Best of 2010: Fiction

We asked this year’s Granta contributors to tell us what their favourite books were in 2010. Earlier this week we brought you their non-fiction and poetry recommendations. Today we complete the list with fiction choices from Adam Foulds, Uzma Aslam Khan, Lorraine Adams, Peter Orner and Kamila Shamsie. Their picks take in long stories, novellas, and novels, both in English and in translation.


I think that the short story writer Claire Keegan is one of the best writers working today in any form. Her long story Foster, first published in an abridged form in the New Yorker and rightly honoured by Faber and Faber with publication as a stand-alone volume, is brilliant – terrible, elating, vivid, mysterious, shockingly familiar, tender and brutal. With skilful reticence and suggestive power, Foster discloses a complete physical and emotional world. It is great fiction and has one of the best, most memorable last lines I’ve read for a long time. – Adam Foulds

Buy the
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to read Adam Foulds’ short story, ‘The Rules are the Rules’

I’m in love with Touch, a gorgeous little book by the Palestinian writer Adania Shibli, released this year. It could have been read in one day but I relished it over four; part of me still hurts that it’s over. Touch (translated by Paula Haydar) is constructed from the purest, most intimate sensations, beginning with the first page, when ‘the girl’ rests her hand on a water tank and carries away brown splinters of rust that in the sun turn to ‘dots of gold’. She presses the other hand and pulls away only roughness. And this is how Shibli tells her entire tale: with one hand carrying light, the other, darkness. Nothing is explained yet everything is felt – through colours, silences, peeling paint, even the tilt of a dead brother’s tie. The massacres at Sabra and Shatila hover at the edge of the girl’s shimmering landscape, where it’s the way the mother folds a prayer mat, or a corpse, that holds her attention. Whatever Shibli touches transforms into heartbreaking beauty. – Uzma Aslam Khan

Read an interview with Uzma Aslam Khan an Urdu literature

Since I travelled to Iran in 2006 I’ve been a fan of its novelists. Although subject to strict censorship, Persian fiction writers flourish inside the country, even though almost all remain unknown in the West. Occasionally writers from the Iranian Diaspora do break through. One of them is Kader Abdolah, who in 1988 fled to the Netherlands after opposing the Shah and Khomeini. Abdolah now writes in Dutch, and one of my favourite Iranian novels, My Father’s Notebook, the story of a son’s quest to understand his mute father’s self-invented language, was translated into English in 2006. The House of the Mosque was his breakout novel, hitting the Dutch bestseller list in 2005. This year the English translation was finally available. The story unfolds in a home where one family has lived for eight centuries, tracing them through the 70s and the Iranian Revolution. Abdolah always reminds me of the Victorian novelists; his psychological acuity and broad canvas are so engrossing. – Lorraine Adams

Buy the
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to read Lorraine Adams’ (and Ayesha Nashir’s) report, ‘The Trials of Faisal Shahzad’

I recently read Old Border Road by Susan Froderberg. The book is told by Katherine and she’s not ‘a Kathy, never been a Kath, nor a Katie or a Kate, not a Kat, a Kitten, not a Kit. Katherine I’ve always been, as Katherine I am today.’ I especially liked the energy and cadences of the sentences. The book catapults forward in this fearless and honest voice. It’s Katherine’s life story told her way and she is one of the most engaging narrators I’ve come across in a long time. The book is set in the desert of Arizona and the land and the weather are as much characters in the book as Katherine, Son, the old man, Padre, and the rest. And Katherine is as good a listener as she is a teller. Here’s the old man, Son’s father, telling his own story early in the book: ‘Even during the driest of spells in the heat of the days we were happy. I remember, when it was fiercely hot and we would go to bed with wet sheets and the fans blowing on us to get through the night and the weather.’ – Peter Orner

Peter Orner’s ‘Dyke Bridge’ was published in Granta 111: Going Back. Buy the issue
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On a cold winter’s day (or in any season), Therese Soukar Chehade’s debut novel Loom (Syracuse University Press), set during a blizzard in the northeast of America, is the perfect novel to curl up with. As a Lebanese family awaits the arrival of a cousin from Beirut, stories and secrets fill the home they all share. Chehade is brilliant, in the subtlest of ways, about the awfulness of war, the strangeness of migration, and the resentments and sympathies that co-exist within a family. And she writes like a dream. – Kamila Shamsie

Kamila Shamsie’s essay ‘Pop Idols’ was published in Granta 112: Pakistan and is free to read online


Read also… non-fiction recommendations from Jennifer Egan, Peter Stothard, Claire Vaye Watkins and Peter Orner; and poetry recommendations from Colum McCann, C.K. Williams, Aamer Hussein and Anne Carson.

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