'The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice from the Silence of Autism' by Naoki Higashida is one of the most remarkable books ever published, not just for its subject matter but how it came to be available, as a book, in English. In the form of a series of questions and answers, Naoki - a confident, sparky thirteen year old Japanese boy - describes what it is like to have autism. Out of this relatively straightforward format, however, emerges a sometimes heart-breaking, but brilliantly inspiring story of an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances, who has the imagination, the intelligence and dreams of every child - but yet deserving of our patience and understanding.
Unable to speak, Naoki wrote the book using an alphabet grid to painstakingly construct words, sentences, and thoughts which were collected and edited together. The book was then translated - equally painstakingly - by bestselling novelist David Mitchell (author of The Cloud Atlas) and his wife Keiko Yoshida, who themselves have an autistic child. In doing so, it is a unique and powerful door into the autistic mind. It's a truly amazing book, and deserves the widest possible readership.
Starting with Alcock and Brown's, first non-stop, near-fatal transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to the west of Ireland, Dublin-born Colum McCann explores the relationship between Ireland and America across the generations in 'TransAtlantic'. The story is told in a series of ambitious, interlocking stories, with relationships and consequences tracked back and forward across the Atlantic.
Whether it's the quiet, terrifying beginnings of the potato famine seen through the eyes of a freed American slave, or the peace process observed by an immigrant Ulster widow, McCann weaves chronology, viewpoint and real lives to explore connections and consequences of choices craven and brave, planned or random that define the Irish-American bond. This is powerful, ambitious storytelling and one of my favourite books from 2013.
Finally, the story of 'The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared' was one of the blockbusters of 2013 across Europe, a feel-good, gloriously no-holds-barred romp through history in the company of centenarian Allan Karlsson, his ragtag band of fugitives and his attitude of not going 'quietly into the night',
'The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden' is author Jonas Jonasson's follow-up, and it's another quirky, funny, on-the-run adventure featuring another cast of the damaged, deranged and dispossessed (including a nerve-damaged American Vietnam deserter, twin brothers who are officially only one person and a potato-growing Baroness). Only this time there's a missing atomic bomb to contend with...