That time of year has rolled around again when all the “Best Of” lists begin to appear, those tempting listicles claiming to reveal the best books of the year, decade, and century. We all click on them: they’re irresistible.
I’m kind of over these “best of” lists. The premise that something so magnificently multivariate as books can fall into a neat qualitative queue just seems silly to me. As I watch fellow readers agonizing over what will make their own ten best cut, and taking serious issue with others’ rankings, I’m thinking no: I don’t need to add to the hubbub. So here is my own list of ten from 2019 that are definitely not the best books of the year. Just a fairly arbitrary sampling of some things this reader found interesting and worthwhile.
Mars: Stories, by Asja Bakic. With wry prose and skewed humor, Bosnian writer Asja Baki explores 21st century promises of knowledge, freedom, and power. “Bakic takes an off-kilter look at sexuality, death, and the power of literature … bizarre and often inscrutable…” – Kirkus.
Night Boat to Tangier, by Kevin Barry. Two Irish drug-smuggling partners reevaluate a career marked by violence and betrayal during a vigil in a sketchy ferry terminal. “Barry adds an exceptional chapter to the literary history of a country that inspires cruelty and comedy and uncommon writing.” – Kirkus.
Diary of a Dead Man on Leave, by David Downing. Stumbling across the hidden diary of a boarder who had been a father figure to him, Walter discovers the man’s undercover work as an anti-Nazi Moscow spy. “Downing has never been better than in this moving and elegiac thriller framed as a diary…” – Publisher’s Weekly. Continue reading “(NOT) The Ten Best Books of 2019”