Books of the year 2011: John Lanchester
Graven with Diamonds - Nicola Shulman
My non-fiction choice is Nicola Shulman's beautifully intelligent and lucid book about Thomas Wyatt, Graven with Diamonds (Short Books, £20). It is difficult to write about early modern poetry without either oversimplifying or sounding over-technical; years ago, I packed in an academic thesis on the period, so I should know. Shulman does a wonderful job of showing how Wyatt is one of those poets (one of the best types of poet) whose work conceals enormous complexity and strong countercurrents of thought and feeling underneath an apparently plain and transparent surface.
In fiction, it's a three-way tie between Jonathan Franzen's Freedom (Fourth Estate, £8.99 paperback), Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad (Corsair, £11.99) and Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists (Quercus, £7.99 paperback).