As the year draws to a close it’s time for a round-up of my best books of 2016. In the interests of making sure my favourites get into the list (!) I’m taking the liberty of including books that were new in paperback this year rather than just hardback – I’m sure you’ll forgive me! Choosing my favourites was one thing; putting them into an order of preference was quite another, but after immense internal struggle I’ve arrived at this, the final countdown.
- The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien
I’m not sure I could describe this as an enjoyable read given the traumatic nature of the subject matter in places, but it’s certainly the book that’s stuck most resolutely in my mind over the past few months. There are a few passages so grim that once read they can never be erased, but ultimately this is a tale of finding hope after horror. Not everyone I know was a fan, but the author’s skill is undeniable.
- This must be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell
I’ve never yet read a Maggie O’Farrell novel that I didn’t like so this was pretty much a shoe-in for my top 5. Her characters are so authentic that they almost aren’t even characters; they could be any one of us. Love, loss, grief, jealousy….she nails every single feeling on the emotional spectrum with this novel, as she does every time.
- His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
This is hands down the cleverest book I’ve read this year. It plays around with the concept of the unreliable narrator and takes it to another level, until we start to question not only who is “reliable” and who is not, but whether there is any such thing as absolute truth at all, or only our own perception and experience. It’s unexpectedly moving too.
- The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
What I loved most about this book was the way it took me back to my childhood almost as if the author had been there! The setting of a community where neighbours know each other intimately and children wander around the streets from house to house without anyone batting an eyelid evoked a real feeling of nostalgia for me. Yet there’s a darker side to this utopia, where people band together to victimise outsiders without bothering – or wanting – to learn their story. Utterly brilliant.
- The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
If you know me this number one will come as absolutely no surprise to you! This is quite simply the book I’ve been banging on about to anyone who’ll listen (and even to people who aren’t particularly listening!) since the moment I read it. It’s got everything – period setting, touches of gothic horror, love and romance, mystery and real emotional heft. I loved every sentence and it’s not just in my top five for this year, but quite possible of all time. That’s saying something. If you haven’t read it yet there’s still time to rush out and buy yourself a copy so you’ve got something amazing to curl up with this Christmas.
I’d love to know if any of these would be in your top five too, and if not, what have I missed?!
This will be my last post on Girl, Reading until after Christmas now, so enjoy whatever festivities you have in store and I hope to see you back here very soon.