So this is happening because it’s a comfortingly confined format that’s really hard to procrastinate. Yay.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as well as everyone not comfortable with those labels (as you now legally can be in Germany, whoop-dee-doo): my favourite books I read this year. While I didn’t feel like it for the past few months, this has been an incredibly amazing year of discovering amazing books and a lot of these are up there with my all-time-favourites for sure.
Before we move on to the official eleven, some honourable mentions to keep the tradition up and calm my conscience: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, White Teeth by Zadie Smith and, tragically the only non-fiction in this post, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy by Gabriella Coleman. Cool.
Faust. Der Tragödie erster Teil by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The only German book on this list, and I’m still planning to properly review this one as soon as I’m done reading part two. Until then, some thoughts on a post-it-note: This is incredibly amazingly beautiful, intellectually challenging and full of wisdom. It’s also kind of hard to read, and I’m really thankful for my incredible German teacher (the same one I complained about here, whoops. She’s amazing.) for making it seem so simple and timeless, for asking just the right questions and, after hearing us ramble in a way equivalent to stumbling through a dark corridor hoping to come across a single firefly, giving just the right answers, leading us into glowing ballrooms. I know I didn’t help encourage anyone just now, but it’s probably still worth your time just for the exquisite beauty of that corridor.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
A primary example of how amazing my friends are. I’ve talked about this before, like a lot of times, but if a book wasn’t originally written in English or French, I usually read the German translation, because that’s the logical thing to do, right?
Well, it means I didn’t allow myself to pick up any of the Vintage Russian classics, cause I can read those in German. Which I complained about loudly, prompting them to give me this gorgeous object for my birthday just to shut me up.
I adored for all its worth, just thinking of the wind-swept park bench in Helsinki where this photo was taken makes me nostalgic for the magical weirdness of talking cats, bible retellings, opulent satanic balls and subtle irony that is Bulgakov’s novel. You should read it. It’s not fucked up at all *cough*.
Margaret the first by Danielle Dutton
Look at me buying the books and then reading the books and then loving the books. It’s the ciiiiiircle of life…
If you like words, you need this novella-length-still-called-a-novel in your life. I don’t understand how someone can write such whimsical sentences and yet create such flesh-and-bone real characters and emotions. It’s the magic of… tree-people and meteors and tortoiseshell cabinets and aiery atomes and two amazing female writers, one inside the pages and one behind them.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
I’m so excited to reread this one for my bookclub in 2018, it’ll be an absolute blast. This proper-novella, which I read in one sitting during Spring Cosy Reading Night this year, is just as whimsical as Margaret the first, and then some, sprinkled with societal commentary, a gruesome murder and an ending that can just be called disturbing but beautiful? This moved me and enclosed me and made me forget that there is a world beyond its covers, which is what I want from a book, please.
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
You’re wondering how much I loved this book? I got it from the library earlier this year, remember almost walking into fellow pedestrians because I COULD NOT take my eyes of Ryan for a second, and without hesitation asked a friend to buy it for me for my birthday. It’s hypnotic, dazzling, addictive, dark and hilarious. It’s very not me, because it’s got a very male, Raymond Chandler-y premise, which, it turns out, in the hands of a talented female author and set in Ireland, makes my sarcastic, dark-humoured little heart sing (or rather, hum the soundtrack of a hard-boiled black-and-white crime drama).
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
I cannot begin to describe how much I adore this novel. I love it so so much, I read it twice this year and I will read it again. And again. And then maybe backwards.
It’s lyrical, it’s beautiful, it’s clever and it’s one of the most comforting stories I’ve ever lost myself in. Go read my review if you’re wondering in detail.
The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss
Object of, quite possibly, the most aesthetically pleasing photo I’ve taken all year. On a side note, also an amazing novel. I absorbed it in a state of pure happiness while freezing my hands off on a really cold, really drizzly beach walk, not feeling ready to connect with a single author on so many levels. I’m going to say it right here, the culmination of academia, liberalism, feminism, deep thoughts, glittering intelligence and light irony that makes Sarah Moss’ books makes me feel more at home than anything else I’ve read the entire year.
Middlemarch by George Eliot
So this was interesting? I read it for #MiddlemarchMarch as hosted by Jennifer from Insert Literary Pun Here, and I just picked it up without even being aware of what it is in the literary canon. It was hard sometimes, I’m not going to lie, reading a massive, smart Victorian novel without really any time in my life to do so, but it was SO worth it, can I even put it into words. This made me feel like a little cloud of brain ascending out of my body and looking down on human existence, going “oh right, that’s what it all means”. Would recommend that feeling.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Moving into the top three realm of books that I would like to build a disturbing candlelit shrine for. I have recommended this to people in my real life as a sublime novel for people who love post-midnight controversial philosophical discussions and because I’m too lazy to think of a new distinction, that’s what I’m going with on the blog as well. If you like language, this will mess with your brain and make you aware of the process of acquiring language in a completely different way than the feeling of just learning a new one, it will feel like a parallel universe where people sound throatier and the streets are grubbier with a slight whiff of fresh milk on the wind – and just when you think you’re just reading a good adventure, you’re hit with events that make you question your own ethical assumptions. It’s an intellectual rollercoaster and I love it.
Night Waking by Sarah Moss
This might be one of the happiest memories I’ve gained this year – being in Lithuania, sitting on the beach listening to the Baltic sea, sitting on a park bench in Vilnius watching the sun rise and freezing my little nose off, sitting in a huge armchair in our holiday appartement – and whereever it was I was currently sitting, I was reading this beautiful, beautiful book. Thinking of it makes me want to cry in happiness because I found humans I want to pull out of it and offer a cup of tea and thoughts that made me feel like my brain was looking into a mirror and Sarah Moss was smiling out of it and offering me that exquisite coherence and eloquence I wish I had myself. She’s quite good, did I mention that already?
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Let’s just communally agree on two things to finish up this post and praise the thing of pure elegance that is East of Eden:
a) this bookcover is one of the most beautiful things ever to emerge from human civilisation and
b) if it’s looking for some worthy competition in the category of history has been building up to this, the novel it houses would be a damn fine frontrunner. It’s intricate and emotional and clear-eyed and funny and touching and sweeping and all the words people put on book jackets to make their work seem deserving of the paper it’s printed on. This one deserves a forest and a feast, but I’m going to start with this blogpost.
Which it thus concludes. Brilliant.