My Favourite Books of the Year: Part 3 – New!

Today sees the final installment of my books of the year – this time it is the books that were either just published this year or are new to me and not in the 746.

Again, I tried to keep it to 5 and again I failed….

Sea of Tranquillity by Emily St John Mandel

I read Sea of Tranquillity way back in January and loved this exploration of time travel, pandemics and moon colonies. Emily St John Mandel has a really light touch with her speculative fiction, always focusing on the human aspect as much as the futuristic detail. Beginning in 1912 and spanning to the 25th century, Mandel weaves connections between her timelines and characters with consummate ease and manages the theme of pandemic in a way that doesn’t feel contrived. I was lucky to hear Emily St John Mandel speak about the novel at the Edinburgh Book Festival through their online offering where she gave great insights into her writing process.

The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier, translated by Adriana Hunter

I am a bit of a sucker for books with a slightly ridiculous and incredible premise and they don’t get more incredible than The Anomaly.

Air France flight AF006 from Paris to New York emerges from the turbulence of an unexpected storm to the bafflement of air traffic control, and is redirected to a secret military base. Why? Because it’s exactly the same flight as one that already landed at JFK after emerging from a storm three months ago. Not just the same flight number but the same plane, with the same people on it. Everyone on board the plane is now duplicated. Le Tellier spends the first 100 pages introducing his characters before delving into their response to now effectively having a clone. As governments, scientists and theorists gather to try to work out what has happened, Le Tellier playfully raises questions about reality, morality, religion and the sense of self, without ever sacrificing entertainment.

Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka

Ansel Packer is on Death Row, sentenced for the murder of three girls many years previously and his story is told from the point of view of three women whose lives he has affected – his mother, Lavender, who abandoned him as a child; his sister-in-law Hazel and Saffy, who knew Ansel as a child and was the detective responsible for his arrest.

Working from the starting point that our fascination with serial killers steals not only female lives but also female narratives, Kukafka sets out to reinstate the narratives of both the victims and their families. As the clock ticks down on Ansel Packer’s last day, his narrative is told in the second person, but is balanced by the poignant tales of the women touched by his banal evil. This is a masterful slow burn of a novel, which is perfectly structured, beautifully written and devastatingly emotional.

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood

Three women in their 70s gather to clear out the beach house of their deceased friend Sylvie. As they spend a weekend going through her things, old secrets will be uncovered and old jealousies revisited as the women are required to face a changing future together.
What I loved about this book was how Wood’s characters, despite their advancing age, were still in the messy and optimistic process of living – all still hoping to create, to move on to new challenges and to continue to be the women they have always been despite the aging process catching up with them. I thought it was a joyous read.

The Trees by Percival Everett

I read four of the six books on the Booker Prize shortlist (not the winner though!) and for my money, this was the book that should have won. A satisfying mix of satire, comedy and horror, Everett takes the subject of historical lynchings and makes it both highly funny and terrifyingly pertinent. Featuring some of the most fantastic character names I’ve read in years, The Trees bristles with wit, insight and verve and is as playful as it is deadly serious.

Trust by Hernan Diaz

I found Trust to be a really engaging and intelligent novel about how stories are told and narratives are controlled.

Set in New York in the 1920s, it tells the story of a billionaire financier and his philanthropic wife four different texts – a fictional account of their life, the draft of a biography, a writer’s account of creating that biography and finally, the diary of the financier’s wife. Each text adds depth to the story of this couple, shedding more and more pretence as it goes along until it arrives at the primary source and the true nature of their relationship is revealed. It is a stunning achievement, with vast historical sweep, striking sense of place and beautiful characterisation. For a book that goes into the minutiae of Wall Street trading, it never lags, and Diaz lays bare the myriad ways that myths are created, particularly when it comes to men throughout history. No one part of this novel tells the whole story, but each works together to create a thrilling and affecting read.

SPECIAL MENTION: Limberlost by Robbie Arnott

Ever year it is guaranteed that as soon as I create a list of my favourite books of the year, I begin to read something which surpasses everything that has gone before.

The reason Limberlost is not in my main list is because I am only halfway through, but even if I stopped now, it would still be one of my favourite reading experiences of the year. A thoughtful coming-of-age tale, Arnott eschews his usual magic realism for a lyrical and luminous prose and an economy of writing which is breathtaking. In a week where I have a lot to do, all I have wanted to do is read Limberlost.

The 746

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

46 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I loved Emily Mandel’s Station Eleven about a deadly virus way back in 2020 just when the pandemic began so it was eerily prescient then. Really want to read Sea of Tranquility but I’m not sure if one needs to read The Glass Hotel first. Have you read that one?
    And I was very impressed with Trust too.


  2. Such a tantalising final list of favourites Cathy, I’ve wanted to read Percival for a while and The Trees sounds like one of his best, I’ve read Arnott before and Luke but not loved his work, but always loved his premise, Lumberlost seems like one not to miss!


  3. Limberlost is such a treat, isn’t it? I’m so pleased to see Percival Everett getting so much well deserved attention. Highly recommend I Am Not Sidney Poitier, a very funny satire on racism and academia.


  4. Great list! I read The Weekend after reading your review & (as I think I’ve reported before) you did not lead me astray! It’s easily one of my favorite books of 2022. I also enjoyed Mandel’s Sea but probably less than you did, as I’d rank it after Station Eleven & The Glass Hotel. Trust was wonderful; I almost didn’t read it (it’s long!) but am so glad I did. It’s incredibly complex but easy to read and keeps one guessing. I picked up The Anomaly on a whim and couldn’t put it down (I liked it so much I even reviewed it, a rare feat for a lazy writer such as myself!) Limberlost is new to me, I’ll have to check it out; as for The Trees, well, I’ve sort of avoided it but perhaps it’s time to reconsider!


  5. The only one I’ve read of these is Trust, which would have been on my Best Of list except it missed my cut-off – will probably appear next year though! The Sea of Tranquility is on my TBR…


  6. Woo hoo, two Aussie books in your list. I love your description of The weekend. I have a friend who’s reading group hated it. They were all in the their 70s and were scathing about it. My group were mostly 60s when we read it, though more have hit the 70s now, and overall we liked it. I like the reasons you have given for liking it.

    My reading group is going Limberlost next year. I can’t wait.

    Other books you’ve listed here sound interesting, but The Trees is grabbing my attention most.


    • I know! That’s really interesting to hear that readers in their 70s hated it, I’d have loved to have been part of that discussion. Limberlost is just stunning, I loved it so much and The Trees manages to take a very dark subject and make it humourous.


      • I do have an email about their reasons because they were so strongly against, I asked. I’d have loved to have been there. (Two are friends of mine from our Jane Austen group, one was head of English in a private boys school, and writes book reviews for our city’s newspaper, so has some cried – but we don’t always agree!)

        Liked by 1 person

  7. WOOHOO! Thank you so much for including The Weekend – I feel like it’s so criminally underrated, and it’s SO good for the reasons you mention (depicting the vibrant lives of older women). Also thank you for drawing my attention to The Anomaly – I’ve added it to my wishlist for 2023!


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