2013 - the year in review: The best books of the year
Arifa Akbar is literary editor of The Independent and i newspapers. She has worked at The Independent since 2001 as a news reporter and arts correspondent before joining the books desk in 2009. She was a judge for the Orwell Prize for books 2013, and the Fiction Uncovered Prize 2014.
Saturday 28 December 2013
"The Hired Man" by Aminatta Forna (Bloomsbury)
Shortlisted for numerous prizes for her fiction and non-fiction on war, Forna (below) shows mastery of her subject here –the ghosts of the Croatian war that haunt villagers even as their home is transformed into a tourist oasis – but the most extraordinary thing about this novel is its taut, razor-sharp prose.
"A Hologram for the King" by Dave Eggers (Hamish Hamilton)
A novel that collides the story of an American everyman’s mid-life crisis with the economic decline of the nation plays itself out in an unbuilt economic desert city in Saudi Arabia. Eggers has been criticised for tricksy showmanship but here his story of existential angst is lean, spare and simply stunning.
"A Very British Killing" by A T Williams (Vintage)
Williams, a law professor, won this year’s Orwell Prize for Books this year with his incendiary, eloquent account of the infamous death of Baha Mousa, from his arrest in Basra, Iraq, to the court martial that took place after his brutal death at the hands of the British military. A brilliantly researched indictment which argues that torture is endemic in the military.
"Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death" by Otto Dov Kulka, trans Ralph Mandel (Allen Lane)
A holocaust scholar who had never written his personal experience in Auschwitz during the Second World War, Kulka here finally gives us a stream of memories, dreams, photographs and nuggets of interiority that are as raw and appalling as they are lyrical.
"The Blind Man’s Garden" by Nadeem Aslam (Faber & Faber)
A post 9/11 novel of epic proportions, Aslam’s ambitious fourth novel follows two brothers caught up in the conflict in Afghanistan. It combines myth and poeticism with hard-edged contemporary politics to reflect on religious extremism, martyrdom and the “war on terror” with no resort to cliché.
"The Testament of Mary" by Colm Tóibín (Simon & Schuster)
A slim sleek story of the crucifixion of Jesus – from the point of view of his bereaving, angry and abandoned mother – this novella first emerged at the end of last year and went on to be shortlisted for the Man Booker prize. Placing a woman at the heart of his fiction, Tóibín gives us a searing study of motherhood and loss, the more exquisite for its brevity.
Discovery of the Year
"The Silent Wife" by A S A Harrison (Headline)
In a climate where marital dysfunction and violence have combined to become trendy themes in literary fiction (Gone Girl and May We Be Forgiven, to name two) this striking debut distinguishes itself above much of the rest. The story is familiar: an unfaithful man, his quietly enraged, plotting partner, but the unravelling of the story is a master-class in psychological suspense. A tragedy that the author died the same year of her breakthrough success.
Turkey of the Year
"Report from the Interior" by Paul Auster (Faber & Faber)
Is there a time to stop writing even for the most august of authors? That time might be now for Auster, judging on this latest memoir, which is part of a series. Childhood memories nestle against close analysis of films that affected him in youth and letters he wrote as a young man to his then girlfriend, Lydia Davis, to give us self-absorbed, unremarkable prose and longueurs.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 2 Greece crisis: Alexis Tsipras accepts troika bailout proposals with conditions
- 3 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 4 French woman dies in freak bungee jumping accident
- 5 Facebook rainbow profile pictures likely being tracked by social network
The Rolling Stones announce biggest ever touring rock exhibition with Saatchi Gallery
Glastonbury 2015: The best bits you missed from Lionel Richie and the Dalai Lama to The Libertines' secret set
Glastonbury 2015: The picture of a man crowd surfing in a wheelchair is brilliant, but it wasn't taken at Glastonbury
Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James' Twitter Q&A didn't exactly go as planned
Guillaume Tell gang-rape scene causes uproar at the Royal Opera House
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS