10. The UnAmericans
By Molly Antopol. Back in February, we said that Antopol “has the skill of an experienced writer and the emotional clarity of a much older woman.” These are incredible short stories and even a dip into them is rewarding.
9. The Bees
By Laline Paull. The Bees is a rich and strange novel narrated entirely from the perspective of a Bee, Flora 717, who rises from her station as a sanitation worked to challenge the order of her hive. Never twee, but often beautiful. The hum of the hive has stayed with us.
8. Boy, Snow, Bird
By Helen Oyeyemi. Boy, Snow, Bird brings elements of the Snow White story to the 20th century, mixing in race and gender politics. There are few writers who use language with Oyeyemi’s skill and her work is wonderful.
7. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
By Karen Joy Fowler. Certainly the novel with this year’s biggest and best twist and also the only novel on the Mann Booker Prize shortlist to be published by an independent. Why does Rosemary behave in the ways she does and what’s the mystery about her sister Fern?
6. The Ballad Of A Small Player
By Lawrence Osborne. Lord Doyle (not a lord) gambles his way through the casinos of Macau, getting secret thrills from his losses as well as his wins. After meeting the mysterious Dao-Ming, he hits a winning streak that seems supernatural. One of the most atmospheric books this year.
By Sadie Jones. This is an incredible piece of storytelling, set in London’s theatre world during the Seventies and covering the tangled relationships of four young people. Clever and intensely atmospheric.
By Albertine Sarrazin. Written while Sarrazin was in jail, originally published in 1965 and reissued this year, Astragal focus on Anne, starting at the point she breaks her ankle escaping from jail. A nouvelle vague book with an amazing female anti-hero.
3. Little Failure
By Gary Shteyngart. Highly funny and very touching, Shteyngart’s memoir takes us from communist Russia to the US alongside a wheezing, asthmatic smaller Gary. It’s full of self-deprecating humour and never over indulgent.
2. Station Eleven
By Emily St. John Mandel. Station Eleven is a brilliant book we didn’t manage to review when it came out. Shame on us, as it’s a really original take on the apocalyptic novel, centred on a touring Shakespeare company.
1. How To Be Both
By Ali Smith. There’s a long-dead Renaissance painter and a young girl who has just lost her mother, but which character you start with is entirely dependent on which copy of the book you pick up. This isn’t a gimmick: Smith is a talented writer who will push any boundary to tell her stories.