Thursday 5 January 2017

Best books of 2016

I read around 100 books in 2016. Considering that I managed only 3 or 4 books in July, September, October and November combined I'm reasonably content. There will be little here to surprise readers of this blog or those who keep up with the book world, but, that said, it's been a great year for books. I get most of my ideas from the Guardian, Strange Horizons and from the writers and critics I've learned to trust. 

I would urge any book lover to try some of these if you haven't already.

My favourite fiction of 2016:

Barkskins - Annie Proulx

Days Without End - Sebastian Barry 
The Underground Railway - Colson Whitehead
Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi
The Sellout - Paul Beatty
The Vegetarian - Han Kang
Aurora - Kim Stanley Robinson
Central Station - Lavie Tidhar
What is Not Yours is Not Yours - Helen Oyeyemi
The Arrival of Missives - Aliya Whiteley
The Shore - Sara Taylor
Speak Gigantular - Irenosen Okojie

Francis Spufford - Golden Hill
Jenni Fagan - The Sunlight Pilgrims
Grief is the Thing with Feathers - Max Porter

Special mentions:

I see a number of people are putting The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts on their lists and I'm happy to repeat myself and do the same. It came out right at the end of 2015 and I read it immediately. This novel and his previous one Bete, deserve to be read widely. They are brilliant. Please keep pushing the envelope.
I despair that more people haven't talked about Alexis Wright's The Swan Book. 

Finally Kate Atkinson's A God in Ruins - like the Roberts, I read on the cusp of the New Year and loved.

Passions (new and ongoing): Elena Ferrante, Elizabeth Taylor, W. G. Sebald and Jane Gardam.

Finally read and loved: Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier and Miguel Street by V. S. Naipaul (thanks Lavie Tidhar!)


This is VERY predictable but it doesn't matter. If you haven't read Amy Liptrot's The Outrun, Olivia Laing's The Lonely City and Lara Pawson's This is The Place to Be then you need to get on and read them asap. They all made me cry and gasp and re-evaluate my life and my ways of thinking. They'll all get reread in 2017.
Late in the year I loved Roy Scranton's Learning to Die in the Anthropocene and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's An Indigenous People's History of the United States. They are fantastic companions to many of those fiction texts above.


The outstanding discoveries of the year are Alex Wheatle's Liccle Bit and Crongton Knights and Robin Stevens' Murder Most UnLadylike series. Other great books are Katherine Rundell's The Wolf Wilder, Gary D Schulz's Orbiting Jupiter, Sarah Pinborough's The Death House and Alexia Casale's The Bone Dragon. I've also discovered Emma Carroll, Melinda Sainsbury and Edward Carey.  

New Year

I have so much to catch up on you wouldn't believe. Hopefully, at some point soon, I'll start writing again. 

This year I want to read more non-fiction. When I was an activist probably 80% of my reading was non-fiction but this year I'd be happy with something approaching a 50/50 split. 

Thanks to all the writers and critics who have inspired me in what was easily one of the most difficult years of my life. 

Finally book lovers, if you don't listen to the Backlisted podcast you really should. Their enthusiasm and love of books is infectious.

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