This list started with a question asked on Twitter:
I chimed in with my response, but today, I thought I’d elaborate on the answers I gave. And because I found it too hard to pick only one book, I decided to name one from each of the three main genres.
Fiction: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (tr. by Constance Garnett)
I’m not even halfway through this one yet, but it is still the best fiction I’ve read in the past year. To be honest, I just picked this book up on a whim one day; I expected I would get bored a few chapters in and put it aside. Instead, I got carried away by the story and the characters, who, I might add, are some of the most interesting and most life-like characters I’ve read about in a long time. This book is beautiful in every possible way.
I couldn’t choose between these two excellent biographies, so I chose them both. The Fellowship is unique in that it attempts to mesh the biographies of four different people together into one story and more than succeeds, whereas Miłosz, though only taking a single human life as its subject, is no less ambitious for the depth into which it penetrates Miłosz’s work and thought. Besides, both books are about writers I love, so they’re bound to rank highly with me.
Poetry: Dancing in Odessa by Ilya Kaminsky
Poetry Twitter was very excited a few weeks ago to learn that Kaminsky’s second book, Deaf Republic, finally has a publisher. That reminded me that I hadn’t read Kaminsky’s first book yet, though I had heard wonderful things about it. As I’ve since found out, Dancing in Odessa is well-worth the praise it receives from nearly every corner of the poetry world. I’m going to attempt a review of it before long, so for now I’ll only say that this book is stunning and it won me over in unexpected ways.
That’s all for now, what about you? What’s the best book (or books) you’ve read in the last year? Let me know in the comments.