Nothing has pleased me much this year, although the desire to read a well-made book is if anything sharper than ever. Exception is made for The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (Bloomsbury, £16.99) and Any Human Heart by William Boyd (Hamish Hamilton, £17.99). From the beginning of the year I liked Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (Methuen, £6.99), the ancestor of all novels of suburban America, from John Cheever and John Updike right down to Richard Ford and Jonathan Franzen. My favourite authors let me down badly: A. S. Byatt (A Whistling Woman, Chatto. 116.99) and John Banville (Shroud, Picador, £15.99) were both infuriatingly self-indulgent and lacked a clear sense of cause and effect. The self-scrutiny which is probably the basis for all novel-writing seems to be in abeyance. For this reason I particularly appreciated another novel from the beginning of the year: D'Amour by Daniele Sallenave (Gallimard, 16 Euros), an account of two unrelated deaths by suicide, is less about love, despite its title, than about loss. Unpretentious, quietly written, and immediately convincing, this has been reserved for further reading.