The Editor's picks, 2014

My best two reads of the year have both been non-fiction. Michael Harris' The End of Absence (Current) explores our relationship with the internet, particularly for those - like me - who can remember before it arrived - and argues for 'reclaiming what we've lost in a world of constant connection'. It's an intriguing mix of science, statistics, sociology, hearsay and technology; Harris is no luddite but he is concerned about how social and learning skills have already changed, and the difference between being able to find something out and actually knowing something.

Robert Hewison's
Cultural Capital (Verso) takes a wider look at the role of arts, specifically within British culture and politics from New Labour onwards. He hangs his chapters on ideas or events such as Cool Britannia, the Millennium Dome, and the 2012 Olympics, and charts the decline of funding and support for the arts, along with the ridiculous idea that everything, its audience and affect, can somehow be measured. Hewison both documents and argues against what he uncovers, in a splendidly readable and comprehensive book.

Elsewhere, it's felt like a thin year for books. David Miller's Reassembling Still. Collected Poems (Shearsman) has been a sustained delight since it arrived at the beginning of the summer, as has H.L. Hix's as much as, if not more than (Etruscan), which at times weaves conversations with poets, myself included, into complex, intriguing poems. Hix has also curated the astonishing Ley Lines project (Wilfred Laurier University Press), where visual art, written responses, artists' statements and interviews are juxtaposed and contrasted. It's also good to have a new book from Olena Kalytiak Davis, whose The Poem She Didn't Write and Other Poems (Copper Canyon) has just arrived. It's an irreverent, lusty, complex, bold set of poems, alive to the complexities of a 21st postfeminism and the everyday nuances of love and language.

Somewhere between poetry, music and art lies Peter Blegvad and John Greaves' LP
Kew. Rhone. A book of the same title has just been published by Uniformbooks, which gathers lyrics, diagrams, criticism, asides and creative responses into a glorious and confusing volume. Marcus O'Dair's Different Every Time. The Authorised Biography of Robert Wyatt (Serpent's Tail) is a more straightforward account of another eccentric, and is not only 'authorised' but wide-ranging, authorative and a highly enjoyable read.

Musically, it was a delight to see Gang of Four play live in September. I'd never seen them onstage before, and their taut, angsty postpunk rock was the highlight of a beautiful open-air concert event at Heartlands in Cornwall. Elbow were surprisingly good at the Eden project too. Eyeless in Gaza's Mythic Language triple CD + downloads set (Ambivalent Scale) was a joy, particularly the  unreleased studio tracks and the early live recordings. Brian Eno's four recent reissues are well worth seeking out for their accompanying bonus CDs too, particularly the first official release of My Squelchy Life.

The only fiction that really grabbed me this year was David Rose's
Posthumous Stories (Salt), a quietly experimental and obsessive book of short prose, although I've enjoyed books by David Almond, Nick Harkaway, Tim Winton and Karl Ove Knaussgaard too.

But the real highlight of the year for me was the film version of Alan Garner's
Red Shift finally getting a DVD release from the BFI.

    © Rupert Loydell 2014