a room without books is like a body without a soul

This entry was posted by on Sunday, 29 December, 2013 at

So without further ado, here are the five (fiction) books which have most inspired and intrigued me this year:

A Place In Time (Wendell Berry)

For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway)

Lilith (George MacDonald)

Wonder (R.J. Palacios)

The Mill on the Floss (George Eliot)

I loved all of these books, but the Wendell Berry short story collection at the top is my run-away first choice. I find it hard to put into words why his fiction impacts me so deeply. He has been writing about the same fictional small town of Port William for several decades, and in this collection he revisits characters we have met in other stories and novels, over several generations of life in this unremarkable place. I have no idea how these stories would impact someone who hasn’t read any other Port William fiction. I would recommend starting with the novels Jayber Crow, Hannah Coulter and Andy Catlett.

But coming to these stories after being steeped in those others, I found them profoundly powerful and beautiful. Simple. Funny. Heart-breaking. There is almost no other fiction I’ve read that even comes close to the same impact (maybe only Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and a couple of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels). I’m guessing it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for those with ears to hear, this is something special.

Other books I enjoyed this year which didn’t make the final list? Transatlantic and Let The Great World Spin (Colum McCann), Silas Marner (George Eliot), And The Mountains Echoed (Khaled Hosseini), Canada (Richard Ford), The Secret Scripture (Sebastian Barry), John (Niall Williams), Harvest (Jim Crace) and The Luminaries (Eleanor Catton).

And if I was includinf a few non-fiction books, the most significant have been Darrell Johnson’s Discipleship on the Edge (studies in Revelation), No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin (on the life of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt), and an astonishing little book called The Doors of the Sea by David Bentley Hart (a reflection on God, evil and suffering in the shadow of the Asian Tsunami).

Sooooooo what about you? Which books have opened up new worlds, new pespectives, new hope for you this year?

3 Responses to “a room without books is like a body without a soul”

  1. Flight Behaviour was my favourite novel… although I think you found it disappointing for Kingsolver? Other than that I have been comfort reading Alexander McCall Smith this year…

    Daring Greatly by Brene Brown was my number 1 non-fiction… of the year, and one of my favourites of all time! Stitches (Anne Lamott) slipped in there over the past few nights… a beautiful, insightful little book about meaning, hope and repair.

  2. jaybercrow

    Maybe Flight Behavior suffered from ridiculously high expectations because I loved her last three novels so much. I found it a bit preachy on the climate change stuff.

    I shall have to make this the year when I read Brene Brown (while watching The Wire).

  3. Ricky_mcallister

    My annual holiday with Cormac McCarthy was a highlight. I had issues with the seriously dark, gothic melodrama of his Child of God and found Blood Meridian nigh on impossible to read. Thankfully All the Pretty Horses restored my faith in him as a writer. It was typically beautifully written and a romanticism and humanity that those novels lacked. Empire Falls by Richard Russo gave the impression he was striving for the ‘Great American Novel’, much like The Corrections, but it was lovely and thoroughly engaging. Finally, for a piece of interesting non-fiction, I would heartily recommend ‘Rebels on the Backlot’ by Sharon Waxman. As a book it is captivating. As an exposĂ© of the insanity of the Hollywood machine it is both compelling and hugely entertaining.

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