David Mitchell: Books of the Year

Strange new things and illuminating olds ones

 

Japan has become an unfashionable topic – barring natural disasters – over the past 20 years, which makes the Financial Times journalist David Pilling’s history of the past 30 years, Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival (Penguin) timely and illuminating. A must-read for anyone who is interested in east Asia.

I was also deeply impressed by JP Mallory’s The Origins of the Irish (Thames & Hudson), a groundbreaking archaeological survey (feeble pun intended) of who lived on this edge-of-the-continent island from the first residents to the 5th century AD. Mallory is as gifted (and often droll) a stylist as he is meticulous a scholar.

My novel of the year is Michel Faber’s immersive, quirky, cliche-busting The Book of Strange New Things (Canongate). Yes, much of the narrative takes place on another planet, and you’ll encounter a race of aliens – but don’t be afraid: it’s an audacious novel about the human heart, faith, love, limits, cultural relativism and what we’re doing to the planet we inhabit.

David Mitchell’s most recent novel, The Bone Clocks, is published by Sceptre.
 

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