• Granta contributors select their favorites from 2008 (complete list here)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The book I most enjoyed reading this year is José Eduardo Agualusa’s The Book of Chameleons. The narrator is a dreamy, funny, brilliant gecko but there is nothing gimmicky in this beautiful, poetic novel about an Angolan albino who invents fake pasts for his clients. It is a grown-up story about a country getting to know itself again, and told in such exquisite language that I wished I could read it in the original Portuguese.

Tahmima Anam

Afghanistan has become a part of our public consciousness, though many of us have little idea of the human tragedy behind the decades of violence. This is the backdrop to Nadeem Aslam’s brilliant third novel, The Wasted Vigil, though to say the novel is about Afghanistan is not nearly enough, because the novel also tells us about love, faith and the limits of human endurance. Aslam has an uncanny ability to write with great tenderness and honesty all at once. Read and be dazzled.

I also highly recommend Alice Albinia’s Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River, part travelogue, part historical account of the Indus River Valley. Through personal testimony and exhaustive archival research, Albinia sheds light on the surprisingly diverse roots of modern-day Pakistan.

Diana Athill

I’m a shamefully late, and enraptured, discoverer of Kate Grenville, whose The Lieutenant is a supremely good novel. It’s published in the UK next February and has excited me more than any novel I’ve read since those of W. G. Sebald. My favourite non-fiction book is Richard Holmes’s The Age of Wonder – a real feast of a book!

T. C. Boyle

My reading this year has mostly had to do with ecology and biology – research for the novel I am now writing. Among many others, I re-read one of the great works on the subject of island biogeography, David Quammen’s The Song of the Dodo. If you don’t know this book, you should. It is fluidly and wittily written, very wide-ranging and informative. At present, I am reading an advanced review copy of Blake Bailey’s forthcoming biography of John Cheever, under whom I studied one semester at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. This is a very fine biography indeed, assessing and illuminating a complex life, and written with all the power and persuasion of a novel. I have been taking my time with it, savouring it chapter by chapter as I might linger over a box of chocolates. Or no: I don’t particularly like chocolates. Let’s say a pot of lobsters.


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