Best of Five!

Cover for Edgar & LucyThe Best Book for this period is Edgar & Lucy by Victor Lodato!


If I Gave the Award

Cover for The Ten Thousand ThingsLast week I posted my last review of the shortlisted books for the 2015 Walter Scott Historical Fiction Prize. That means it’s time for this feature, where I give my opinion about whether the judges got it right.

The shortlist for 2015 is a tough one to like. There were seven books on the shortlist, but for various reasons, four of them just didn’t float my boat at all: Zone of Interest by Martin Amis, In the Wolf’s Mouth by Adam Foulds, Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut, and A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie.

Cover for Viper WineOf the other three nominations, Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre is the most inventive in approach and is well grounded in its historical background. Looking back at my review, I think I enjoyed it more than I remembered. The Ten Thousand Things, that year’s winner by John Spurling, is probably the book that most qualifies as literary fiction, and it certainly conveys both a historical context and a sense of time and place. It had such a detached viewpoint, however, that I was never fully engaged with it. For me, The Lie by Helen Dunmore was the most engaging, but of these three, it conveyed the least about its historical time. So, for this year’s prize, taking into consideration both how involving the book was and its reflection of its time and place, I guess I would have picked Viper Wine, with a plus for its wildly inventive approach.

Sixth Anniversary! Ten Best Books of the Year!

Cover for BenedictionIt’s that time again, the sixth anniversary of this blog and time to post my top ten picks of the previous year. As always, this is a difficult task. Although I try to evaluate books by their genre—that is, I’m not expecting the same things from mysteries or historical fiction as I am from literary fiction—what my judgment really boils down to is which books I found most affecting or impressed me the most.

This year’s list includes two nonfiction books, three classics, one speculative fiction, and two historical fiction books. I would also count at least six of the novels as literary fiction, including Kent Haruf’s last novel. So, here are my top 10 books from the ones I reviewed this year, in the order that I reviewed them: