Unquestionably, my best book of the year was Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski (Atlantic Books, £11.99). The story concerns an American anthropologist serving a life sentence for murder in a Thai prison, and a young reporter who is obsessed with getting to the truth of the murder. In doing so, he plunges full length into the world of missionaries, and of Thai tribesmen, with all their superstitions and taboos. It’s an astonishingly accomplished first novel, hard to put down, and shattering to finish.

Another enjoyable discovery was a biography of Wordsworth’s sister: The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth by Frances Wilson (Faber, £18.99). The author makes interesting use of Dorothy’s letters and journals, telling of daily routines and poetic insights, and intersperses extracts with her own narrative, to give us a full picture of the woman who was amanuensis, muse and inspiration for her darling brother. Frances Wilson truly brings this extraordinary woman to life in a fascinating, warts-and-all, biography.

Enjoyable is not the adjective for Hélène Berr’s Journal (Quercus, £16.99), for it is a very moving account of a Jewish family in Paris in 1942-44. Hélène, a recent graduate of the Sorbonne, spent her days playing the violin with her colleagues, and discovering love. Devastatingly sad, and all the more so for being absolutely true, her diary chronicles the growing inhumanity of the treatment of the Jews, from the wearing of the star, to the deportation of children, to the final words of her diary – Horror! Horror! Horror! – before she, too, was deported to Auschwitz.