Women and Power, Mary Beard (Profile Books). The eminent classicist hits the nail on the head over and over again as she picks over the bones of misogyny from Greek myth through to Hillary Clinton. Never have so many women shouted ‘That’s exactly it!’ so many times in one sitting. Seismic.
Scorn, Paul Hoffman (Whitefox). Dark, vicious, at times bleak. And very funny. The priest-consuming comedy thriller with an incredible twist.
Icebreaker, Horatio Clare (Chatto & Windus). A voyage into the Arctic on an icebreaking ship with one of Britain’s best writers of nature and place. You feel the cold leaping off the pages, but want to get to Finland.
Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8, Naoki Higashida (translators David Mitchell, Keiko Yoshida; Sceptre) Follow-up to the feted The Reason I Jump, this extraordinary, myth-busting account of living with non-verbal autism as a young adult is eye-opening and deeply moving.
The Unwomanly Face of War, Svetlana Alexievich (translators Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky; Penguin Classics). First published (heavily censored) in the Soviet Union in 1985, this English translation of Alexievich’s collection of witness stories from Russian women who lived through, and served in, the Second World War cements her reputation as one of the world’s greatest living social historians.
The Kingdom, Emmanuel Carrère (translator John Lambert; Allen Lane). Who knew the combination of autobiographical confession and intellectual theological investigation could be so engaging, so informing, and so damn funny.
A Legacy Of Spies, John Le Carré (Penguin Viking). The master returns to the place it began.
The Spy comes back in from the cold. Peerless.
A New Map of Wonders, Caspar Henderson, (Granta). Henderson’s revelations of alternative contemporary world wonders – in nature, technology, science and, most gratifyingly of all, the human brain – read like a life-affirming gift, setting off a hopeful flare above a sea of terror, ignorance and gloom.
The Rub of Time, Martin Amis (Jonathan Cape). A timely reminder that Amis is one of the best – perhaps the best – essayists in Britain, outperforming many an ambitious young buck on grounds of eloquence, insight, arrogance and self-deprecation. And my God, he is funny.
Don’t forget our cultural attachés pick their top reads of the year and of course, the prestigious annual cherrypick Children’s Books of the Year.