Our team of Staff Pickles pick their faves of the year:
Memoir, biography and non-fiction
The Villa at the Edge of the Empire. One Hundred Ways to Read a City by Fiona Farrell (Bronwyn’s pick)
100 tiny pieces of perfect writing about the city we live in.
The Bad-ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts Joshua Harmer (Donna’s pick)
This is the true story of manuscripts gathered in Timbuktu, Mali & how they are threatened when jihadis take over the city. This is an utterly brilliantly told story about brave and bold librarians and citizens. Better than any thriller.
The Seven Good Years Etgar Keret (Dan’s pick)
The best autobiography I’ve ever and am ever likely to read!
Lab Girl: A Story of Trees, Science and Love Hope Jaren (Alison's pick)
It is an awesome biography about a woman who loves trees, and her science-soulmate assistant Bill who used to live in a hole. They're both incredible stranger-than-fiction characters, both passionate about science, both with a few tips about how to be very, very poor and still manage to run a lab. Stories of plants echo events in her own life - growth and roots, pollination and sex, endurance and survival. This one's inspiring, fascinating and very well written.
- Five Presidents Clint Hill (Glenn’s pick)
- Farrow and Ball: How to decorate Joa Studholm and Charlotte Cosby (Joyce’s pick)
- First Day of the Somme Andrew Macdonald (Katherine’s pick)
- Porcelain Moby (Glenn’s pick)
- Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: Lessons in Life and Death Chris Packham (Katherine’s pick)
- The Beauty in the Beast: Britain's favourite creatures and the people who love them Hugh Warwick (Alina’s pick)
- First Bite: How we learn to eat Bee Wilson (Alina’s pick)
- Don't Suck, Don't Die: Giving up Vic Chesnutt Kristin Hersh (Donna’s pick)
Watching and listening
Black Lotus Shogun Orchestra (Music) (Dan’s pick)
Such groove & feel, almost reminiscent of Mulatu Astatke.
45 Years (Film) (Robyn’s pick)
Ultra-jumbo sized box of tissues required but worth the pain.
Orange is the New Black (TV series) (Robyn’s pick)
Came late to it but love it - highly addictive. Great performances, great stories, Piper is mad annoying but perhaps that's quite accurate. And she's in the background more as the series progresses.
Fortitude (TV series) (Dan’s pick)
Cool Scandi-Crime drama.
- Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (Documentary) (Moata’s pick)
- Orphan Black Season 4 (TV series) (Moata’s pick)
- Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (TV series) (Dan’s pick)
- Mr Robot (TV series) (Joyce’s pick)
- Wolf Hall (TV series) (Joyce’s pick)
- Endeavour (TV series) (Alina’s pick)
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Film) (Moata’s pick)
- Steven Universe (TV series) (Donna's pick)
The Vet’s daughter Barbara Comyns (Joyce’s pick)
Written in the 1950s this slim volume is domestic, sinister and soaked in sadness. Alice is the vet's daughter and a very unhappy creature. As her life takes turn after turn for the worst she literally starts to untether. Weird but wonderful.
My struggle Book Three: Boyhood Karl Ove Knausgaard (Robyn’s pick)
This is my best book of the year so far, just as Book One, A death in the Family, and Book Two, A Man in Love were my best books of the year I read them in. I have to be on holiday to read them because once you start you cannot stop. I am not a man and I am not Norwegian and I am not a genius (and I think I’m a lot nicer person than Karl) but I have felt every emotion he describes, I just wouldn’t be able to express my feelings with such incredible skill.
American Gods Neil Gaiman (Bronwyn’s pick)
Re-re-reading this fabulous tale in preparation for the upcoming TV miniseries (so I can be all showy-offy when it's on …)
Speak Louisa Hall (Joyce’s pick)
Humanity's relationship with technology is told through a variety of narrators in this complex but gripping novel. Alan Turing, a Seventeenth century pilgrim girl, a robot and a variety of imagined scientists narrate their hopes and dreams of connection to the past, present and each other. Poetic and profound I so much wanted Mary Bradford travelling across the waves to her new life in the Americas to be real. Beautiful.
The Broken Earth series N K Jemisin (Alison’s pick)
The Obelisk Gate because it was a stunning sequel to The Fifth Season, delving deeper into the way this fantasy world works (or doesn't work, as the case may be, as this world is intrinsically broken) full of tragedy, hidden histories, desperate grasps at survival, and utterly fantastic powerful women.
- Britt Marie was here Fredrik Backman (Roberta’s pick)
- His bloody project Graeme Macrae Burnet (Dan and Joyce’s pick)
- One Sarah Crossan (YA) (Masha’s pick)
- The course of Love Alain de Botton (Roberta’s pick)
- Our souls at night Kent Haruf (Roberta’s pick)
- To the Bright Edge of the World Eowyn Ivey (Dan’s pick)
- My Sister Rosa Justine Larbalestier (YA) (Alison’s pick)
- Swimming home Deborah Levy (Joyce’s pick)
- Glorious Heresies Lisa McInerney (Roberta’s pick)
- The portable Veblen Elizabeth McKenzie (Joyce’s pick)
- Eileen Ottessa Moshfegh (Moata’s pick)
- The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Ryan North and Erica Henderson (Moata’s pick)
- This must be the place Maggie O’Farrell (Roberta’s pick)
- Early warning Jane Smiley (Roberta’s pick)
- Golden Hill Francis Spufford (Joyce’s pick)
- Girl waits with gun Amy Stewart (Joyce’s pick)