Monday, 15 November 2010

Picks of 2010

The year is old. And so I weigh up the fortunes of what's passed. A human impulse, perhaps. Of the type that Larkin would have endorsed and mocked equally. More fun instead is to draw up an inventory of books that thrilled me in 2010. It's been an interesting year for titles from Wales and Welsh writers this year. I'm looking forward to seeing what achieves consensus among the Wales Book of the Year judges for 2011 (Deborah Kay Davies, Francesca Rhydderch and Jon Gower), who will draw from the well of 2010 to find the winner of £10,000 and considerable kudos. The longlist of ten will be announced in March.

Overall, of those books eligible for the prize I've read, my impression has been one of quality more condensed than in previous years. Equal richness, but less dilution across the output. To me it has seemed that there are clear outliers.

With the caveat that I am missing a month (December)... and can't possibly read everything... and this judge's decision is final and no further correspondence etc... I'd like to put forward my own list. The work that has charmed, sometimes delightfully infuriated or provoked incredible envy – and otherwise made the fact that I spend all my scant available time reading books instead of learning how to cook seem utterly sensible, not to mention a true privilege. It's also heartening to note that this is no Welsh-wash. A number of these titles would have appeared on my list even if it was opened out to the world beyond. So, then, in no particular order:

True Things About Me - Deborah Kay Davies (Canongate) – this title, alas, ineligible
What the Water Gave Me - Pascale Petit (Seren)
Diamond Star Halo - Tiffany Murray (Portobello)
Fireball - Tyler Keevil (Parthian)
Jilted City - Patrick McGuinness (Carcanet)
West: A Journey Through the Landscapes of Loss - Jim Perrin (Atlantic)
Of Mutability - Jo Shapcott (Faber)
On the Third Day - Rhys Thomas (Doubleday)
Into Suez - Stevie Davies (Parthian)
Uncharted - Jon Gower (Gomer) – this title, alas, ineligible

True, some are more consistent than others. While two are absolutely exceptional. But all offer fresh approaches in asking the old questions. And it's all in the questions – at this time more than ever.

I'd heartily recommend all of the above as stocking fillers which will – aside from engendering pleasure – support writers and the houses that publish them, especially if you buy or order from your local, hardworking indie bookshop.

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