Books of the year 2011: Jane Shilling

The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them - Elif Batuman

 

Any year in which you find a book that you know you'll want to reread is a good one. Two is something like a miracle. Elif Batuman's The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them (Granta Books, £16.99) is an exhilaratingly funny and original memoir. Inspired by Batuman's postgraduate studies, the book consists of seven heroically discursive essays in which her life experience collides headlong with the writings of Tolstoy, Isaac Babel et al.

Jaimy Gordon won a National Book Award for her fourth novel, Lord of Misrule (Quercus, £12.99). And quite right, too. I thought that Rosalind Belben's Our Horses in Egypt (2007) was the best novel I had ever read with a horse at its heart. But Gordon's elegant tragicomedy, set on a run-down racetrack in West Virginia, is a little masterpiece.

Next: Robert Skidelsky

Previous: Leo Robson

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