The Shaking Woman: A History of My Nerves, By Siri Hustvedt

Paperbacks Of The Year: Shaken and stirred by a body and soul laid bare

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This memoir surpasses the limitations of the form to go beyond the curious condition that Siri Hustvedt developed – first indicated when she had a seizure at her father's memorial service – to examine both her own inner life and the history of the treatment of nervous symptoms.

She makes a link between the mind and the body that has bothered neurosurgeons since the 19th century, but makes that link creatively, almost the way Freud did, constructing narratives out of symptoms. The urge to make a story out of the body preoccupies Hustvedt, who takes the science seriously but also applies it to her craft of writing ("I need to put the characters somewhere"). At once intimate and expansive.