Monday, 18 January 2016

Best Non-Crime Books of 2015


Falling Angel2
I am forever using this picture. I just really like it. And it fits for Falling Angel, below


As in previous years I am separating out crime and non-crime books, not because I think either is better or more important, but solely in order to be able to mention more of them. Crime fiction later in the week.

I love reading other people’s best-of lists, and also their stats, so will give a few of mine.
  • Of the books I read last year, just on two-thirds were by women, which pleased me very much.
  • About half the books I read were published before 2000 and half after –only around 50 of them were published in either 2014 or 2015. For this reason – and as usual - the list below is the best books read last year, and most of them were not published in 2015, it is not a list of new books.
  • Almost two-thirds were wholly or mostly-set in the UK, another sixth in the USA – the others roamed around the world.
  • About half my reading was crime novels – higher than previous years.
  • I read about a dozen books in translation, which is much lower than last year and something I would like to improve on in 2016.
So - these were my favourite books of the year, not in any order at all:


Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg. My friend Col, of Criminal Library fame, said this was one of the best books he’d ever read, so I got hold of it and was completely knocked out by it. It is gruesome and gory, it would not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you think you can face it then I strongly recommend it. The source of the film Angel Heart.
 
 
Falling Angel
This one could fit the book above or the book below. White men in suits.
 
The Man with the Golden Typewriter: the James Bond letters of Ian Fleming I was not a particular fan of Fleming or Bond, and I don’t watch the films, but I found this book completely unputdownable, absolutely riveting, and it has sent me to read the original novels again. Each chapter contains the letters about one of the books, and so I am already re-reading the letters – the relevant chapter as I read each thriller.

 
Go Between LeoGo-Between bather_thumb[1]
Poor Leo, his clothes too hot, and the happy swimmers


The Go Between by LP Hartley A classic that I vaguely thought I had read: but when I picked it up and started it I realized I would have remembered it. This book is one of the best pictures of childhood I have ever read, and the book immediately went into my all-time top 10.

Close to Hugh by Marina Endicott Yet again: why isn’t Marina Endicott better-known? Why isn’t she winning literary prizes all over the world? Canada’s finest with a beautiful contemporary novel – her Little Shadows was one of my books of 2013.

 
Beloved Vagabond_thumb[1]
The Vagabond steps out, looking for romantic adventures
 

Beloved Vagabond by WJ Locke I may be the only person to have read this in this century. It was a teenage favourite and I picked it up again this year and was entranced all over again. A classic of Bohemian life from 1906.



Echoing Grove 2_thumb[1]
easily dismissed as women’s fiction – but so so good
 
Rosamond Lehmann- a long-time favourite, and this year I re-read Echoing Grove and Ballad and the Source and loved both of them as much as ever.


The Blondes by Emily Schultz This fabulous book is only available as an expensive imported hardback in the UK, and apparently not on Kindle. Such a shame. It is a terrifying, funny, feminist fable on a dystopian future. It’s clever, well-written, and beautifully structured. I loved it, and I had a lot of blog readers asking me how they could get hold of it. Surely someone could get it out to the Brits? My tiny sample says we’d eat it up. And then look carefully at our hair…

Slaves of New York by Tama Janowitz One of the lost writers of the NY 1980s. This was a great success back in the day, but then the author has scarcely been heard of since. I re-read, and 30 years on was highly impressed by its freshness and relevance. She was ahead of her time, and belongs in the world of Lena Dunham and Sheila Heti. And the best list of birthday gifts in any book (see the blog entry).

The awesome Lissa Evans is responsible for two books on this list:

Christmas with the Savages by Mary Clive – I don’t know if this is aimed at adults or children, but I did two entries over Xmas on the blog, and fully expect to read it every December from now till the end of time.

Fireweed by Jill Paton Walsh – a tremendously affecting YA novel about two young people adrift in London during WW2. A perfect gem of a book.


Which leads me unashamedly to two outright children’s books, favourites of mine for many years, which I re-read this year and loved as much as ever:

Wintle’s Wonders by Noel Streatfeild – a stage school special, much loved by connoisseurs of the genre.

 
Clue in the Castle 5_thumb[1]


The Clue in the Castle by Joyce Bevins Webb Possibly the best school story EVER WRITTEN – certainly the one with the most elaborate plot. The blog entry provoked a very high response, including (only) one person who had read it too, and many others who now wanted to – tempted by my (in all modesty) most compelling summary of the plot. You really should go and read the blogpost, which I think might be my favourite of the whole year, the one I am most proud of.

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So that’s it for the 2015 novels – crime fiction, and some other blog highlights, still to come.




































10 comments:

  1. Some very good choices here, Moira. And you've reminded me that I've not read The Go-Between. I really do want to read that one, so shame on me for not getting to it yet. Looking forward to your other 'best' list.

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    1. Thanks Margot. I have just noticed that Falling Angel probably should be on the crime list! Don't know how that happened, inattention. Great book anyway....

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  2. Cheers for the hat-tip. An awesome book, I really owe myself a re-read. Fantastic picture as well. I'm liking those stats of yours, I still haven't done my 2015 summary or best of post - maybe later on this week if time allows.
    I'd take a raincheck on the rest of the best, maybe the Fleming letters at a push might interest me.
    Just seen your comment above, I'd have expected to see FA in your crime post. It's definitely a mystery.

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    1. It would be good to read your summary.
      And I definitely am grateful for the Falling Angel reco. I am very puzzled as to why it turned up here rather than in the other list - it will probably make both. But it could hardly be MORE of a crime book.

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  3. I will definitely try Falling Angel sometime, but I will admit that every time I look at buying it the gruesome gore scares me off. And the fact that it is categorized as a horror novel.

    I also want to try more by Marina Endicott. The Blondes I am not sure about, but worth a try. And the book by Jill Paton Walsh sounds good. Thanks for reminding me of these authors and books.

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    1. I am not a great one for violence and gore, but strangely it seemed weirdly appropriate in Falling Angel so I could put up with it.
      Glad you got some ideas from the list.

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  4. Not a one of these books showed up on any other year end list. Which means it's a very good list :) I read your post about The Clue in the Castle just now and yes, I'm so glad I did. Wonderful. Marina Endicott is local (kind of, I think she's moved to Toronto now) and I really should give her a try!

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    1. Thanks, what a nice way of looking at it! I recommend Marina Endicott very highly - the books I have read are quite different but wonderful.

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  5. "Falling Angel" — I'm going to have to read that one, Moira. One of the many things I have promised myself this year is to read nonfiction. I wish I could have said "more nonfiction," but I just haven't been reading those.

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    1. I think you will love Falling Angel Prashant.
      Sometimes non-fiction feels like just the right thing when you have been reading a lot of crime...

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