In this recent article the novelist Nick Hornby talks about writing reviews for The Believer, an American magazine which concentrates on books its reviewers like "with a nod to the concept of the inherent Good". His column has enabled Hornby to "become an enthusiast, rather than a stern, difficult-to-please gatekeeper", he says, and so I thought I'd ask you all for recommendations of books about which you feel truly enthusiastic, not ones that you've 'just' enjoyed or admired, but those which you feel compelled to press on people (if you're so inclined), ones which have inspired you, perhaps, or simply entertained you to a very high degree.
To compare and contrast, I've just read Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and Margaret Atwood's Stone Mattress: Nine Tales and both are works of high quality, very slick, very sharp. While the former takes a certain situation and charts its repercussions and associated ethical questions to great (if not flawless) effect, the latter - a collection of short stories - shows off its author's talent and imagination and provides laughs and chills along the way. I genuinely admire the art and craft of both books, I can appreciate their finer points and I commend them to you, but in terms of enthusiasm, I don't feel it as I do for books such as Alan Bradley's sparkling Flavia de Luce series (see also), and - as you may guess - History of the Rain by Niall Williams which I adored and which has yet to be beaten in my reading this year.
I could cite many more examples, but those are a couple of recent reads which stand out, one because it is clever and fun and original, the other because it has so much heart and soul in it, and both make you feel better for reading them.
Do you have any books - recently discovered or old favourites - about which you are a true enthusiast, or evangelist, even?