Making lists is always fun. I recently gave myself the challenge of picking one book from each of the last twenty-one years for a special person’s birthday. It meant a highly pleasurable trawl through bookshelves and a less entertaining search of endless websites. I wanted to include some meaty non-fiction – Long Walk to Freedom, Lean In, Dreams From My Father, The Memory Chalet; a book about old age – Somewhere Towards the End; something humorous – The Uncommon Reader; some Booker winners and some plain good reads. The fiction side was much more difficult – which books to leave out because two good ones came out in the same year etc. though publication in different parts of the world and different formats allowed for a little cheating…. I wanted it not to be all British (9 are not from this country) and reasonably gender balanced (10 women and 11 men). – books that I knew would be enjoyed and not just my favourites…. full list at the bottom.
In the meantime some good books have made their paperback appearance. John Boyne (author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) has written a very powerful novel, A History of Loneliness, told from the perspective of an Irish priest, a good man compromised by the choices he makes.
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is not autobiographical though it is about a grumpy bookseller. It is a warm-hearted tale of books that manages to be not too sentimental.
1994 Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil John Berendt
1995 Long walk to Freedom Nelson Mandela
1996 A Fine Balance Rohinton Mistry
1997 The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy
1998 Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
1999 Dreams From My Father Barack Obama
2000 White Teeth Zadie Smith
2001 Bad Blood Lorna Sage
2002 Fingersmith Sarah Waters
2003 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
2004 Old Filth Jane Gardam
2005 Saturday Ian McEwan
2006 The Road Cormac McCarthy
2007 The Uncommon Reader Alan Bennett
2008 Somewhere Towards The End Diana Athill
2009 Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel
2010 The Memory Chalet Tony Judt
2011 The Sense of an Ending Julian Barnes
2012 Lean In Sheryl Sandberg
2013 Harvest Jim Crace
2014 Life After Life Kate Atkinson