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The Best Books of Any Year: Three Variations on Post-Truth

Astrid Alben

‘2016 is almost over but the impact of this year’s political events will reverberate around the globe for decades.’

Brexit Win

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

‘The poor hated the poor, natives hated outsiders, settled migrants hated new incomers, the North hated the South, non-Londoners hated London.’

When Denmark Criminalised Kindness

Lisbeth Zornig Andersen

‘We now know that it is a criminal offence to help refugees in distress.’

The Secret Afterlife of Boats

Anna Badkhen

‘The sea is broken,’ they say. An empty net at night: a drooping lattice of shiny nothingness, a cold and worthless tinsel mesh.

Free will and Brexit

Julian Baggini

‘Whether or not you think 23 June was a great day for Britain and Europe, it was a very bad one for freedom.’

Violence in Blue

Patrick Ball

‘One-third of all Americans killed by strangers are killed by police.’

He Had His Reasons

Colin Barrett

Colin Barrett on the Hawe family murder-suicide, and what the Irish media’s coverage tells us about the nation’s prejudices.

Best Book of 1991: Mao II by Don DeLillo

Colin Barrett

‘The ultimate goal of each act of art, each work of terror, is to demolish the old, incumbent reality, and create a new one.’

The Raingod’s Green, Dark as Passion

Kevin Barry

‘If cities are sexed, as Jan Morris believes, then Cork is a male place. Personified further, I would cast him as low-sized, disputatious and stoutly built, a hard-to-knock-over type.’

Crossings

Tim Beckett

‘This was the collective trauma of a community discovering, very abruptly, they’d have to uproot their lives.’ Tim Beckett on the ruins of Uranium City.

Best Book of 2000: The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent

Will Boast

Will Boast on why Lionel Trilling’s The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent is the best book of 2000.

On Sonnet 50

Paula Bohince

‘I love Shakespeare’s slow insistence, which mirrors the action within the poem: there is nothing but grief to reach.’ Paula Bohince on Shakespeare’s sonnet 50.

Cracking Up

Kevin Breathnach

‘It has been several weeks since I slept for more than an hour, and lately I’ve been feeling on the verge of cracking up.’

Best Book of 1971: Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann

Kevin Breathnach

‘The novel submits to an internalized discipline: it is an observation machine’

Diaries

Suzanne Brøgger

‘My habit of being a dreamer is filled with the joy of melancholy.’

Best Book of 1943: ­Love In A Fallen City­ by Eileen Chang

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

‘Eileen Chang writes perfectly for the romantic in an unromantic and unrelenting world.’

The Politics of English Forgetfulness

Madeleine Bunting

‘Brexit demonstrates one of England’s most trusted strategies of power: deliberate forgetfulness.’

Black Country

Anthony Cartwright

‘There’s a sense, I think, that what that X in the box translates as is seventeen and a half million voices that say, we’re still here.’

Bucharest, Broken City

Philip Ó Ceallaigh

‘It is only consciousness and memory that hold together the things we sometimes see as solid.’

The Decay of Politics

Philip Ó Ceallaigh

‘Britain has made the control of borders and the free movement of people its central obsession, its fundamental national anxiety.’ Philip Ó Ceallaigh on Brexit.

Best Book of 1982: Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

Eleanor Chandler

‘While the terrible pain of speech is made clear, this book ultimately reminds us that we must not be silenced.’

Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard

Ivan Chistyakov

‘Freedom, even with hunger and cold, is still precious and irreplaceable.’

Five Things Right Now: Diane Cook

Diane Cook

Diane Cook shares five things she’s reading, watching and thinking about right now.

Coventry

Rachel Cusk

‘War is a narrative: it might almost be said to embody the narrative principle itself.’

Africa’s Future Has No Space for Stupid Black Men

Pwaangulongii Dauod

‘The night was full of energy. The kind of energy that Africa needs to reinvent itself.’

Open After My Death

Linda H. Davis

‘I had become the kind of parent I never wanted to be.’

Sweet William: A Memoir of Old Horse, by John Hawkes | Best Book of 1993

Linda H. Davis

‘Plunged inside the skin of the horse, I felt his sensory burdens, sufferings and fears: his keen sensitivity to sound, smell and touch (even the weight of a saddle)’

Before They Began to Shrink

Nic Dunlop

‘The numbers killed at Aughrim that day will never be known.’

The Fog and the Sea

Lily Dunn

Lily Dunn on her father’s losing battle with alcoholism.

Best Book of 2008: To the End of the Land, by David Grossman

Lily Dunn

‘David Grossman is a writer who speaks to the heart, and this is his masterpiece.’

Kettle Holes

Melissa Febos

‘They knelt at my feet. They crawled naked across gleaming wooden floors.’

Teaching After Trump

Melissa Febos

‘In a country whose government we do not trust, who do we need more than writers and teachers? And what is more powerful than an inspired youth?’

Best Book of 1993: Written on the Body

Melissa Febos

‘Influences imprint themselves on our consciousness as light does a photograph, or trauma the psyche’

To Thine Own Self Be True

David Flusfeder

‘If Shakespeare’s characters stand for anything, it’s for a slipperiness of identity.’ David Flusfeder on a dog named Shakespeare.