Both my writer and reader friends wait eagerly for the onslaught of end of the year best book lists- the best 100 books, the best 10 books, etc. from the major newspapers and magazines reviewing books. The selection is a tricky business- so much depends on the taste of the reviewers involved, and the pool of choices from which they pick. Bloggers of note, famous writers, even celebrities are asked for their annual favorites.
In years past I’ve wondered a few times if those involved chose books that make them look intelligent by picking titles that are challenging to read, opaque, and sometimes strange. There’s always that “edgy” factor too. Did those readers actually get any pleasure from their reading? Hmmm… maybe pleasure has nothing to do with it.
My favorite book from everything I read in 2014 is Trans Atlantic, published in 2013, so my selection would not even count. Still, Colum McCann’s novel is one that I can’t forget. It is the kind of book you want to reach for the minute you have a spare moment — my sign of a good book.
In many ways it is not an easy book. McCann intertwines multiple stories and moves back and forth in time. Why would I care particularly about an early trans Atlantic flight, the life of Frederick Douglas, and the peace process in Northern Ireland as brokered by George Mitchel? Within this unexpected mix of “real people” we come to know four generations of women. McCann doesn’t shy away from great suffering and heart-braking moments in this novel. Yet, the exquisite prose, sublime story telling, and wondrous detail make this novel an extraordinary read. Best of all, Trans Atlantic is a novel that carries us deep into the realm of the human heart.