Win a signed copy of Beauty by telling us your Book of the Year

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We would love to know what your book, or books, of the year might be. Please leave a comment below with your own nomination and the reasons for your choice – the author of the best comment will win a signed copy of Raphael Selbourne’s Costa-shortlisted novel, Beauty!

The team at Tindal Street Press was delighted to discover that two of 2009’s books – Tell it to the Bees by Fiona Shaw and Anthony Cartwright’s Heartland, have been chosen as books of the year in the annual literary round-up of two national newspapers.

Our own choices are below (although only one of the books was actually published in 2009). Let us know what you think, and remember to leave your own nomination for your book of the year.

Alan, Publishing Director: Peter Taylor’s In the Tennessee Country, which I discovered in an American edition on the shelves of London Review Bookshop when we did a launch there for Archie Markham. Ever since In the Miro Country and The Old Forest I’ve always loved this Southern gent’s looping and discursive family stories; the narrative voice is reflective, memorial: American Proust. When a boy travels on the funeral train bearing the body of his distinguished grandfather, in the course of the journey and its flashbacks and forward we discover all the secrets of his family’s lives.

Luke, Editor: This year everyone’s been talking about 2666 by Roberto Bolano, but my favourite is his earlier epic, The Savage Detectives. It’s a long, polyphonic novel bookended by a virtuoso first-person from Madero, a cocky, seventeen-year-old student poet, who challenges his teacher with questions like ‘what is a rispetto?’ in between describing multi-orgasmic sex with various girlfriends. The first section’s very funny. Between his two sections, the novel tells the story of Madero’s two poet-heroes, the fathers of ‘visceral realism’, from something like fifty different characters’ voices, over thirty years in Mexico City and in their wanderings of the globe. It’s frequently absurd but, equally, it’s as serious about poetry as can be.

Gabrielle, Editorial Assistant: The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters, has been my favourite book of 2009 so far. I loved the quality and clarity of the prose, the vivid depiction of the decaying Hundreds Hall and its inhabitants, and, at one point, I had to stop reading it mid-chapter because it had so thoroughly spooked me out – and that was on a busy commuter train!

Rikhi, Marketing and Publicity Assistant: The controversial publication of The Original of Laura this year compelled me to revisit one of my favourite novels: Pnin by Vladmir Nabokov. Pnin is concerned with a Russian academic adjusting to teaching at an American University. It is witty, ingenious and exquisitely written: a panacea for anyone feeling deflated by the hype surrounding Laura.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, and do remember to leave your own choices below.

Reader’s Comments

  1. I absolutely loved Mary's Webb's 'Precious Bane.' Discovering her was a real thrill I reckon the way she writes about landscape and emotion puts her up there with Thomas Hardy. I also read a lot of children's and teenage fiction. Neil Gaiman's 'The Graveyard Book' has been highly praised - rightly so in my opinion. For poetry, it was a pleasure to buy Gillian Allnutt's collected verse 'How the Bicycle Shone'. Book marketing- and reviewing - are odd businesses. I couldn't understand why Helen Cross's latest novel 'Spilt Milk, Black Coffee' got passed off as chick-lit, when she's written such a stylish, edgy and altogether outrageous book.

    Sibyl Ruth — 14th December 2009

  2. It would have to be a tie between The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters and The Help - Katherine Stockett. The former for its sheer intensity and the menacing character of the house itself, the latter for it's perfection as an unputdownable human story which successfully achieves moments of great humour alongside extremely poignant events. I don't really look at other folk's reviews very often apart from those of people I have got to know on an internet book club but The Help seems to have flown under the radar in this country and deserves resounding success - perhaps in 2010?

    Teresa Majury — 17th December 2009

  3. Heartlands by Anthony Cartwright was a fabulous book. Coming from Dudley myself, the language and the dialect rang true as did the main themes. The influence of the BNP in certain communities is a stark reminder of what happens when political parties abandon the working classes. Great storytelling. Bostin!

    Steve Wilkes — 17th December 2009

  4. I would nominate John Eppel's Absent: "The English Teacher" This is a book which i don't think got much distribution push in the UK. I understand because it is a story about an author in Zimbabwe who won't carry much traction beyond the ex-pat community. Its semi-autobiographical so clearly quite personal, particularly to the end. Its also heftily priced given its quite a small novel. Essentially it is one for bookshop staff to read during quiet times. It has a lot of references to English Literature classes, a satirical but sad glimpse of neo-colonialism and suppression in Africa.

    Sameen Farouk — 23rd December 2009

  5. Becoming Strangers by Louise Dean is also a first novel of amazing maturity. She places her characters away from home on a Caribbean island and manipulates their meetings both successful and less so with an understanding of human nature showing frailties but also humour that moved me at the same time as making me laugh out loud. A novel about decisions and humanity.

    Sarah Akhtar — 5th January 2010

  6. My book of the year was TWEAKING THE DREAM by Clea Myers; a personal insight of how striving to live the American dream implodes for one Briton. The sense that an individual can overcome any adversity if they try hard enough is overwhelming.

    SANDRA JOHNSON — 5th January 2010

  7. I was knocked out by the brilliant use of mathematical language in Paolo Giordano's debut novel - The Solitude of Prime Numbers. Translated into English in 2009. This is the story of two teenagers who are traumatized by their childhood experiences. It sounds grim but it is very touching. Giordano describes the teenagers as a pair of prime numbers – always close but forever separated. This particular passage was read at Hay Festival in English by a friend of Giordano, and the author himself then read the same passage in Italian. A memorable event!

    Anne Charnock — 13th January 2010

  8. Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell was an outstanding read for me. It's an unforgettable story set in 1938 about a Ukranian immigrant family struggling to survive the cruel but beautiful landscape of rural Canada. The plot slowly builds to a tragic and heartfelt ending. Highly recommended.

    Caroline Colley — 21st January 2010

  9. Beauty: Raphael Selbourne An excellent and accessible/engaging acount of multi-cultural / intergenerational life in Wolverhampton Better than Sanghera's TOP KNOT BOY and Jacobson's COMING FROM BEHIND Philip Bradfield ( formerly academic staff) Dunfermline

    Philip Bradfield — 3rd February 2010

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