Trying to assign bestness to great books is really very hard when they give you such different experiences.
But drumrolls please, for it's time for the Bibs awards for 2007. In a year of solidly reading good stuff, which books made the biggest impression on me?
Okay, first the nominees (with links to my reviews or previous posts):
Am so glad I made it through the Booker shortlist, even if not entirely the longlist. Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach, Anne Enright's The Gathering, Nicola Barker's Darkmans, Indra Sinha's Animal's People and Lloyd Jones Mr. Pip I thought were all very worthy contenders. Enright, yes, deserved her win.
I interviewed Canadian author Camilla Gibb when she came to the KL Literary festival in March which meant reading all her novels in rapid succession. (Not an arduous task at all!) Sweetness in the Belly, was for me is one of the most powerful and moving books of the year.
I wimped out a bit on the TBR challenge I blithely undertook at the beginning of the year and managed only 3 of the 12 books on my list. (I am finding that between me and the books I really want to read, there are a whole lot of books I have to read for reviews and articles and because a friend has written them.) But the three books I did read, Pascali's Island by Barry Unsworth, Money by Martin Amis and William Boyd's Brazzaville Beach were all excellent.
(These are of course books I should have tackled before, but I isolated myself in Nigeria and small town Malaysia in the 1980's and have big gaps in my reading. But I'm kicking myself - how could I have not read any William Boyd before?)
In 2007 Malaysian writing in English proved itself world class once again, with Tan Twan Eng's The Gift of Rain - a book I both loved and felt extremely proud of on the Booker longlist.
At home Kam Raslan with his Confessions of an Old Boy showed us all that not only can local fiction be of an excellent standard, but that it can also hit best seller lists. (I feel like cheering very very loudly at this point, but will restrain myself and just say more please, Kam!)
The other publication of local fiction I want to cheer for is Silverfish New Writing 6, in which the standard of the stories, many of them by first time writers, was very high indeed thanks to editor Dipika Mukherjee who made excellent choices.
My favourite non-fiction read by far was Alan Weisman's The World Without Us which imagines what would happen to planet Earth if all the human beings were just spirited off elsewhere. It was a real page-turner. I also really enjoyed Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness which, like all good popular science books was authoritative and extremely readable even for a non-scientist like me.
The local non-fiction I enjoyed most was Awang Goneng's gentle memoir Growing Up in Trengganu, followed by Dina Zaman's I Am Muslim and Antares' Tanah Tujuh.
My favourite coffee-table book was Malaysians by Steven V. Lee and Haliza Hashim-Doyle. (There are probably others I would love just as much but haven't managed to buy yet!)
Another drumroll please as I open the envelope:
And the 2007 Golden Bibs award goes to ...... The Road!
I can't get Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic (and post-apostrophic?) novel out of my head. The vision of the last remaining love and tenderness in a destroyed world still haunts me, and it should be compulsory reading for every world leader.
So what books knocked your socks off in 2007, and which would you give your award to?
Incidentally, I very much enjoyed reading this best of 2007 books post on Eyeris' blog.