Globe Books editors and reviewers name their favourite reads of the year, from fiction to poetry to kids' picks - and everything in between
On the mark: Books editor Mark Medley's 5 favourite books of the year
All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews (Knopf Canada) A harrowing but ultimately uplifting examination of family, suffering, creativity and forgiveness, this beautiful and wise novel chronicles two middle-age sisters, one of whom wants nothing more than to end her life. This is Toews best book to date, which is really saying something. A marvel.
Sweetland, by Michael Crummey (Doubleday Canada) A novel that seems rather simple on its surface – an elderly man refuses to leave the small Newfoundland island where he has lived the majority of his life – surprises in its depth. It is also wonderfully creepy.
This One Summer, by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood) A thoughtful and touching graphic novel about a young girl growing up while her family breaks down during one fateful summer at the family cottage. A remarkable portrait of adolescence and friendship. There might not be a better partnership in all of Canadian literature than that of these two cousins.
Will Starling, by Ian Weir (Goose Lane Editions) This Frankenstein-inspired sophomore novel, narrated by a headstrong and haunted young surgeon's assistant, takes place in a gloomy 19th-century London where the dead have picked up the nasty habit of coming back to life. Few writers in Canada can spin a better yarn than Weir. Bonus: Will Starling features what is perhaps the best ending of the year.
For Tamara, by Sarah Lang (Anansi) A quiet, chilling prose poem in the form of a letter from a mother to her young daughter on how to survive in a post-apocalyptic America. The genre has been done to death, but, among the ruins, Lang finds something new.
The famous five: Deputy books editor Lisan Jutras's 5 favourite books of the year
The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, by Meghan Daum (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Daum's collection of personal essays kicks off with a devastatingly good piece about her fraught relationship with her mother – one of the hardest things a human can write about. Her authorial voice rings sharply true (and funny) throughout the entire book.
10:04, by Ben Lerner (McClelland & Stewart) A beautiful, complicated novel about possible futures in the time of global catastrophe. Like a poem, it courts us, asking to be read and re-read endlessly, admired and considered from multiple angles.
Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation, by Laura Kipnis (Metropolitan) No contemporary cultural critic is as self-questioning, incisive and hilarious as Kipnis, who has devoted a whole book to her fascination with scumballs. A riveting and provocative read that annoys and illuminates, equally.
Can't and Won't, by Lydia Davis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Davis is wholly unique. A vast selection of tiny stories, some no more than a few lines long, all of them performing the alchemy of turning the everyday into quietly arresting, often wry, art.
Every Day Is for the Thief, by Teju Cole (Random House) In deliberate, un-showy prose, Cole, a writer whose aperture is always wide open, gives us the story of a Nigerian ex-pat returning home. A subdued mapping of Lagos's contradictions and troubles.
Not so bland: Arts editor Jared Bland's 5 favourite books of the year
My Life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead (Bond Street Books) An ode to George Eliot's masterpiece, Mead's book is a profound, funny and moving blend of travelogue, memoir and literary criticism that stands as testament to and embodiment of the power of art to change our lives.
Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi (Hamish Hamilton Canada) Oyeyemi's unsettling contemporary fable about race and power in mid-century America features some of the year's most accomplished prose. The jagged and beautiful writing in the book's first section, in particular, is unforgettable.
The Southern Reach Trilogy, by Jeff Vandermeer (HarperCollins) Three books about a mysterious district known as Area X, where something terrible has happened, and we're not quite sure what. Almost impossible to describe, but worth your time: they're haunting, discomfiting and endlessly redeable.
Neverhome, by Laird Hunt (Little, Brown) The story of a woman who passes as a man to fight in the Civil War, Hunt's novel is a meditation on sacrifice, commitment and loss. The battle scenes are remarkable – somehow enormous and intimate at the same time.
The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell (Knopf Canada) No writer alive seems to be having as much fun as Mitchell, who leaps between decades and points of view with seeming effortlessness in this, the story of one Holly Sykes, as told by her and those who know her.
Surfacing: Our 5 favourite debuts of the year
The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection, by Michael Harris (HarperCollins) The winner of the Governor-General's Award for Non-Fiction, Harris grapples with the meaning of connection and the digital shift in our rapidly changing culture.
Us Conductors, by Sean Michaels (Random House Canada) And what a debut. Michaels took home the Scotiabank Giller Prize for this continent-spanning historical epic about the rise and fall of real-life Russian inventor Lev Termen and his one true love.
Through the Woods, by Emily Carroll (Margaret K. McElderry Books) An old-fashioned collection of illustrated ghost stories that should appeal to both children and adults. Just don't read it alone, late at night.
Know The Night: A Memoir of Survival in the Small Hours, by Maria Mutch (Knopf Canada) Mutch, the mother of an autistic boy whose language slowly leaves him, finds solace in the tales of Arctic explorers, whose deprivations mirror her own in ways personal and metaphorical.
A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy, by Sarah Lazarovic (Penguin) Lazarovic, known for pithy artwork that comments on contemporary culture, takes her own relationship with consumerism as a subject. Funny, clever and beautifully illustrated.
The perfect crimes: Reviewer Margaret Cannon's 5 favourite crime novels of the year
A Siege of Bitterns, by Steve Burrows (Dundurn) The debut of a major new Canadian talent. His Inspector Jejeune would rather birdwatch than solve crimes in the UK.
After I'm Gone, by Laura Lippman (William Morrow) The genius of Baltimore does it again with a psychological study of a family and a crime over 50 years old.
The Fever, by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown) Teenagers, sex, lust, and guilt. Abbott's examination of the shallow world or modern kids left me stunned.
The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny (Minotaur) Armand Gamache retains all his charm and wit as Penny's plots develop depth and darkness. This is the best of the series so far.
Missing You, by Harlan Coben (Dutton) A New York detective goes on a dating website and finds her ex-fiancé in a search. There's still a connection and that leads to conspiracy and murder.
Oh Canada: Our favourite Canadian fiction of the year
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel (HarperCollins). Pivoting on a flu epidemic, this sometimes post-apocalyptic novel braids together two narratives into a masterfully deep and suspenseful read.
The Troop, by Nick Cutter (Gallery) A group of young boys camp on a remote island where the only other inhabitant is a disease-ravaged man who is very, very hungry. Scary and smart.
The Betrayers, by David Bezmozgis (HarperCollins) A taut, intelligent novel about a disgraced politician who unexpectedly comes face-to-face with the man who, decades prior, betrayed him to the KGB. Bezmozgis is for real.
Chez l'arabe, by Mireille Silcoff (Anansi) Silcoff's collection of closely observed stories describe circumscribed lives, perhaps an unintentional result of the author's state – immobilized by a medical condition, she wrote them while lying down, in teeny increments.
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, by Heather O'Neill (HarperCollins) A big-hearted and nostalgic love letter to 1990s Montreal told through the eyes of a teenage girl wise beyond her years and her troubled twin brother.
All Saints, by KD Miller (Biblioasis) A sharp, engaging interconnected collection of stories revolving around an Anglican church in danger of closing. Miller, once called "Canada's greatest unknown writer," deserves to be known by all.
Pastoral, by André Alexis (Coach House) A priest arrives in small-town Ontario and is ensnared in gossip. The book is evocative of place without dipping into sentimentality.
Stone Mattress, by Margaret Atwood (McClelland & Stewart)Atwood celebrated her 75th birthday this past Tuesday. Stone Mattress, a sometimes bizarre, often mischievous, always riveting collection of short stories, makes a forceful argument she's only getting better with age.
Adult Onset, by Ann-Marie MacDonald (Knopf Canada) A woman tries to survive a week alone with her two children and the psychic effects of a lingering childhood trauma in this brave and perceptive rumination on parents and parenthood.
The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, by Tom Rachman (Doubleday Canada) A time-shifting, continent-hopping, character-driven literary mystery about a bookseller's investigation into her peculiar childhood.
Reality bites: Our favourite Canadian non-fiction of the year
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, by Naomi Klein (Knopf Canada) One of Canada's biggest voices has done it again. The author of No Logo has brought us a new defining tome, this one tackling the issue of how capitalism drives environmental degradation.
Rise To Greatness: The History of Canada from the Vikings to the Present, by Conrad Black (McClelland & Stewart) This centuries-spanning, 1100-page chronicle of our nation doesn't get everything right, but a project this audacious cannot be ignored.
Circling the Midnight Sun: Culture and Change in the Invisible Arctic, by James Raffan (HarperCollins) Raffan throws some light on latitude 66.5, the Arctic Circle, as he circumnavigates it over four years, reporting on the people who call it home – a home that is threatened by climate change and cultural imperialism.
The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement, edited by the Kino-nda-niimi Collective (Arbeiter Ring) More than 75 contributors offer poetry, essays and artwork that touches on the topic of Idle No More. Wide-ranging, and echoing the voices of a diverse population united in frustration.
The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age, by Astra Taylor (Random House Canada) When we use social media, we are often unwittingly making the rich richer, points out Taylor in her book, a wake-up call for the internet-hypnotized.
Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos, by Jonah Keri (Random House Canada) The definitive account of one of the most entertaining – and heartbreaking – sports teams to ever play in Canada. There will likely never be a better book about the Expos.
The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue, by David Sax (McClelland & Stewart) Sax investigates the forces behind food trends – from superfoods like açai to novelties like the cronut – in this entertaining, well-reported book.
In the Slender Margin: The Intimate Strangeness of Death and Dying, by Eve Joseph (HarperCollins) Joseph applies herself to studying how we die in this warm, honest, fluidly ranging and occasionally deadpan work that combines facts, poetry, history, mythology and memoir.
Into The Blizzard: Waking the Fields of the Newfoundland Dead, by Michael Winter (Doubleday Canada) One of our best storytellers, Winter ruminates on the First World War, and his own life, as he retraces the steps of the Newfoundland Regiment.
Between Gods, by Alison Pick (Doubleday Canada) Pick writes about the confluence of her depression and her discovery of her family's Jewish heritage in a deeply felt and beautifully written memoir.
Small but mighty: Reviewer Jade Colbert's 5 favourite small press books of the year
One Hour in Paris: A True Story of Rape and Recovery, by Karyn L. Freedman (Freehand) Philosopher Freedman's forthright, deep analysis of her path to recovery after her harrowing rape at age 22. Vital reading for addressing the aftermath of sexual violence and challenging rape culture.
Polyamorous Love Song, by Jacob Wren (BookThug) An experimental novel with interests as multiple as its title suggests: art, anarchy, freedom, but most particularly, the power of dreams. Dark yet hopeful and unabashedly avant-garde.
The Pull of the Moon, by Julie Paul (Brindle & Glass) The characters in these stories are all pulled by some force outside their control. Subtle and funny, Paul shows a rare talent for quick characterization and making real the surreal.
The Search for Heinrich Schlögel, by Martha Baillie (Pedlar) A highly original novel in the form of biography. Pieced together from artifacts of (fictional) Heinrich Schlögel's life, one starts to wonder: how much is the archivist's own invention?
She of the Mountains, by Vivek Shraya (Arsenal Pulp Press) A bisexual love story weaves with Hindu mythology in this illustrated novel (illustrations by Raymond Biesinger) about learning to love one's true self regardless of categories placed from outside. A cathartic tale simply told.
Rhyme and reason: Our favourite poetry collections of the year
On Malice, by Ken Babstock (Coach House) The most accomplished book by Canada's most accomplished younger poet, On Malice is a collection for the age of surveillance and confusion, at times chilling, at times unknowable, but ultimately profound in its brittle beauty.
Faithful and Virtuous Night, by Louise Gluck (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) A career-highlight book from a poet whose career has been all highlights, this imagines a countryside space in which its action is set, allowing Gluck a consistent canvas on which to render her miraculous poems of precision and emotion.
Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf) A book-length poem about race, racism and America, Citizen draws broadly on the culture – both literary tradition and pop moments – to create an argument about the nature of individuality in a collective society. One of the most important books of the year.
The Quiet, by Anne-Marie Turza (Anansi) The year's best Canadian debut, The Quiet is a book of wonders, packed with unforgettable images and moments of eerie stillness. It shows us a world that is terrifying and beautiful and somehow unknowable.
The Road to Emmaus, by Spencer Reece (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Reece, a priest by training and trade, offers a book that will be remembered for its several long poems, packed with moral complexity, vivid characters and scenes of deep contemplation. But its short lyrics are equally impressive.
Visual art: Reviewer Sean Rogers's 5 favourite comics/graphic novels of the year
How to Be Happy, by Eleanor Davis (Fantagraphics) Davis's brightly coloured, melancholic short stories catalogue different approaches to the form – here a science fiction tale, there a glimpse of suburban young love – all featuring lost souls desperate for happiness.
Ant Colony, by Michael DeForge (Drawn & Quarterly) The Toronto cartoonist's first full-length graphic novel follows a clutch of misfit ants, trying to maintain some semblance of civilization in the shadow of war. Psychedelically gorgeous, uncomfortably funny.
The Love Bunglers, by Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics) The culmination of an achingly long will-they/won't-they relationship between Hernandez's signature characters, Hopey and Ray, this is a perfectly drawn, decades-spanning masterpiece by comics' most unblinking and clear-eyed romantic.
Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition, by Tove Jansson (Drawn & Quarterly) Sixty years after their original serialization – and to celebrate Jansson's centenary – the fanciful comic strip frolics of the hippo-like Moomins are collected together in one volume, handsome and big enough to hug.
Polina, by Bastien Vivès (Jonathan Cape) Tracking the progress of a Russian dancer from her youthful classical training to her mature artistic awakening, Vivès slashes brushwork across each page with determined, balletic grace.
Border crossings: Our favourite international fiction of the year
A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, by Eimear McBride (Simon & Schuster Canada). It was nine years before a publisher took a chance on this fragmentary, powerful, Joycean novel of a girl and her dying brother – and it went on to win the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.
Bark, by Lorrie Moore (Bond Street Books) Moore has a way of crafting heartbreak out of dry wit and poised, intelligent turns of phrase. Bark's stories underscore the pathos of human relationships.
All Our Names, by Dinaw Mengestu (Bond Street Books) A love story told in alternating points-of-view, it's also a tale of the ravages of war in Uganda and the segregation of middle America. Complicated and intimate.
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris (Little, Brown) A novel that is at once invested in the absurd and the banal, the spiritual and the secular, positivity and nihilism. Involves a dentist with a mistrust of the internet and a mysterious quasi-religious group called the Ulms. You know.
Friendship, by Emily Gould (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) A very now, very New York story of what it means to be female friends in the age of the Internet. At once frothy and honest.
The Magician's Land, by Lev Grossman (Viking) A bravura conclusion to Grossman's trilogy about a gang of young magicians making their way in the world(s) and a fitting farewell to Fillory.
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, by Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions). The third book in the Neapolitan series by a mysterious Italian author who can be likened to a more ascerbic, bloody Alice Munro telling the tale of a deeply ambivalent friendship.
Nora Webster, by Colm Toibin (McClelland & Stewart). A masterfully restrained story of a widow in small-town Ireland and her four children. It touches on The Troubles, but obliquely: mostly it's a humane portrait of someone learning to live.
Lila, by Marilynne Robinson (HarperCollins). In a deeply feeling novel that takes place in Gilead, where Robinson has set previous novels, the rough-raised Lila, is tested by her love of Ames, a preacher. What is stronger, the urge to flee or the love that instils the urge?
Boyhood Island, by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Harvill Secker) In the third volume of his epic six-part life cycle, My Struggle, Knausgaard reflects on a childhood living in the south of Norway: school, first crushes, swimming practice. It might sound dull but, trust us, believe the hype.
Yes, please: Our favourite international non-fiction of the year
Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking), by Christian Rudder (Random House Canada) After crunching data gleaned from OKCupid, Rudder presents us with a number of surprising facts about ourselves that are sometimes surprising, sometimes disturbing, sometimes funny.
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert (Henry Holt) Through utterly compelling reporting Kolbert, one of the world's finest writers on environmental issues both small and large, compels us to consider how we are contributing to a sixth extinction and total ecological collapse.
Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned," by Lena Dunham (Doubleday Canada) Dunham needs no introduction. In addition to her show, Girls, she has written essays for the New Yorker, and now this tome in which she speaks of her life with the usual candour and hilarity.
No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, by Glenn Greenwald (Signal) Through the story of whistle-blower Snowden, Greenwald reveals the extent of the government's reach into our so-called private lives – and how we may be complying without even knowing we are.
Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay (Harper Perennial) Gay's beautiful, honest and often hilarious essays tell us we cannot proceed with change if we hold ourselves to a higher standard than anyone is capable of. Only by loosening up can we move forward.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande (Doubleday Canada) Gawande is not only a surgeon but a New Yorker writer whose important latest book looks at how we choose to live when we understand the ending is nigh.
What We See When We Read, by Peter Mendelsund (Vintage) The visually voracious book designer Mendelsund presents us with an art-studded, whimsical book that provokes us to think about how we see the characters we read about.
Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard, by John Branch (HarperCollins) An exhaustively reported and skillfully written investigation into the life of a hocker fighter who made a living not by scoring goals, but fighting. An important book.
Yes Please, by Amy Poehler (HarperCollins) Actress Poehler isn't just funny on camera – she proves here that her wit translates into print. She's frank and touching about fighting for success as a woman in Hollywood, while remaining thoroughly quotable throughout.
Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty (Belknap Press) Piketty, Piketty, Piketty! The French economist with the funnest name has written a surprising bestseller: A critique of our current model of capitalism. His more-taxes mantra, combined with the urgency felt from Occupy, makes it a timely, crucial read.
Kidding around: Reviewers Frida, Phoenix and Andrew Kaufman's 5 favourite picture books of the year
The Mermaid and the Shoe, by K.G. Campbell (Kids Can Press) This is the story of a mermaid who finds a red shoe, then finds herself while trying to figure out what exactly a "shoe" is for. The writing and illustrations somehow manage to convey both an old-fashioned fairy-tale quality and a contemporary edge. Our favorite book of the year (and maybe for years to come).
A Pond Full of Ink, by Annie M.G. Schmidt, illustrated by Sieb Posthuma (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers) Poetry receives so little attention these days that it's getting hard to find quality stuff even in the picture book world. But A Pond Full of Ink may be everything you need. These are poems about such glorious subjects as a naughty girl's plans for her day and everything that your furniture gets up to when you're not around. Fun with just a dash of sinister.
Any Questions, by Marie-Louise Gay (Groundwood) Gay is best known as the creator of Stella and Sam but her particular genius goes far beyond those two characters. The subject of this book is nothing less than how a story is created. Not nearly as post-modern as it sounds, Any Questions gave Phoenix and Frida not only the know-how to make up their own stories, their way, but the permission.
Sam & Dave Dig A Hole, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (Candlewick) Sam and Dave are like all of us – while searching for one thing, they accidentally find something else equally good, if not even a little better. The beauty of this story is that it articulates something kids seem to intuitively know, but can't really explain with language. The way that Klassen's illustrations tell as much of the story as Barnett's words is absolutely brilliant.
Superfab Saves the Day, by Jean Leroy and Bérengère Delaporte (Owlkids) This silly story about a superhero bunny whose love of fashion gets in the way of his desire to fight crime remains on our weekly reads pile. The (somewhat) moralistic message about self-identity never overpowers what is ultimately a fun, goofy tale. Can you tell it's from France?
Young love: Reviewer Lauren Bride's 5 favourite middle grade/young adult books of the year
The ACB with Honora Lee, by Kate De Goldi (Tundra) Wholly unique in voice, and warmly hilarious, this story of a granddaughter making a book with her grandmother and her co-habitants in their long-term care home is a diamond.
No One Else Can Have You, by Kathleen Hale (HarperCollins) A book about a smart girl written by an even smarter one; weird, wonderful, and creepy. Like Twin Peaks if it made logical sense, and featured a teenage heroine, set in a small town that fills up a whole world.
Outside In, by Sarah Ellis (Groundwood) Ellis is a master; carefully crafted stories about the subtle hardships of growing up are her specialty. A mother-daughter relationship, and a peculiar friendship highlighted by a particularly peculiar family. A surprising dab of the apocalypse through the eyes of a young girl, Outside In is refreshing and warm.
The Boundless, Kenneth Oppel (Harper Trophy) Oppel makes a trip on the newly-lain Trans-Canada railway a terrific adventure with a travelling circus, real villains and disappearing acts, at a steam-engine's pace. Maybe one of the most thrilling books about historical Canada, period.
Awful Auntie, by David Walliams (HarperCollins) When Stella's parents are suddenly killed, she is shipped off to live with her Aunt Alberta, who is, surprise, awful. Walliams has emerged to be more than the heir to Roald Dahl's delightfully demented world. Warm, humane books with massive doses of silliness and fun.
Our bad! Our favourite books of the year that we didn't review
Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, by Robyn Doolittle (Viking Canada) The book hardly needs an introduction – as a country, we have been collectively held hostage by the antics of Toronto's mayor and his family. Muckraker Doolittle doing what she does best.
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free, by Hector Tobar (HarperCollins) Meticulously researched and utterly gripping, this account takes us deep into the earth, where we live, breathe and sweat with the miners who almost didn't make it to the surface.
The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison (Graywolf) Women essayists are killing it this year. "I'm tired of female pain, and tired of people who are tired of it," Jamison writes. Still, she goes amazing places in this wonderful, intimate book on the subject.
On Immunity: An Innoculation, by Eula Biss (Graywolf) Biss, a new mother, writes to find her way out of the thicket of contradictory and troubling information she hears on vaccines. A level-headed combination of memoir and cultural criticism.
Women In Clothes, edited by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton (Blue Rider) An exhaustive, wildly creative crowdsourced mix of interviews, poems, journal entries, sketches and more on what we mean by what we wear.
The Trouble With Brunch: Work, Class and the Pursuit of Leisure, by Shawn Micallef (Coach House) Micallef, from Toronto by way of Windsor, uses the ritual of brunch as a jumping-off point for a sometimes surprising, always digestible discussion of class.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan (Knopf) A Tasmanian writer won the Man Booker Prize for this story of Australian POWs during the Second World War. A visceral portrayal of the horrors of battle, it asks us tough questions about forgiveness.
Family Life, by Akhil Sharma (W.W. Norton) This semi-autobiographical novel explores a family dealing with the aftermath of a devastating accident. Beautiful and tragic.
The Bleaks, by Paul Illidge (ECW) An infuriating, funny, depressing, and moving memoir of one man's Kafka-esque journey through Canada's criminal justice system.
Limonov: The Outrageous Adventures of the Radical Soviet Poet Who Became a Bum in New York, a Sensation in France, and a Political Antihero in Russia, by Emmanuel Carrère (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) A complicated look at a complicated man who rose from punk Soviet dissident to socialite to running the National Bolshevik Party. Julian Barnes likens it to Paul Theroux's book on V.S Naipaul – a story of thwarted love more than anything else.