingly Dr Adam Kay has followed Harry Hill into the Stand up comic world just as Dr Hill has turned to children’s stories…)
The Puzzle genre has been given a fillip by the GCHQ book which has had a number of imitators – Bletchley Park Brain Teasers and Spy School to name a couple. It will surprise no one that Brexit has spawned a host of titles from the serious Tim Shipman to the less so – Five Escape Brexit Island. Jane Austen’s bicentenary has resulted in a host of biographies.
Surprising titles come next: Sarah Perry’s Essex Serpent came out of nowhere – a sprawling novel with some good bits. Sue Gee has been writing novels for a while but Trio looks like it might be her breakthrough. The Lost Words written by Robert McFarlane and illustrated by Jackie Morris follows no trend and is completely marvellous. Simon Jenkins could make the telephone book interesting and Ysenda Maxtone-Graham would make it amusing.
Two books I missed and have only just caught up with but which are worth it are the short but perfectly formed A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler and the first in the Jackson Lamb sequence of wry and hugely entertaining spy books by Mick Herron.
Local books – I was lucky enough to hear nearly all the authors talk about their books and they were all great but none greater than Barnaby Rogerson.
Three very different approaches to History – three excellent books.
Four biographies of which two are actually novels
Two new thrillers and one which just refuses to leave our bestseller list – the good news is that Terry Hayes has a new book out in September – The Year of the Locust.
The top ten fiction bestsellers are next followed by mention of two special authors that we lost in 2017 – Helen Dunmore and Michael Bond.
Three new books of great charm for different reasons.
And Finally….Five books which have been big this Christmas and will be massive in 2017 when they finally arrive in paperback
One Tree Books – Best of 2017
Lincoln in the Bardo George Saunders
Days Without End Sebastian Barry
Reservoir 13 Jon McGregor
Fragile Lives Stephen Westaby
The Power Naomi Alderman
Secret Life of Cows Rosamund Young
The Inner Life of Animals Peter Wohlleben
The Secret Life of the Owl Jon Lewis-Sempel
Girl On the Train Paula Hawkins
The Girl with the Lost Smile Miranda Hart
Bad Dad David Walliams
This Is Going to Hurt Adam Kay
When Breath becomes Air Paul Kalanithi
Bletchley Park Brain Teasers Sinclair McKay
All Out War Tim Shipman
5 Escape Brexit Island
The Essex Serpent Sarah Perry
Trio Sue Gee
Lost Words Robert McFarlane
100 Best Railway Stations Simon Jenkins
Terms and Conditions Ysenda Maxtone-Graham
Jane Austen The Secret Radical Helen Kelly
Ones I Missed:
A Whole Life Robert Seethaler
The Slow Horses Mick Herron
The Shipwreck Hunter David Mearns
In Search of North Africa Barnaby Rogerson
The Road to Little Dribbling Bill Bryson
Petersfield at Work David Jeffery
Hampshire Through Writers Eyes Ed. Alastiar Langlands
The Silk Roads Peter Frankopan
Sapiens/ Homo Deus Yuval Noah Hariri
Prisoners of Geography Tim Marshall
Everyone Brave is Forgiven Chris Cleeve
Sweet Caress William Boyd
Keep on Keeping On Alan Bennett
Pour Me AA Gill
I am Pilgrim Terry Hayes
The Dry Jane Harper
The River at Night Erica Ferencik
Top Ten Fiction Bestsellers at OTB:
The Dark Flood Rises Margaret Drabble
Lie With Me Sabine Durrant
This Must Be the Place Maggie O’Farrell
The Noise of Time Julian Barnes
How to Measure a Cow Margaret Forster
Conclave Robert Harris
All the Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr
Exposure Helen Dunmore
Paddington Pop up Michael Bond
2 Books for Younger Readers:
Survivors David Long & Kerry Hyndman
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls Elena Favilli
3 Charming new books:
Poetry Pharmacy William Sieghart
Another Year of Plumdog Emma Chichester Clark
Year of Wonder Clemency Burton-Hill
Sure to be Bestsellers in Paperback in 2018:
My Absolute Darling Gabriel Tallent
The Sparsholt Affair Alan Holinghurst
Munich Robert Harris
A Legacy of Spies John Le Carre
Book of the year!
The Book of Dust Philip Pullman