A favourite end of year time-waster is looking at Best of lists compiled by writers I admire. If books appear on more than one list they must be really good. Surely.
Does the opinion of a Man Booker Prize winner count for more than a non-winner? Yes if it’s Anne Enright and the book is Christadora by Tim Murphy. Also counts that I’ve read it and liked it.
Does the opinion of a double Man Booker Prize winner count for double? Yes if it’s Hilary Mantel, not only because Mantel showed impeccable literary taste by loving the Cazalet Chronicles, but also because Maggie O’Farrell and Linda Grant, another two absolute faves, both had My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout on their lists.
Is it worth moving a book from an insanely long For Later shelf to a Holds list? Yes if it’s Geoff Dyer, who is such a great writer he can make you read a book about a film you’ve never seen. In this case even more worth it because the book is The Girls and it’s a re-imagining of the perennially fascinating Manson cult.
Alan Hollinghurst needs to be getting on with writing his own books, not reading and opining about other people’s, but he liked The Return and so did Julian Barnes, who knows what he’s talking about, so that might be worth a go.
If you have a touching belief in writers knowing what’s good and you need to add to your For Later shelf (and who doesn’t?) you might also try:
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. It was one of Time’s books of 2016, and Katie Roiphe, Naomi Alderman and Alex Preston all agreed.
- The Invention Of Angela Carter by Edmund Gordon – Lara Feigel, Philip Hensher, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Helen Simpson.
- Transit by Rachel Cusk – Lara Feigel, Deborah Ley and Katie Roiphe.
- Swing Time by Zadie Smith – Philip Hensher, David Nicholls, and Taiye Selasi.
This is a really effective way of finding more books and authors to explore. One of my fave authors Dan Rhodes has great taste in writers – I remember being stoked to find we both loved the late lamented Sylvia Smith.