Best Reads of 2016: Not Actually 2016 Books

Three World War II novels, two modern classics, and one newish post civilisation novel (I can never get enough utopia/dystopia/post-apocalypse) rounded out my list of favourite not so new books read in 2016.

Life After Life and A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

California by Edan Lepucki

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
(Public Library)

High-Rise by J. G. Ballard
(Public Library)

Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith
(Public Library)

Best Fiction from 2016

2016 was extremely busy.  There was a brand new library that opened in May, and it definitely felt like work took over most of my life for the better part of the year.  I also went back to university and spent a lot of time reading for study rather than pleasure. And I (finally) got my drivers licence and started driving to and from work most days, which put an even larger dent in my leisure reading.

Goodbye reading on the bus! (but I have tried to ensure I have more time for reading at home and love a good cafe date with a book when I have a day off work).  There was a lot of comfort reading this year, and I discovered some wonderful new novels – especially Ann Patchett.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
(Publisher Advance Copy)
A pitch-perfect reboot of Pride and Prejudice, in which the plural ways we can find love and happiness in the 21st century are celebrated.  I wrote a review of Eligible in March.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
(Public Library)
An intensely compassionate portrait of the many ways casual neglect and difficult circumstances impact a generation of children in one blended family.

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
(Public Library)
An engrossing novel that bridges the historical and contemporary genres, connecting a female artist in the Dutch Golden Age with a female art forger in New York and Sydney 400 years later.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis
(Publisher Advance Copy)
A highly original and entertaining look at connection fatigue in our modern world.  A romance novel disguised as science fiction or a science fiction novel disguised as chick lit?  I wrote a review of Crosstalk in October.

Good on Paper by Rachel Cantor
(Public Library)
A quirky literary mystery, with many messy layers of personal complexity and a gorgeously casual narrative vernacular.  I loved the New York setting and all the nerdy Dante detail.

Honorable Mention:
Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
(Book Depository)
Not quite in my top five favourites as far as new releases go, and far from my favourite Kay, but any new novel by Guy Gavriel Kay is cause for for celebration.

New Fiction I am excited about in 2016

Good on Paper by Rachel Cantor
Release Date: January 2016
I can’t remember where I first heard about Rachel Cantor, but I know that her forthcoming second novel has been praised by Emily St John Mandel and sounds funny, bookish, and complicated in just the way I like.  I am hoping for Possession meets A Visit from the Goon Squad, but will have to wait to read it to see!

Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
Release Date: May 2016
Kay is by far my favourite fantasy writer. A master of both unexpected settings and fully realised minor characters, he always manages to deliver a well-rounded novel that evokes a time and place with great depth, and his stories keep me reading, pull at my heartstrings and leave me blubbing on the bus… every time. His latest offering is set in a fantasy analogue of Renaissance Venice and there will be merchants, spies and much intrigue. As a huge fan of Kay’s Sarantine Mosaic (Byzantine intrigue and political manoeuvring aplenty!) and Dorothy Dunnett’s Niccol series, I am excited to see what Kay will do with this new setting. The fact that Kay is also a Dunnett fan just makes me even more excited.

Zero K by Don DeLillo
Release Date: May 2016
DeLillo is one of those superb authors who always has his finger on the pulse.  I once read an interview with Don DeLillo where he talked about his writing concerning living in dangerous times, and what is more dangerous than the topic of death?  Except when you are writing about death in the 21st century, right?

Crosstalk by Connie Willis
Release Date: September 2016
Connie Willis is one of Science Fiction’s best humorists, but also one of the genre’s best romance authors. Bellwether, To Say Nothing of the Dog and Passage all have fantastic romance sub plots, so the prospect of a new romantic comedy novel from Willis all about telepathy has me very excited.

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
Release Date: Unknown, could be 2017!
Finally, we get to Jane, who has been dear in the Cromwell novels (Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies) so far. I am guessing the third novel will cover Jane Seymour’s short reign, the birth of a long awaited male heir, the search for Henry’s fourth wife, and what we all knew was coming from the start: Cromwell’s inevitable and rapid demise at the hands of his friend, an increasingly erratic king Henry VIII.  I know this one is going to be hard to read, but I just. can’t. wait.

Still on my To Read List for 2016

There were lots of books I didn’t get through in 2015, even though they were on my to read list.  On the top of the pile for the new year are:

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
One of the most popular science fiction novels in China, I hope that the Cultural Revolution background story for this novel will be the driver for some really serious political science fiction.  If it’s The Dispossessed meets Red Mars, like I am hoping… I will be very happy indeed.  The second novel in this series sounds even better.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
For the simple reason that I have never read anything by Kate Atkinson, but believe she is quirky and interesting.  Reincarnation, here, takes the place of my usual go-to (time travel) as a tool for exploring history, so hopefully Atkinson is an author that I can recommend to people who like Connie Willis (and vice versa).

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
Ever since I heard Geordie Williamson do a speedy but passionate ‘back of the cigarette packet’ push for Faber at an event back in 2014, I have had this novel on my mind. The premise alone reminds me of one of my favourite reads, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, and can’t wait to see if my instinct is right there, or if it is in fact possible to write an entirely different kind of novel about an evangelical mission to another planet.

A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists by Jane Rawson
My mother suggested this book to me after she finished reading Station Eleven on my recommendation.  Most of my post apocalyptic imaginings since my rising teen obsession with post-civilisation societies have been antipodean, and it’s nice that other people have been imagining likewise and these are now readily available for me to devour.

The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall
A fictional account of the reintroduction of wild wolves in the UK? Wolves, English Gentry and Country Estates, Female Scientist Protagonist, Returning home to family ghosts? What’s not to love?