Warrick Wynne’s Poetry Pages

reading, writing and the connections

2017 Books of the Year

This year I was tempted to break away from the increasingly arbitrary genre divisions that have always defined my lists: fiction, poetry, non-fiction. Since  I began these lists way back in the 1980s those boundaries have broken down more and more.

This year, more than ever. Is Richard Ford’s parallel portraits of his parents in Between Them, clearly my book of the year, fiction or non-fiction? It’s about his parents, so it’s biography isn’t it. Is it?

And Dennis Glover’s fictionalised account of George Orwell coming to make the modern classic, 1984 is fiction isn’t it? Or biography?

So, I’ve kept the divisions only for the sake of history, kept the categorising only for the sake of tradition, and give my top books as I saw them, as I enjoyed them, as they spoke to me.

1. Between Them – Richard Ford

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I’ve always enjoyed Ford’s work, so I was likely to enjoy this, despite Ford’s  new foray into non-fiction. I was a little bit worried that non-fiction wouldn’t work for him, but it works beautifully as he gives us parallel portraits of his parents, eschewing imagination and conjecture for what he saw and felt.  It’s very moving, and everyone I shared it with enjoyed it too.

2. The Last Man in Europe – Dennis Glover

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Glover is clearly a huge Orwell fan and it certainly helps if you know 1984 well. I’ve taught Orwell’s classic a number of times so I’d have that wry smile of recognition as Glover takes us through Orwell’s journey to the making of that novel: that’s where the idea for the ‘two minute hate’ came from,  so that might have been the inspiration for Julia. If a very good book makes you want to do something, this made me want to go to Jura and visit the little farmhouse at the end of the world where Orwell shaped a vision of the end of our world.

3. Nabokov in America (on the road to Lolita) – Robert Roper

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For all the controversy that is Lolita,  and I can still remember my embarrassment when I walked in to the local book shop with my shiny new text list for American Literature 101, and being firmly told that ‘we don’t stock that kind of book here’, my interest in the text was largely in the vision of America is evokes.

The road, the meals,  the motels, the banality. Roper’s book looks at the making of Lolita and Nabokov’s scouting of locations through long American road trips. It tells of the butterfly hunting, the log-cabin camp-grounds, the neon motels and the sharp, sudden fame of the book’s success.

and the best of the rest …
4. The January Man – Christopher Somerville
5. The Ocean at the end of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
6. In the Sierra: Mountain Writings – Kenneth Rexroth
7. Billy Bragg – Roots, Radicals, Rockers
8. Position Doubtful – Kim Mahood
9. Time Travel – A History – James Gleick
10. John McManus – Fox, Tooth, Heart (stories)

And for the categorisers:

Best Fiction: The Last Man in Europe – Dennis Glover
Best Non-Fiction – Between Them – Richard Ford
Best Poetry – Night Sky with Exit Wounds – Ocean Vuong

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Richard Ford between them.

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Written by warrick

December 22, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Posted in books

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