As the “A Year in Reading” series continues, I asked Kirby Gann, author of Our Napoleon in Rags, to share with us the best book he read all year. Here’s what he said:After thinking over what books I read this past year that have stayed with me, I think I’d have to choose A Void by Georges Perec as my best “discovery” of the year. It’s one of the most cleverly effusive novels I’ve ever read, full of virtuosity, linguistic energy (in both the original and the translation), and unique invention. A metaphysical detective story bursting with plots and sub-plots, it tells the story of the disappearance of a man named Anton Vowl. Interestingly enough, it manages to do so without ever using the letter “e,” and yet the prose never feels forced or labored in order to accomplish that lack.The novel is a dazzling display of what a limiting structure can do toward firing the imagination, much like poetic forms such as the sonnet and ghazal do for poets. Usually I don’t go for “game” novels, but this one impressed me greatly.Thanks Kirby!
At the end of the year lots of newspapers and media outlets release “best of the year” lists. It’s nice to have a record of the year’s literary highlights, but the lists do not represent the experience of any real readers. Sure, we may read handful of brand new books each year, but these are likely to be outweighed by older books – books that we are finally getting around to or books that we have just discovered, books two years old and books 200 years old. All these books taken together represent a year in reading, and as a counterpoint to all of those “best of” lists, I’ve asked authors, bloggers and readers to send along the best of from their year in reading.For today, I asked Pete from Pete Lit to share with us the best books he read this year and he sent back a nice list. Chicagoans may notice that Chicagoans are well-represented here. Says Pete:My top choice is An Unfinished Season by Ward Just. The writing is just beautiful, and Just wonderfully evokes a bygone Chicago era.Runners-Up:William Trevor, A Bit on the SideJoe Sacco, PalestineAlex Kotlowitz, There Are No Children HereHonorable Mention:Stuart Dybek, I Sailed With MagellanKirby Gann, Our Napoleon in RagsIan McEwan, SaturdayDavy Rothbart, The Lone Surfer of Montana, KansasNick Hornby, The Polysyllabic SpreeJohn McNally, The Book of Ralph