Blackwell’s have, in their wisdom, apparently selected Critical Mass as one of their top 100 ‘paperbacks of the decade’ (don’t ask me why they specify paperbacks). Nice. As a result, they asked me to come up with my own selection of three from the past decade – which is not as easy as it sounds (it makes me realise that most of the books I read are older than this). So this is what I offered them:
James Meek’s The People’s Act of Love (Canongate, 2005), while beautifully written and plotted, might not seem an obvious candidate for an outstanding novel of the decade. But it has stayed with me as an exquisite piece of storytelling of the kind that one associates with the best pre-modernist fiction, and makes a compelling imaginative leap into a wholly unfamiliar milieu. Comparisons with Conrad and Dostoevsky were not amiss. It’s not clear whether W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz (Penguin, 2002) is fiction or not, but it was my introduction to Sebald and to an entirely original and totally hypnotic style of writing. Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder (HarperCollins, 2008) is perhaps the only history of science I have read that has been genuinely exciting and inspiring to read, with something to enthral the reader on every page. All of these books have left their mark on my own writing.