And here are the seven books that are my picks for 2011:
Favel Parrett's debut novel has stuck with me ever since I read it earlier this year. It's written in stark prose that strongly evokes the cold and lonely area of Tasmania's coastline where it takes place. I felt the cold and damp that the characters felt. It also packs a lot in for such a small book, with the result that you're given a brief but engrossing glimpse into the life of the characters and the place.
This worthy winner of the Booker Prize is a wise and beautiful novel that plays with memory and perception. It's about a man looking back on the events of his youth and coming to understand that his sense of what happened may be wrong. Another brief book that is all the more impressive for how much it conveys with so little.
An awesome horror novel from an exciting new talent. Nevill's previous novel, Apartment 16, was an interesting and well structured novel but it was too over the top for my tastes. In The Ritual, he pares back the excesses of his previous work and focuses (for the first two thirds at least) on the relationships between the four main characters and the place that brings them so much despair. Like Past the Shallows, the setting lives and breathes in this book, a character as dark and menacing as the horrific creature that stalks the forest.
This was such an unexpected pleasure. When I first heard that this Western was shortlisted for the Booker I was expecting a Blood Meridian type of tale. Instead, deWitt delivered a funny and engrossing book that features two truly unique main characters. It is also one of the best designed books of the year.
A collection of stories and anecdotes from Marieke Hardy's life, it is worth the price of admission for the chapter about Bob Ellis. Marieke reflects on her life, her friends, her family and who she is. The stories are often funny, sometimes hilarious. But they're all punctuated with her sense of style, meaning that they flow like a conversation and feel quite personal.
A razor sharp novel that delivers many laugh-out-loud moments and is a bruising satire of the publishing industry. I loved this book for so many reasons, but the description of the protagonist's life in the opening chapter is achingly funny, as the excerpts from the fake novels Steve Hely has concocted.
I was actually quite conflicted about placing this book as my top pick of 2011. It's a book that you can have a different relationship with each time you read it. And it's a book that cries out to be read more than once. Some of the concepts in Embassytown are so strange and the characters so bizarre that when you read it you can get a little distracted by them. But no book has sparked more conversations for me this year. But maybe that's more to do with the people I hang out with. The story is about Avice, who lives in the far future at the edge of the explored Universe. The planet she lives on is home to a native species called Hosts, who have a 'literal' language in which it is impossible to lie. Miéville explores linguistic concepts, themes of race and colonialism, plus the tropes of science fiction in a book that I chose because it's like nothing else that was released in 2011.