Sinéad Gleeson: Books of the Year

From Jenny Offill to Roxane Gay, women bring a breath of fresh air

I reviewed books on these pages that turned out to be some of my highlights of the year, so I'd steer readers towards Jenny Offill's breath-of-fresh-air Dept of Speculation (Granta) and Viv Albertine's punk memoir Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys (Faber & Faber).

Much of what I admired was written by women: Lila (Virago), Marilynne Robinson's continuing triptych about Gilead's residents; Amy Bloom's evocative tale of an eccentric 1940s family in Lucky Us (Granta); and Academy Street (Canongate), Mary Costello's elegiac story of an emigrant Irishwoman in New York.

Two memoirs at polar ends of the humour spectrum stood out: Gary Shteyngart's hilarious Little Failure (Hamish Hamilton) and Alan Cumming's harrowing Not My Father's Son (Canongate).

Essay collections of note include Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist (Corsair) and Leslie Jamison's brilliant Empathy Exams (Granta), which explores pain, Frida Kahlo and literary heroines.


And the Man Booker judges shouldn't have overlooked Joseph O'Neill's funny, zeitgeist trip to Dubai in The Dog (Fourth Estate).

Sinéad Gleeson presents The Book Show on RTÉ Radio 1