I’ve caught shortlist fever. It’s irresistible—this impulse to sum up the year.

I will begin with the books I gobbled up and which made a lasting impression. It’s a very odd mix this year of wise, irreverent, profoundly sad and profoundly lurid. (Compare it to the well-rounded list for 2012.)

Note: Not included is my very long list of sometimes eccentric research titles.

And so here, in no particular order:


Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, by Cheryl Strayed. I loved Strayed’s Wild last year, and so ventured onto her advice-column book, which I loved even more. My daughter loved it too. Strayed is wild and wise and calls it like it is. 

Odd type writers

Odd Type Writers: from Joyce and Dickens to Wharton and Welty, the Obsessive Habits and Quirky Techniques of Great Authors, by Celia Blue Johnson: inspiring and gossipy and fun. Every writer on your gift list would love this book … and buy one for yourself while you’re at it.


Paris, I love you but you’re Bringing Me Down, by Rosecrans Baldwin: about my favourite city, very funny. It’s not for people who are new to Paris, but for those who know it well.

Two  memoirs that will stay with me forever because of their brave, sad and striking beauty, are:


Wave, a memoir by Sonali Deraniyagala. Read this book; it will open your heart. It’s a profoundly moving book about unbearable grief. That sounds scary, but trust me: this is a beautiful book.


Nocturne: On the Life and Death of My Brother, by Helen Humphries; Humphries is one of my favourite writers, and this is a stunningly beautiful and heartfelt memoir.

Now to the fiction shortlist, followed by my essential apps… Stay tuned.