Book of the Year for one of our booksellers

Ray has impeccable taste in contemporary fiction (he was the first of our booksellers to wax lyrical about New Finnish Grammar) and an unshakeable belief that the most worthwhile books are subversive. Here he shares with you the book that has rocked his world most this year:

This year there has been a veritable banquet of books that make reading more than worth it. If you don’t know what they are you haven’t been paying attention, but there is one particular book that has made it to these shores from the US I feel so evangelical about I want to run around screaming “YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK OR YOUR LIFE WILL BE INCOMPLETE”, in Billy Graham style.

A monumental debut, shining with a searing razor-edged intelligence, ‘ A Naked Singularity ‘ by Sergio de la Pava fizzes like a roman candle.

naked singularity

Casi, the main character of this book, is a New York public defender of Columbian descent, who describes his day-to-day existence and the people he is involved with, including clients, colleagues, family and flatmates. With an astonishing immediacy, de la Palma throws you into the murky waters of the US legal system at street level. It’s almost a soap opera for the thinker… but there’s a twist.

This being a big book, in every sense of the word, the author takes you into the grit of life in a way that is enthralling, engaging and compelling. He sparks up philosophical, scientific, social, cultural and political discourse until halfway through an almost 700 page book when it changes gear and becomes something more. This impacts on the adrenaline, heightening the novel to a level that carries you through to the end like a surfer riding the perfect wave.

Quite simply, it’s one of those books you want everybody to read and to tell everybody else to read. Or maybe…. just keep it to yourself?

This is not just the best book of 2012, it is an important book, a book which tackles brilliantly not just the moral dilemmas and ideas thrown up, but how we read what we read. I cannot find superlatives big enough to celebrate this novel. I just wanted to punch the air in victory at this guy’s achievment when I finished it.

An endnote… This powerful opus had to be self-published for almost 4 years as no publisher would pick it up. I suspect they cowered at their inability to define the genre it belongs to. More fool them, but all power to the University of Chicago Press for their insight. It would have been an act of almost criminal injustice to let this novel sink into obscurity. It’s just way too good for that, trust me.



  1. Great review, but what makes you think the book is published by Seagull? It was the University of Chicago Press which cast caution to the winds.

    1. Quite right – Ray gets a little confused! (Seagull are distributed by the same company as University of Chicago Press and he had just been running a promotion of their books). Fixed now!

  2. I also read this book and loved it! It’s a hidden gem. Your description of it being a soap opera for the thinker is dead on. I would love to see it made into a movie. The ending was so shocking- it blew me away! Chicago Press made a very good decision when they picked it up. I think it’ll be one if those books that achieve a cult following. I’m going to start looking to see if De LaPava has written anything else. I love his style.

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