Julie Bertagna, author
Ferrante fervour reached a peak this September when the last book in Elena Ferrante’s addictive Neapolitan saga hit the shelves. Ferrante is a publishing phenomenon; an invisible Italian writer, an enigma who shuns all publicity in an age of compulsory author media platforms and ever-Twittering presences, compared to Tolstoy and Dickens in the grand sweep, ambition and popularity of her work. The Story of the Lost Child (Europa Editions, £11.99) is the fourth and final episode that brings the revelation of the terrible thing, some unknown disaster, that characters Elena and Lila have been moving towards since we meet them as children in Book One (My Brilliant Friend). This is an epic exploration of a lifelong friendship and the complex interior worlds of two women, enmeshed with a rich cast, set against the story of a changing nation. Brilliant, brutal, beautiful, bleak and brave, Ferrante is this winter’s fireside read.
Jamie Byng, publisher, Canongate
Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend (Europa, £11.99) is a novel of brilliance that I devoured this summer and continue to savour. Likewise Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins (Doubleday, £20), a book that deserved to win awards and, like Life After Life, was unfairly overlooked.
Johann Hari’s Chasing The Scream (Bloomsbury, £18.99) and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World And Me (Text, £10.99) are two of the most important and thought-provoking pieces of non-fiction I read. And if you are buying books, please go to an actual bookshop. You never know what else you might discover as a result and you will leave the bookshop a happier person.
Lesley Glaister, novelist
Like many people I’ve been swept away by Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels this year – enough said. My most recent treat has been Second Wind, new poems by Douglas Dunn, Vicki Feaver and Diana Hendry, (a Saltire Series pamphlet, £7) around the theme of ageing. So much is moving, unexpected, witty and simply fine. Day 6, When Motherhood and Madness Collide by Jen S Wight (Green Olive Press, £5.99) is a searingly honest account of post-partum psychosis. With no trace of self-pity, Jen recounts her precarious mental state in the year after her son’s birth. She gives the most lucid account of mental illness and its treatment I’ve ever read. Anyone with a concern for this subject should read it – but I don’t mean to make it sound worthy. I laughed, cried and devoured this in one sitting.