Yet Another Best of 2016 Reading List

I’ll stick to the books this time and make no comments about other aspects of 2016. But even so, I have to admit it’s been a bit of an atypical year. I’ve read 167 books, Goodreads tells me, and have a couple more weeks to reach 170 or so.

But it’s not a race.

I’ve had moments of furious reading, and some months of disruption, when reading was in scarce supply. The proportion of crime fiction seems to be lower than in other years. My Top 5 Reviewed Crime Reads will appear as usual on the Crime Fiction Lover site, so I thought I would look at other books here on my blog, particularly those which were released before 2016.

I wonder if the format for reading them also added to their memorability: most of the ones featured were physical books (only four were e-books).

A few of my favourites... and the challenges of English vs. Continental book spines.
A few of my favourites… and the challenges of English vs. Continental book spines.


My overall percentage of translated fiction was perhaps roughly 40%, and the books in this category have proved memorable and contributed considerably to my ‘best of’ list (8 out of 17). Likewise, I may feel that I don’t read as much poetry and non-fiction as I would like to, but they tend to stick with me and so appear quite a bit on the list. 10 out of the 17 books were written by women, 10 of these were published before 2016.

It’s been an emotional year, so I’ve gone for visceral response rather than careful analysis of literary merits.  However, most of the books below show evidence of both. Sadly, not all of them have been given the review they deserve. I’ve found that I often struggle to review those books which have meant most to me and which I want to reread. For those I haven’t reviewed, I just give a short quote from the book itself.


Tiphanie Yanique: Wife

Laura Kasischke author photo from
Laura Kasischke author photo from

Laura Kasischke: The Infinitesimals

Small boy running through the center of the park, un-

zipping summer straight down the middle as he runs until

all the small boys come tumbling out.


wigboxDorothy Nimmo: The Wigbox

My voice is strangled. I’m awake. I shout

I know there’s something I must do today

and I can’t do it. You must write me out.

It’s not my part and this is not my play.

Sharon Olds: The Wellspring


Antoine Leiris: You Will Not Have My Hate

Asne Seierstad: One of Us

Elif Shafak: Black Milk

Olivia Laing: The Lonely City

uninvitedCrime Fiction:

Colin Niel: Ce qui reste en foret

Liz Jensen: The Uninvited

Pascal Garnier: Too Close to the Edge

Other Fiction:

Sarah Moss: Signs for Lost Children

Romain Gary: Promesse de l’aube

Romain Gary with his mother, from the Lithuanian State Archive
Romain Gary with his mother, from the Lithuanian State Archive

I had no right to refuse her help. The myth of my future was what kept her alive. For the time being, I had to swallow my pride and continue my race against time, to try and keep my promise towards her, to give her absurd and tender dreams some reason for being… I don’t feel guilty about that. But if you find that my books are cries for dignity and justice, if they all talk to such an extent about human decency, it’s perhaps because until the age of 22, I lived off the back of an exhausted and ill woman. I owe her so much.

Knausgaard: Some Rain Must Fall

Jenny Erpenbeck: Gehen ging gegangen

Julian Barnes: The Noise of Time

Patrick Ness: A Monster Calls







23 thoughts on “Yet Another Best of 2016 Reading List”

  1. ‘One of Us’ …I want to read it….and I don’t want to read it. Your review has helped me decide.
    ‘The Lonely City’ has been on my TBR for ages. I loved her book ‘Trip to Echo Spring than was disappointed with ‘To the River’. I will give her another chance to dazzle me.
    ‘The Noise of Time’ looks very good.
    2017 will be my non-fiction year. Thanks for the great list of books 2016.

    1. I won’t lie to you: I found One of Us quite disturbing reading, but I still believe it’s important to understand how people can develop such blatantly wrong points of view. I haven’t read anything else by Olivia Laing, but this one was brilliant. The Noise of Time could have been even better than it was, but still a memorable read. Enjoy your non-fiction and let me know what gems you discover!

      1. The greyness of the day has me in its grip. I want to write a post ‘best of 2016’ but cannot find the inspiration. I’ve put out all these goodies for the birds to eat….even they ignore me. Gems of books…time to reach for one and travel to lost time: a ‘Village Christmas’ ( the Cotswalds) by Laurie Lee…. brings back memories of festive days seen through the eyes of a child.

  2. I struggle with e-books, I really do – the physical nature of turning the pages and seeing print on paper is part of my enjoyment, and I don’t internalise so well from print. I think it will definitely always be tree books for me.

    1. I do read quite a few ebooks even though I prefer paper ones (although this year I had 2 e-readers dying on me, both the same make, and both nearly equally as old, so perhaps it was just the end of their shelf-life, unlike books…). So I was quite surprised to discover that the ebooks tend to be ‘soon forgotten’. In fact, I may well buy a physical copy of The Lonely City – it was one of the few I read in electronic format.

      1. I have difficulty remembering ebook titles and authors. The plots last slightly longer. Something about the sameness of the format: memory doesn’t find much to hang on to.

        1. I think that’s absolutely right – and I can’t remember where certain things occur in the book, while with a paper copy I can instantly find it.

  3. The Lonely City is definitely on my radar as I loved Laing’s previous book, The Trip to Echo Spring, about writers and their relationship with drink. Unfortunately my copy is sitting on the kindle – not my preferred format for reading non-fiction – so I might have to wait for the paperback!

    Nice to see Pascal Garner on your list too – this sounds like one of his best.

    1. Ha, someone else struggling with ebooks! I think the physical copy of the book might have reproductions of the paintings she refers to in the book, so that’s an added bonus.

  4. You make such a good point, Marina Sofia, about the format of a book. Sometimes that really does have a lot to do with whether or not we enjoy a book. You’ve got some fantastic reads here, and I’m glad you shared a bit of the poetry with us. I think what I like best about your list is its variety.

  5. I really liked The Lonely City but never reviewed it. Not sure why. I still could.
    I’ve read one of Liz jensen’s novesl, Rapture. I’m still traumatized. I don’t think I’ll return to her but possibly this one was very different?
    I loved A Monster Calls. Not reviewed but I might on my YA fiction blog.

    1. I’ve got Rapture too but not read it yet – and no, this one was very traumatic as well – a sort of continuation of Rapture, I gather. The funny thing is, she is absolutely lovely in person…

  6. I recently heard Elif Shafak speak at a Birmingham literature festival event where I bought The Forty Rules of Love. Her name is so familiar to me and yet I’m sure I haven’t read anything by her before. Lovely to see one of her books on your top reads pile.

  7. 170 is pretty respectable! It’s been a funny old year – reading slumps abounding as we all obsess about the state of the world, not to mention anything going on at a more personal level. I mostly read on Kindle, but I must admit to loving reading ‘proper’ books occasionally, and I think it probably does affect my opinion of them. Good to think the paper book will continue…

  8. An eclectic list and a lot of books read. I wish I could read as much as you.
    I’m so happy to see my beloved Romain Gary on top of the pile. Will you review it?

    1. It’s one of those that I find difficult to review – not because I didn’t love it, but because just saying ‘it was good’, ‘I really enjoyed it’ is not enough.

      1. I know… One could write several posts about it.
        Tom from Wuthering Expectations reviewed it and focused on his sense of humour.

  9. Yeaahhhh for The Lonely City! It’s great – if you liked it, her book The Trip to Echo Spring (about writers and alcoholism) is also top-notch. And yeeahhhh for Signs For Lost Children, too!

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