Tuesday 27 December 2016

My Top 10 Best Reads of 2016

The Broke and the Bookish host a weekly meme called Top Ten Tuesday.

This week we revisit our favourite reads from the past year.

My Top Ten Books of 2016 (with snippets from my reviews) are:


"The real tragedy here is watching history fall through the gaps of miscommunication, assumptions and preconceived ideas. It's about how two men - two decent, flawed men - with contradictory, deeply held beliefs about the role of command, loyalty and leadership failed."


"It's a fascinating look at genius, power and ambition in a society on the cusp of major technological and sociological change. As the world moved from gentleman scientist to professional inventor, 'idle fiddling' changed from something the educated rich did to fill in their days to something people did to make obscene fortunes."


"Angle of Repose was a tremendous read. It's another example of a fabulous Pulitzer winner that completely embraces and encapsulates a period of time and way of life in American history.

It felt like this book has taken me ages to read. But it was only 3 weeks in the end.

Angle of Repose was a book to savour slowly. At 557 pages with small font and minimum line spacing, it wasn't a small undertaking, however it was worth every minute, every page, every letter. In fact, for me, it was Mary's many original letters that made this story such an absorbing gem."


"Wulf's biography has been thoughtfully arranged, with a few gorgeous coloured plates, extensive notes (at the back of the book where they don't clutter up the narrative) and an inspiring bibliography.

One of Humboldt's strengths was his ability to make science and the wonder of nature accessible to everyone. Wulf has replicated this strength in her award winning biography."


"Despite the number of years this book spans, Garner's various essays, diary entries, letters and observations hang together gracefully. They range from thoughts on moving house, her friendship with Tim Winton, her reaction to the movie Red Dog, meeting Rosie Batty, a wonderful section on literary appreciation to hilarious observations on ageing.

There is so much to love and ponder. So much to connect to. So much of the personal Garner, warts and all.

One of the endearing qualities of this collection is how Garner imbues the familiar and everyday with a touch of beauty and charm, even when she is being scathing. She also gives us hope that the passing of time can finally bring us some form of healing and wisdom."


"It's literary; it's a masterpiece and I suspect LaRose will be an award winning book for Erdrich. It's emotionally haunting (and very very compelling). It's tragic yet hopeful. It's about justice and also about retribution and redemption. It's profound and thought-provoking. There is atonement as well as forgiveness and understanding. And there is a lot of fascinating stuff about Native American culture and mysticism, and about contemporary life and how ancient traditions continue to influence modern behaviours.

I loved it. I feel like a richer, more soulful person because this book is now a small part of my story as well.

LaRose would make a great bookclub book - is has interesting moral provocations and ethical dilemma's to discuss."


"Swift plays with time, starting the story with "once upon a time" and constantly shifting between now - the perfect day - to reflections of earlier days and big jumps forward into a future made different because of this perfect day. It could be disconcerting, but I found it breathtaking.

The writing has a circular, pacy feel. You're racing through and onwards and going around at the same time. Ideas of sliding doors and possibilities and chance tease you at ever turn. What if? becomes the central theme.

The final section turns more inward looking as our characters discuss the nature of truth and story and memory. We see the power of the mind to carry us away with alternate versions of our stories.

You are left pondering all the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives - all the fictions and possibilities that we run through in our mind that seep into our realities, that inform our decisions and choices even though they are merely figments of our imaginations."


"Ruins is a contemporary novel narrated from multiple points of view.

Latha is the Tamil servant of a family at a crossroads of change. The family consists of the disturbed teenage daughter, Anoushka, the bumbling, passive-aggressive husband, Mano, his Tamil born, anxious wife, Lakshmi and their selfish, angry son, Niranjan.

The time frame is the end of the decades long Tamil Tigers civil war in 2009.

As the chapters cycle around for a second look at each characters POV, Savanadasa cleverly nudges us to see that our first opinions may not have been entirely accurate or complete. For a debut writer there is a great deal of assurance in his ability to create nuanced characters and layers of meaning.

As the civil war ends they're all forced to deal with their Tamil connections. Niranjan steps up, Mano disappoints, Anoushka falls apart, Lakshmi becomes obsessive and Latha finds a kind of peace."


"Burnet has set this book up as true story. A part of his own family history that he unearthed during some genealogical research.

He plays around with this idea right from the start with the title page - His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrea: A NOVEL, edited and introduced by Graeme Macrae Burnet.

The tension between what's real and what's not continues throughout the reading of Macrae's journal, the medical reports (citing real doctors) and the trial proceedings. Metafiction at it's best!

I normally only read cosy crime, so I thought this story might be outside my comfort zone. But His Bloody Project is really a delicious piece of creative writing decidedly sitting inside the historical fiction genre. Burnet delves into the mind of someone charged with a heinous crime. It's a psychological study about sanity, reason and motivation, set in the Scottish Highlands."


"Because I was enjoying Do Not Say We Have Nothing so much, I began researching stuff before I had finished reading.

I looked up the classical pieces of music conducted by Glenn Gould* that Thien mentioned throughout the book (Bach's Goldberg Variations and Sonata for Piano & Violin no 4) and listened to them as I read the book.

I researched the politicians and artists who were real people. He Luting (1903 - 1999) was a real composer and he really did say 'shame on you for lying' when hauled before a televised interrogation during the Cultural Revolution.

I researched the L'Internationale** to find out the various interpretations of the phrase that Thien used in her title.

I simply couldn't get enough of this book - I wanted to know more, delve deeper. I wanted to totally immerse myself in the reading experience."

There you have it!

My favourite books of 2016.

I knew I had put my books in the correct order, as the closer I got to no. 1, the more of my original reviews were added to this post. 

What was your favourite read of 2016?


  1. A lot of new to me books here in your favourites, but a bunch of titles I'm now going to research a little further... I am keen to read His Bloody Project; that's been on my wishlist for a while now!

    Happy reading in 2017!

  2. Most of these are new to me, but they all sound really fantastic!

  3. Mothering Sunday will be on my list, too, and I'm currently reading/listening to LaRose. It is wonderful so far. Angle of Repose was a favorite several years ago (before blogging)... have you read Stegner's Crossing to Safety? Off to investigate Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Happy New Year!

    1. Yes I have read Crossing to Safety JoAnn, it's how I 'discovered' Stegner in the first place :-)

      Do Not Say We Have Nothing was shortlisted for the Booker and won the Canadian Gilder Literary Prize. It deserved the accolades and then some!

  4. Great list and thanks for introducing me to some new ones! I loved Angle of Repose too. I hope you have a great year of reading and make more wonderful new bookish discoveries! :-)

  5. Wow, many of the books you've listed sound really good. Happy reading to you in 2017!!

    Here's my TTT post for this week: http://captivatedreader.blogspot.com/2016/12/top-ten-tuesday-top-ten-best-books-of.html

  6. I really enjoyed "The Last Days of Night" and I'm hoping to get to "His Bloody Project" in the new year. The snippet from your review reminded me how much I want to read it!

  7. What great reads. I've read none of them but I've seen some on other lists so obviously I've strayed away from the norms.


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