2016 reading list

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.

  • The door – Magda Szabo

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.

 

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