My absolute pick for the year was David Vann's Caribou Island. Set in Alaska, it is atmospheric yet the writing is spare (it's only 300pp) making this is a book for lover's of narratives without all the fluff. Much compared to Cormac McCarthy, David Vann has a brilliant knack for setting up extremely tense moments which are extremely visceral. Brilliant!
Another couple of shorties that I loved this year were both from Siri Hustvedt. They were The Summer Without Men and The Shaking Woman. The first is fiction and the other non-fiction, however both explore very similar themes surrounding women and their lot. As moved as I was by both these books, it is The Summer Without Men that brought laughter, and The Shaking Woman which reminded me of how brave and insightful her writing is. These are incredibly good books.
For my Aussie pick, I think Peter Salmon's The Coffee Story was hard to go past. Raw, verbose and completely original, this story about a dying and sometimes not quite lucid coffee magnate is terrific. Peter's writing is loud and the narrative is violent, fast-paced and even somtimes crude. A good one to blow away the cobwebs.
And last but not least, I must mention Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers. Is it naughty for a bookseller to say that the cover is initially what drew me to this book? Oh well, who can go past a skull that consists of two cowboys? Clever! And the writing is not bad either... no really, this book was a terrific, rollicking, droll-humoured winner. Not the winner of the Booker Prize (it was short-listed), however if you're not looking for worthy, but downright entertaining, The Sisters Brothers, which is about two cowboy brothers, is a sure thing.