As we draw to the end of a decade, I find myself thinking back enthusiastically on the books that I have loved and which have stayed with me. And because there is nothing I like more than to discuss books with other readers, I thought I’d share them (in alphabetical order):
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers – Katherine Boo; The story of life in a Mumbai slum. I’ve not read a more engagingly written work of non-fiction, or one which better brings together human stories with structural analysis for the causes of global inequalities.
- Exhalation – Ted Chiang; Two stories in this collection literally took my breath away. I love how Ted Chiang takes big concepts from the worlds of science and philosophy and uses them to tell deeply human stories about who we are and who we might be. Exquisite.
- The Redemption of Galen Pike – Carys Davies; ‘The Quiet’ is probably the best short story I have read this century. That it is joined by other short stories that consistently surprise and delight, makes this an unmissable collection. You can watch our dance production of ‘The Quiet’ made with Glasshouse Dance, here.
- The One Hundred Nights of Hero – Isabel Greenberg. There have been loads of great graphic novels published recently, but this one brings together myth with feminism in a powerful tale about the power of stories.
- The Beautiful Indifference – Sarah Hall; Another scrumptious collection of short stories, told with the wild spirit and passion of a brilliant storyteller. I’m still imagining one-day producing something around the short story ‘The Nightlong River’.
- Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel; I can only compare Hilary Mantel’s prose to that of a high-quality dark chocolate. One bite, one page, one sentence even, can be enough to thoroughly satisfy me. It is just perfection in prose.
- Even the Dogs – Jon McGregor; another great stylist and this is, for me, his best book so far. The prose is as hard as rock and shines as bright as diamond. A powerful story about addiction and how easy it can be to fall down the cracks in society.
- A Light Song of Light – Kei Miller; This is a collection that must be heard. Heartfelt and inspiring, it never ceases to draw a tear to my eye or a smile to my face. You can listen to Kei read ‘Unsung’ and the title poem, ‘Notes Toward a Light Song of Light’ here.
- Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders; I read this in one sitting, in no doubt that it would win prizes everywhere it went. Unique, powerful, and with a centrepoint of grief that is both raw and fresh.
- Down the Rabbit Hole – Juan Pablo Villalobos (translated by Rosalind Harvey); a vicious little book that makes you laugh nearly as hard as it does cry over the plight of its central protagonist. A young boy who has swallowed a dictionary but never known love grows up in the compound of his drug-lord father. A dark comedy with real bite (and three-cornered hats).
And then, of course, there are the wonderful books that we’ve had the pleasure of making into shared experiences. They will forever be in my heart. A huge shout-out to The Recovering by Leslie Jamison, Kumkum Malhotra by Preti Taneja, Tony Hogan and Lowborn by Kerry Hudson, and Push by Sarah Passingham.
On another day, I might have chosen a different ten. That’s the joy of Books. I’d love to hear your favourite books of the decade, too.