Book of the year... the one you wouldn't lend
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, and is currently judging the Aesthetica Magazine new writing prize.
Tuesday 06 December 2011
What would be the one book from 2011 that you wouldn't lend out, for fear of never getting it back? Last week, we ran a nine-page spread in The Independent's Arts and Books section in which we gave our pick of the best, most memorable books of the year. Maybe you agreed with our choices, or maybe our list had you fuming at inclusions or omissions.
There was so much debate over the 'best' fiction of 2011 that a new prize was set up after criticism of the shortlist picked by Booker judges. I'm still divided. It's a close competition between Julian Barnes' Booker winner, 'The Sense of An Ending', which asked profound questions of memory and history but was also one of the most compulsive page-turners, and Ali Smith's fantastically playful-but-serious 'There But For The'. The book's basic premise involves a dinner party guest who locks himself into a spare bedroom for months, just as desert is being served. Outrageously, Smith didn't hit the Booker radar.
As far as non-fiction went, I thought it was such a strong year that it out-shined much of the fiction. I loved Asti Hustvedt's 'Medical Muses', a fascinating study of 19th century hysterics who performed bizarre floor shows under the instruction of the famed neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot, and also Joyce Carol Oates' emotional story of her husband's death, 'A Widow's Story', which asked difficult questions of love, intimacy and loss. Both were very different kinds of books but had utterly gripping narratives.
What would you rate as your top fiction and non-fiction titles of this year? Comment on this article or let us know via Twitter, Facebook or email over the next two weeks, so that we can report back the results in The Independent's own straw poll. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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