Thursday, 23 December 2010

Books of the year, from indie presses

Deciding to put my money where my mouth was, in 2010 I only read books from independent presses. Excluding thin volumes of poetry, and children's picture books, I read 61 books. This is down on a normal year - Five Leaves' annual report (see last posting) makes it clear why. The year is not quite over but I know that the books I am due to read by the end of the year will not make it into my top ten, as they are for background research. I should confess the number does include three books from conglomerates - a William Trevor book I read to settle an argument (don't ask), a Stanley Middleton novel, because I wanted to remind myself what he was like and The Time Traveller's Wife, because I had to lead a discussion on it. There are some very big independents here - Bloomsbury being the most obvious, but they are members of the Independent Publishers' Guild, and Quercus. But I did say indies, not small indies. Here's my top ten - in no particular order. Not all were published in 2010.
* Bringing it all back home - Ian Clayton (Route) - a memoir of music, and working class life in Featherstone
* Just my type: a book about fonts - Simon Garfield (Profile) - stories about typesetting
* Once upon a country - Sari Nusseibeh (Halban) - Israel and Palestine, Nussebeibeh lives in East Jerusalem, and I read his book while staying down the road from his mother
* Even the dogs - Jon McGregor (Bloomsbury) - a novel, by the best fiction writer in the East Midlands
* The lowlife - Alexander Baron (Black Spring) - Hackney Jewish life in the 1960s, round the dog track
* Before the earthquake - Maria Allen (Tindall Street) - another Nottingham novelist. Her first novel, set in rural Italy a century ago
* A bookman's tale - Ronald Blythe (Canterbury) - not his best set of essays but many are still excellent
* Millennium Trilogy - Steig Larsson (Quercus) - cheating I know, but I read them one after another
* Common Cause - Francis Combes trans. Alan Dent (Smokestack) - the story of communism, in verse, on the basis that next time we'll do it better
* Depresso - Brick (Knockabout) - a graphic novel on depression; read it twice to spot the visual gags scattered throughout
runner up - White Tiger - Aravind Adiga (Atlantic)

Did I feel that I missed out by only reading books by indie presses for a year? Not really. But I would have read, and will soon start Tony Judt's The Memory Chalet, Colm Toibin's Brooklyn, and Stanley Middleton's posthumous A Cautious Approach. And, gritting my teeth, I'd better read The Finkler Question.


Anonymous said...

Depresso is AWESOME! It definitely makes my top ten list.

David Belbin said...

I second Battypip's comment on Depresso and your endorsement of Even The Dogs. Loved Maria Allen's novel, too, though it should be noted that she is not from Nottingham and lives in Loughborough. She did do the NTU Creative Writing MA though, 2001-3.

Ross Bradshaw said...

OK, Loughborough. Make it "local" then, lest all Loughborians (?) rise up in anger.