Two of my most memorable books of the year were by two of the most brilliant writers of our day, and were both, to my simple mind, of opaque allure. Colin Thubron’s novel Night of Fire (Faber, £16.99) evokes the emotions of seven tenants, plus their landlord, when their apartment house is burnt down, and fascinatingly jumbles them all into a mystique contemplation of something or other.
Geoff Dyer’s White Sands (Canongate, £16.99) is subtitled ‘Experiences from the Outside World’ and is a virtuoso display of his particular kind of travel writing, sometimes fact, sometimes fiction. I was only half convinced by it all, but quite bowled over by the title story of the collection, which seems to me a little masterpiece.
But for pure unchallenging delight, I most enjoyed an astonishing collection of works of art created by explorers and adventurers down the centuries. It is a beautiful multi-edited sort of album, entitled Explorers’ Sketchbooks and published by Thames & Hudson at £29.95. If it were not such a sumptuous volume it would be glorious for reading in the bath.
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