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  • CRASH! How I Lost a Hundred Billion and Found True Love (Kindle Single)
    CRASH! How I Lost a Hundred Billion and Found True Love (Kindle Single)
    by Julian Gough

    The UK Kindle Single #1 hit.

    Jude lives in a henhouse with no roof, that he bought for ten million euro, at the height of the Irish property bubble. One day, his mortgage is rated the debt in Europe most likely to default... The political and financial elite of Europe arrive, with a plan: help Jude put a roof on his henhouse, stabilize his debt, and reassure the markets. It all goes horribly wrong.

    "This novella is very funny – laugh-out-loud at times…Gough is one of our most talented satirists" — The Irish Independent

  • Jude in London
    Jude in London
    by Julian Gough

    Shortlisted for both the Guardian's Not The Booker Prize, and the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, Jude in London is an epic, comic exploration of the bizarre love triangle between language, consciousness, and reality. Which is all very well, if you're into that sort of thing.

  • Jude: Level 1
    Jude: Level 1
    by Julian Gough

    Shortlisted for the 2008 Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction.

    The novel's prologue won the biggest prize in the world for a single short story - the BBC National Short Story Prize.

    "Sheer comic brilliance" - The Times

    "The best comic novel I've ever read" - Tommy Tiernan

    "Could be the finest comic novel since Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman" - The Sunday Tribune

  • Juno and Juliet
    Juno and Juliet
    by Julian Gough

    My first novel, of which I am very fond. The adventures of teenage twin sisters Juno & Juliet, in their first year away from home. Life, love and literature, in Galway and Tipperary.


    "Like Roddy Doyle in an extremely good mood" - The Washington Post

    "A modern, at times brilliantly ironic reworking of the classical fairytale, with nods to Shakespeare, Austen and Beckett." - Literary Review

    "Hugely entertaining" - Vogue

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pile of books.jpgThese lists are always ridiculous, because no matter how much you read, you've only read the thinnest sliver of all that's been published in the year. (And what freak only reads books that came out that year? As though books went off, like cartons of milk?) Back when I was utterly broke, I could quite easily read a couple of hundred books annually, not one of which was published that year. Even now, I spent far more of this year re-reading 1960s and ‘70s science fiction (by Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. LeGuin, Frederick Pohl and Thomas M. Disch), than I did reading new stuff. (I have my reasons...)

Also, I still tend to read things a year or two after they've come out. That's partly because they're cheaper in paperback, but partly because I like to let history sort them out a bit for me, or I'd waste too much of my precious reading life on each year's most-hyped books. A couple of years after publication, the word-of-mouth is still doing its wonderful job. As a result, the few books that made a real impact on people are still hanging in there on the shelves, while the hyped and empty have long been remaindered. (This year I finally bought Mobius Dick by Andrew Crumey, after thinking about doing so for ages, because people I like kept mentioning it. And I’m halfway through it, and it’s great…)

But I did read some freshly delivered books this year, still with the umbilicus attached and throbbing, and some of them were very good. So here are my favourites, and why. (Recycling is good and wholesome and approved of by society, so a version of these may well pop up in the Irish edition of the Mail on Sunday soon, and also on Mark Farley’s excellent and bolshy blog, The Bookseller to the Stars):


Then We Came To The End Joshua Ferris.

A smart, funny, painfully accurate book about office life (and death). And he’s written it from the collective point of view of all the workers (“How we hated our coffee mugs!”) Technically amazing, and FABULOUSLY difficult, he makes it look so easy you forget about it after sixty seconds. A Great American Novel. Serious respect is due.

There Are Little Kingdoms
Kevin Barry.

Vinnie Browne, in Charlie Byrne’s bookshop in Galway, forced me to buy this. Ignoring my anguished protests that modern Irish short stories are shite and I hate them. Well, I don’t hate these ones. Vinnie was right. This is the best Irish short story collection since Mike McCormack’s Getting It In The Head, which was the best since Frank O’Connor’s My Oedipus Complex. Small-town Ireland, given a good, loving, seeing-to, from behind.

The Uncommon Reader
Alan Bennett.

The Queen joins a library, late in life, and, lost in literature, starts to neglect her duties. Her courtiers, concerned, take ever more drastic action… An utter, utter delight. I’m giving my mum a copy.

The Paris Review Interviews (Volume 2)
edited by Philip Gourevitch.

Writers from Isaac Bashevis Singer through Alice Monro to Stephen King discuss everything from their philosophy of life to their choice of pencil eraser. If you’re addicted to this sort of thing, as I am, then this is a lucky bag full of fecking huge rocks of crack.

OK that’s the official list I sent out. But writing it up, I totally forgot that Milan Kundera's The Curtain had  been published earlier this year. I'd read it so thoroughly (several times), and it had sunk in so deep, that I'd vaguely assumed I'd had my bent, trashed copy for a couple of years. (And of course it overlaps a little with his earlier book, The Art Of The Novel - ie he nicks bits and reuses them – so I had read some of it years ago). But The Curtain pretty much replaces The Art of the Novel. There’s a few extra years thinking and reading gone into it.

So add that to my list. Milan Kundera is one of the great thinkers about the novel, what it has done and what it can do. (And, as a gifted novelist, he's a lot easier to read than the most brilliantly original 20th century theorist of the novel, Mikhail Bakhtin, whose genius is muffled by godawfully impenetrable Russian Formalist prose).

trees near baruth  glashuette.jpgKundera's key image is of the novel as a great forest, which writers have only just begun to explore. The Curtain is enlightening, entertaining, intriguing, and reassuring. Especially if, machete in one hand and pen in the other, you happen to be trying to cut your own path through that forest.