Following an unprecedented response from all over the company, the I.B.Tauris team are pleased to present part two of our 2016 round-up. Enjoy…
Alex Wright – Executive Editor
I.B.Tauris Book of the Year
Henrietta Leyser writes about early medieval history in a way that compels you, over and over again, to look completely afresh at topics with which you thought you were already familiar. Back in 2012 I asked Henrietta – whose work I had admired for a long time – to write A Short History of the Anglo-Saxons. When her manuscript arrived I knew it would be very good, and written with all the elegance, authority and élan that I had come to expect from this author. But I soon realized it was a lot more than just a discerningly written summary. These short histories need extraordinary skill to pull off well. Compressing vast slices of time into 75,000 words requires a degree of adamantine self-control and discriminating selectiveness that’s arguably beyond all but the most accomplished of writers. There are many very fine IBT Short Histories now published. But I think this may be the best of them. It movingly describes the coming together of England through its emergent culture – and under severe duress of course from Viking invasion – in a totally involving and engaging way that brings this remarkable age to magnificently realized life. Such is the reader’s absolute sympathetic immersion in the world of Alfred and Edgar that the Norman invasion, when it arrives, feels like the brutal interruption of a society that by 1066 had developed into one of the wealthiest and most sophisticated in Europe. Concise and concentrated as it is, this may well be Leyser’s masterpiece.
Favourite Book of the Year
Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney (John Murray, 2015) is one of the most creepily atmospheric novels I have read in recent years. Set and developed beside the wild, liminal and indeterminate coastline of Lancashire, the story drills its way down into deep themes that many less able writers tend to shy away from: sacred mystery; the lure and pitfalls of religion; the ambiguity of faith; the possibility of miracle; and the forms that evil can take. Listing these ideas in the abstract may make the book seem overly cerebral or rather detached from human beings. But it absolutely isn’t. It’s a totally absorbing character psychodrama which forces you to question all your own assumptions and presuppositions about belief. What’s more, the haunting Lancashire landscape and seascape are brilliantly evoked. You know, even as with a growing sense of dread you immerse yourself in the author’s chillingly spare and sinewy prose, that something wicked this way comes. Despite being a first novel, this is the mature work of a master of his craft; and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
The Book I’d Like for Christmas This Year
I think it would have to be Landmark: A History of Britain in Fifty Buildings by Anna Keay and Caroline Stanford (Frances Lincoln, 2015). I am a keen Landmarker, and this handsome looking volume shows off some of the Trust’s most iconic buildings. What better way to spend Christmas than sinking into an easy chair and poring over lavish photographs and thoroughly entertaining descriptions of historically interesting properties like Purton Green, Maesyronen Chapel and Fox Hall? (While sipping a fine Brunello and helping yourself to another mince pie, of course – but do keep those fingers clean..)
Ash Khan – Senior Publicity Executive
I.B.Tauris Book of the Year Under the Shadow: Rage and Revolution in Modern Turkey by Kaya Genç
I worked on a lot of great books this year but Under the Shadow was a particular highlight. Genç’s collection of interviews shows that the roots of political anger in Turkey run deeper than many in the West assume: a historic polarisation between conservatives and progressives which can be traced back into the country’s oft-romanticised Ottoman past.
Favourite Book of the Year
I spent a few summer days buried in Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone (2016; Canongate). Reflecting on her own experience of loneliness in New York, Laing tells the stories of those for whom social exclusion and isolation acted as a force for remarkable creativity in the city’s history. Bringing to light a diverse range of lesser known artists, it’s gorgeously written. The story of David Wojnarowicz – a photographer and activist during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s – is particularly heartbreaking.
The Book I’d Like for Christmas This Year
I’d like Siri Hustvedt’s new collection of essays, A Woman Looking At Men Looking at Women (2016; Simon & Schuster).
Angelique Neumann – Volunteer
I.B.Tauris Book of the Year Andalucia by Andrew and Susanne Edwards
The concept of a literary guide is so perfect, I can’t believe that they haven’t been done before. The Edwards certainly do beautiful Andalucia justice in this well organised volume that consolidates the words of disparate (and often unexpected) authors across time into an enjoyable, attractive, practical volume.
Favourite Book of the Year The Shipping News by Annie Proulx (Scribner and Sons; 1993)
I’m rather late to the party on this quiet Pulitzer Prize winner about a loner who moves to his ancestral home in remote Newfoundland. I admit I have been in a bit of a slump with contemporary fiction since finishing my degree and reading Proulx’s considered, conceptual and trenchant prose has helped rekindle my enthusiasm. The novel is as terse, bizarrely eloquent, and full of maritime lingo as the shipping forecast at 1 am on Radio 4, and will keep you up late enough to hear it.
The Book I’d Like for Christmas This Year Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (Corsair; 2015)
Tom Clayton has recommended this wild romp of a memoir to me, and as surprised as I am to be interested in a title named ‘Sporting Book of the Year’ I find myself relating deeply to New Yorker journalist Finnegan’s haunts, both geographical and psychological. ‘Surfing always had this horizon, this fear line, that made it different from other things … Waves were the playing field. They were the goal. They were the object of your deepest desire and adoration. At the same time, they were your adversary, your nemesis, even your mortal enemy … The ocean was like an uncaring God, endlessly dangerous, power beyond measure.’
Sophie Campbell – Senior Production Editor
I.B.Tauris Book of the Year One Day in France by Jean-Marie Borziex
Criminally under-reviewed. Wonderfully written, heart-breaking and heart-warming. Reads like fiction but completely true.
Favourite Book of the Year All the Light We Cannot See by Antony Doerr (Fourth Estate, 2015)
Last year’s Pulitzer winner – I’m a bit behind. Totally enthralling, I could have read about these characters forever. Think I held my breath for an entire chapter.
The Book I’d Like for Christmas This Year The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg (Random House, 2016)
One of my favourite authors, of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café-fame. Her books are like taking a warm bath, which is exactly what 2016 needs…
Tia Ali – Marketing Executive
I.B.Tauris Book of the Year Let’s Stay Together by Denis MacShane
Let’s Stay Together is now, tragically, a relic of a hopeful past, a curiosity of the pre-referendum era. Perhaps more appropriate reading at this time would be MacShane’s Brexit: How Britain Left Europe, but Let’s Stay Together was a passionate plea for the EU that came at a cruicla moment. MacShane’s witty, persuasive prose was an affirmation of the values of inclusivity, unity, peacekeeping, political cooperation and freedom of movement that gave me hope for Britain’s future in the EU. Alas, it was not meant to be – but I was thankful to Denis for raising our spirits and giving us something to fight with (and to strategically read on the tube).
Favourite Book of the Year The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante (2012-15; Europa)
I realise that I was a little late to the game with my reading of these epic novels chronicling a life-long female friendship, but over the course of 2016 I devoured these books, reading roughly one a season and coming up for air in between. Ferrante’s ferocious texts leave no stone unturned, no emotion unexamined, no thought unsaid. These books lay bare the vicissitudes of life in 20th century Naples alongside the volatilities of a friendship between two phenomenal women. With compellingly brutal honesty, she narrates their entwined trajectories, relationships, successes and failures – I was frequently left breathless and reeling at the force of her furious prose.
The Book I’d Like for Christmas This Year The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla (2016; Unbound)
This collection of essays by 21 Black, Asian and ethnic minority British voices has received rave reviews, awards and heaps of praise from everyone I know – not to mention that it contributes to vital contemporary conversations on identity and lived experience! ‘Nuff said, I think.
Maddy Hamey-Thomas –
Editor, Visual Culture & Critical Theory
I.B. Tauris Book of the Year Andalucia – A Literary Guide for Travellers by Andrew Edwards and Suzanne Edwards
I love the idea behind the Literary Guides for Travellers series. Andalucia delivers an evocative account of the many literary figures who were drawn to the region, as well as the famous natives whose prose were stamped through with the Andalucian spirit. Full of fascinating cultural history and countless revealing impressions of the sun-soaked people and places that make it what it is, it will enhance the experience of visiting an already bewitching part of Spain.
Favourite Book of the Year Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger (2010; Penguin)
J.D. Salinger is a master of depicting middle-class ennui and this year I really enjoyed the short two-part novel Franny and Zooey, which takes the young lives of two siblings and former gameshow stars as its subject. His characters are often unlikeable and unsympathetic – Zooey, I’m looking at you: give your mother a break! – yet there are moments of unexpected warmth and humour. At its core, something about Salinger’s depiction of the awkwardness and disappointments of human interaction is oddly touching…
The Book I’d Like for Christmas This Year Against Everything: On Dishonest Times by Mark Greif (2016; Verso)
This book will be food for thought over the holidays. A collection of essays on resisting complacency in the 21st century capitalist world, I honestly don’t know much more than this but I’m intrigued. Having such an onslaught of bad political news this year I’m in the mood for thinking through the reasons why we might need to respond, react, reject.
Rory Gormley – Head of Academic Publicity and Editor
I.B. Tauris Book of the Year
This might be bending the rules slightly, but my book of the year is Khaled Khalifa’s No Knives in the Kitchen of This City from the American University in Cairo Press’ Hoopoe Arabic fiction imprint. It tells the story of one Aleppine family set against the rise of the Syrian dictatorship. Bold and impressive, it’s a painfully timely reminder of the wealth of unheard voices that fiction in translation makes available to us.
Favourite Book of the Year The Notebook by Agota Kristof (CB Editions, 2014)
A startling book I finally got around to reading earlier in the year. Short but powerful, it tells the story of twin brothers growing up in WWII Hungary. It’s a gnawing, unsettling novella that taps into the dark undercurrents of 20th century history.
The Book I’d Like for Christmas This Year Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev (PublicAffairs, 2015).
This is a book I have been meaning to read for a while and one which the events of the latter half of the year may well have made essential reading.
Check out more of our list over at the I.B.Tauris website. See you in 2017!