From the London Guardian:
David Hare, playwright
Michael Frayn has observed that the restoration of democracy in Germany in the 1950s was just as remarkable as its destruction in the 1930s. This is exactly why Five Germanys I Have Known (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Fritz Stern is such a fascinating book. Stern is a christened Jew, an eminent academic at Columbia University, whose family fled the Nazis in 1938 but who would one day return to address the Bundestag. Because this part-history, part-autobiography is such a sane, thoughtful account of the different manifestations of Germany in the 20th century and their implications, it has inevitably been the subject of stupid attacks. Ignore them.
Anne Tyler, novelist
Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses (Harvill Secker). It seemed to me a much larger and more consequential book than its small size would indicate.
Nicola Barker, novelist
My book of the year? It’s a no-brainer:Jon Savage‘s pre-history of youth culture, Teenage (Chatto & Windus). It’s a proper book – it has heft. And not only that, it’s also fascinating and coherent and witty and challenging and perplexing and poetic and awe-inspiringly intelligent. Even just holding it in my hands makes me feel like a small child carrying a large birthday cake with all the candles lit.
Margaret Drabble, novelist
My book of the year is Hermione Lee‘s superb biography, Edith Wharton (Chatto & Windus). It is finely researched, finely narrated, moving and perceptive – a major book about a major writer.
Michael Ondaatje, novelist
I came to it late but the best book I read this year was a novel by JM Coetzee. The Master of Petersburg (Vintage) is an overpowering work about grief – involving Dostoyevsky and the death of his stepson – that gradually turns into a novel about revolution and political paranoia. This is a world of dark hallways and basements and whispers and fear, starkly written and just about flawless.
Oliver Sacks, neurologist and author
My favourite non-fiction book this year has been David Beerling’s The Emerald Planet (Oxford), a minutely argued but highly readable history of the last half-billion years on earth. The story Beerling tells could not have been put together even 10 years ago, for it depends on the latest insights from palaeontology, climate science, genetics, molecular biology and chemistry, all brilliantly and beautifully integrated.
Full story . . .