Thursday, December 26, 2019

Books of the Year 2019

In the first part of the year, I was still deeply immersed in Voltaire and Emilie du Châtelet, which meant that I spent a lot of time reading biographies and original material by both 18th Century geniuses, including browsing and reading through most of their digitally available material.

Then I read a few novels which were written against the backdrop of espionage, and totally by coincidence: Berta Isla, Sweet Tooth and Warlight. I thought I had read everything by Milan Kundera, but I still found a little gem that was re-issued in English translation this year, together with some more books and poems by Roberto Bolaño. A lot of new books, both fiction and non-fiction, were quite disappointing.

Interestingly enough, some of the best books were suggested by Amazon, based on my previous purchases, rather than by literary reviews on newspapers and magazines.

And I did not manage to read everything I wanted. The new novels by Mario Vargas Llosa, Julian Barnes and Laszlo Krasznahorkai are waiting. I only read 42 books this year, which means that almost half of those books end up in my two books-of-the-year lists, which is of course a little strange. Maybe I should make it two lists of five books each.

The finest novel I read this year is Javier Mariás "Berta Isla", a real work of art, offering an excellent combination of smart plot and beautiful style. The non-fiction book of the year goes to Maria Popova for her astonishing book "Figuring", which describes the evolution of intellectual progress over the last three centuries through the lives of six giants of science, journalism and art.

Top-10 Fiction
  1. Javier Mariás - Berta Isla ****½ 
  2. Laszlo Krasznahorkai - The World Goes On ****½ 
  3. Ian McEwan - Sweet Tooth  **** 
  4. Michael Ondaatje - Warlight  **** 
  5. Olga Tokarczuk - Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead **** 
  6. Milan Kundera - Let The Old Dead Make Room For The Young Dead **** 
  7. Haruki Murakami - Killing Commendatore  **** 
  8. Roberto Bolaño - The Spirit Of Science Fiction ***½
  9. Michael Chabon - Pops  ***½
  10. Virginie Despentes - Vernon Subutex  ***½ 
Top-10 Non-Fiction
  1. Maria Popova - Figuring ****½ 
  2. Barbara Tversky - Mind In Motion  ****
  3. Peter Pomerantsev - This Is Not Propaganda  **** 
  4. Maarten Boudry - Waarom De Wereld Niet Naar De Knoppen Gaat **** 
  5. Judith P. Zinsser - Emilie du Châtelet, Daring Genius Of The Enlightenment ****
  6. Stephen Hawking - Brief Answers To Big Questions  ***½ 
  7. Brian Cox - Forces Of Nature ***
  8. Anthony Gottlieb - The Dream Of Enlightenment ***
  9. David Bodanis - Passionate Minds - The Great Enlightenment Love Affair  ***
  10. Annaka Harris - Conscious **½ 
  11. Anton Jäger - Kleine Anti-Geschiedenis Van Het Populisme **½ 

No comments: