The Shapeless Unease: A Year of Not Sleeping, by Samantha Harvey, read by the author, Vintage Digital, RRP£9

Afflicted by sudden insomnia, novelist Harvey (Dear Thief, The Western Wind) spent a year of nights beset by wayward thoughts and dramatic imaginings that often verged on the hallucinogenic. Here, she brilliantly describes the experience, her calm tone nonetheless taut with the yearning and despair that long-term sleeplessness provokes.

Our Bodies, Their Battlefield: What War Does to Women, by Christina Lamb, read by the author and Antonia Beamish, HarperCollins, RRP£14.49

The award-winning foreign correspondent surveys not only the ubiquity and degree of sexual violence against women in war zones, but the extent to which those rapes are rarely prosecuted. The harrowing testimonies Lamb has gathered — from Yazidi, Rohingya and Iraqi women, to name a few — are given exceptional voice by Beamish’s narration.

Mr Wilder and Me, by Jonathan Coe, read by Kristin Atherton, Viking, RRP£13

Coe’s imaginative, witty and tender recreation of film director Billy Wilder’s later years, as told by a young Greek woman who meets him by chance, is fast becoming a reader favourite. Atherton ably captures its humour, its cast of characters (William Holden and Al Pacino feature) and its poignancy.

Best Books of the Year 2020

All this week, FT writers and critics share their favourites. Some highlights are:

Monday: Business by Andrew Hill
Tuesday: Economics by Martin Wolf
Wednesday: Politics by Gideon Rachman
Thursday: History by Tony Barber
Friday: Critics’ choice
Saturday: Crime by Barry Forshaw

Rainbow Milk, by Paul Mendez, read by the author, Hachette Audio, RRP£19.99

Mendez must have been an easy choice to read his debut novel — he’s an experienced voice actor, who’s read the audio version of books by Ben Okri, Paul Theroux and footballer Ian Wright. He excels here, telling the story of Jesse, a young gay man raised as a Jehovah’s Witness.

Tell us what you think

What are your favourites from this list — and what books have we missed? Tell us in the comments below

The Stubborn Light of Things, by Melissa Harrison, read by the author, Faber and Faber, RRP£19.99

When the isolation of the pandemic began to hit, nature writer and novelist Harrison began a podcast, taking listeners on vivid, minutely detailed walks around her Suffolk home, describing what she could see, hear and smell. Now, her project has become a print and audiobook, her skills of observation and empathy proving both balm and inspiration.

Join our online book group on Facebook at FT Books Café

Listen to our podcast, Culture Call, where FT editors and special guests discuss life and art in the time of coronavirus. Subscribe on AppleSpotify, or wherever you listen

Get alerts on Audio books when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article