So far, I’ve read 40 books in 2016 (outside of those I read for work).
As with most years, I have a clear winner. The best book I read in 2016 was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This book absolutely knocked my socks off. I read it almost a year ago and I am still thinking about it. Any description of this book that I attempt won’t do it justice. Just read it. I came to Station Eleven in a bit of an unusual way; I had heard good things but never really thought it was for me, because I never read sci fi. What eventually persuaded me was Shelagh Rogers’ interview with the author: Shelagh explicitly mentioned not to discount this book if you think sci fi or dystopian literature isn’t for you. That made me investigate it further, and I am so glad I did. This is not only my favourite book of the year, it is one of my favourites, ever.
Runners up fiction
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan — This was another ‘wow’, for the way that Flanagan writes about war. I don’t think I have ever read such a heartbreaking tale of warfare. The story centres on an Australian POWs in WWII Japan. It is very well-deserving of all its accolades.
All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews — Brilliant storytelling by a fantastic Canadian writer. Sad, but so funny at the same time. Toews just gets better and better.
A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories, by Lucia Berlin — I read maybe one or two short story collections a year — not many — but I am so glad I read this one, because it’s the kind of book that makes you sit up straight, gasp, and really think. Berlin was an extraordinary woman. (Check out these sample quotes: “Some lady at a bridge party somewhere started the rumor that to test the honesty of a cleaning woman you leave little rosebud ashtrays around with loose change in them, here and there. My solution to this is to always add a few pennies, even a dime.”)
Runners up non-fiction
Unfinished Business, by Anne-Marie Slaughter — I had the pleasure of seeing Slaughter speak at the LSE early in the year, and was so impressed and inspired by her ideas and tenacity. I am at a natural crossroads in my career, and spending a lot of time thinking about what I exactly want out of it, and how to combine it with family life, so this was well-timed for me.
The Battle of the Atlantic, by Jonathan Dimbleby — This book distills, very impressively, all of the naval action the Atlantic saw during WWII. It is written in a very captivating, engrossing style that hooked me from page one. I am still thinking about some of the stories.
‘Til next year! Happy reading. 🙂