I read some great books this year but all up it was a slightly scatty, underwhelming year. For the first time in a long time I found myself finishing books and not knowing what to read next, which lead to starting and stopping many books I would normally enjoy simply because I was not prepared for them.
- The lost dog – Michelle de Kretser
- Boyhood island – Karl Ove Knausguaard
The third and most disappointing of the My Struggle series.
- We need to talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver
I’ve been meaning to read this for a long time and it didn’t disappoint. There were many lines that struck me, in particular: “To answer one life with a successive life is simply to transfer the onus of purpose to the next generation; the displacements amounts to a cowardly and potentially infinite delay.” Controversial, but it struck a chord with me.
- Catcher in the rye – J.D. Salinger
- Snow – Orhan Pamuk
- Adela Pankhurst: the wayward suffragette – Verna Coleman
- An evil cradling – Brian Keenan
Keenan’s experience as a hostage in Lebanon in the eighties. A story that I was too young to know about at the time but which I now find incredible.
- Why I am not a Christian – Bertrand Russell
- Story of the lost child – Elena Ferrante
- Persuasion – Jane Austen
Forever my favourite Austen.
- Climbing the coconut tree – S.C. Karakaltsas
- A spool of blue thread – Anne Tyler
- Divergent – Veronica Roth
- Room – Emma Donoghue
A highlight of the year. So absorbing that my 30 minute train trip just didn’t feel long enough.
- Sparrow migrations – Cari Noga
Another highlight and comforting that it started as a self-published novel. Several stories linked by the Hudson river crash and sparrows.
- The strays – Emily Bitto
- Hideous kinky – Esther Ford
I read this while we were in Morocco, which felt fitting. Told from the point of view of a child whose mother is a wandering hippy on the Moroccan trail in the seventies.
- Great expectations – Charles Dickens
- All the light we cannot see – Anthony Doerr
Every time I read a story about the second world war I think I can’t possibly read another one that sheds more light, and yet I do. There are so many nuanced experiences outside those of the camps and they continue to intrigue me.
I found this on a list of best translated fiction. It’s incredible and Emerence is a character I’ll never forget. See the New Yorker article here.
- Why not me? – Mindy Kaling
- Not that kind of girl – Lena Dunham
- 20 fragments of a ravenous youth – Xiaolu Guo
- Silas Marner – George Eliot
I was only disappointed that this was so short. It is an incredibly succinct story of the interweaving of lives and how we see people.
- The garden of evening mists – Tan Twan Eng
I wanted to love this, and the second world war information about Malaysia was interesting but the actual writing I found over the top.
- First love, last rights – Ian McEwan
- The history of love – Nicole Krauss
- A little life – Hanyu Yanagihara
Everything is just so big in this novel. The violence is nauseating and the characters often frustrating, but it is a must-read.
- Insurgent – Veronica Roth
- Still Alice – Lisa Genova
- The wandering falcon – Jamil Ahmad
- A god in ruins – Kate Atkinson
- Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout
Elizabeth Strout was the best thing about this year! I feel like I’m lowered into her novels in a glass sphere, the characters are so real that it is easy to believe I am simply visiting them for a time.
- Purple hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Anne of Green Gables – Lucy Maud Montgomery
- The Burgess boys – Elizabeth Strout
- The eye of the sheep – Sofie Laguna
- North and south – Elizabeth Gaskell
- Farewell to the East End – Jennifer Worth
- Dark places – Gillian Flynn
- In the woods – Tana French
- The girls – Emma Cline
I kept seeing this on lists of books to read in 2016, so I did. It’s a fictionalised account of the Manson murders, and it was engaging until the writing style got a bit much. Still, an amazing debut.
- Emma – Jane Austen
- Notes on a scandal – Zoe Heller
The best unreliable narrator I’ve ever read. Completely fascinating.
- A murder is announced – Agatha Christie
- Dancing in the dark – Karl Ove Knausguaard
Fourth in the series and it made me look forward to the fifth. I’m a fan once again.
- Moments of reprieve – Primo Levi
- Waiting for the barbarians – J.M. Coetzee
- The lonely city – Olivia Laing
The third of Laing’s books, and I loved it. Non-fiction about how loneliness informed the art of artists including Edward Hopper. Heart-breaking and optimistic at the same time.
- My name is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout
- Slammerkin – Emma Donoghue
I’m not usually one for historical fiction but this was great. Three years of a teenage girl’s life as she goes from prostitution in London to servitude in a Welsh country house.
- Amy and Isabelle – Elizabeth Strout
- Reckoning – Magda Szubanski
- A streetcat named Bob – James Bowen
- And all of Harry Potter, of course.
See previous years’ lists here.