10 books I enjoyed most in 2016

This week’s Top Ten topic,  hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is the ten best books of 2016. By which I take it they mean the books I read in 2016 that I enjoyed the most. I’ve pontificated about this for a few weeks now but can delay no longer. So here is my list. I was surprised to see how many are Booker prize related.

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  1. Top spot goes to Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing for her sweeping saga of life in China during the Cultural Revolution and its effects on three musicians. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and in my ever so humble opinion should have been the winner. But the judges disagreed….sigh.
  2. The Many by Wyl Menmuir: a debut novel which was mesmerising even if I didn’t fully understand it. Contained some disturbing ideas about the long term effectof pollution on the sea and fishing stock . It was longlisted for the 2016 Booker Prize
  3. The North Water by Ian McGuire: Another 2016 Booker contender, this was a rollicking if grim historical adventure set on a whaling ship.
  4. Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink: the only non fiction book to make it onto my top 10, this was a thought-provoking detailed examination of the effects of Hurricane Katrina on a hospital in New Orleans and the life/death decisions confronting the medical staff.
  5. Fear and Trembling by Amélie Nothomb: my first experience of this Belgian-born author. After reading this terrific novella about a young girl’s humiliation when she goes to work for a Japanese company and comes bang up against cultural rules and expectations.
  6. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett: Another author that I read for the first time in 2016 and what an experience. The plot focuses on a group of people who go to a concert in a Latin American country and end up being taken hostage. Although there is plenty of tension and drama, the real interest for me was in how the different hostages (who include a world famous opera singer, her accompanist and a devoted fan) all respond to music.
  7. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami: it’s taken me many years to get around to reading Murakami. It was delightful atmospheric novel about love and loss.
  8. The Gathering by Anne Enright: another Booker title but this time a winner – from 2007. Irish authors often tend to focus on doom and gloom and this one is no exception since it revolves around a sister’s reaction to her brother’s suicide. It’s grim in a sense but Enright portrays the inner life of her protagonist so well I just had to keep reading.
  9. The Narrow Road to the Deep North: by Richard Flanagan: Winner of the Booker Prize in 2014, this is a riveting story account of an Australian doctor who is haunted by a love affair with his uncle’s wife and his experience as a prisoner of war in Thailand.
  10. My Name is Lucy Barton  by Elizabeth Strout: yet another 2016 Booker contender though I read this long before the Booker judges made their initial selection. It’s the first time I read anything by Strout and on the strength of this tale about a mother/daughter relationship I’ll be keen to read some of her earlier work.

BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

24 thoughts on “10 books I enjoyed most in 2016

  • May 5, 2017 at 2:08 pm
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    I’ve only read two of these: Bel Canto and Lucy Barton, but loved them both.

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  • January 7, 2017 at 3:27 am
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    Do Not Say We Have Nothing is next on my to-read list and I’ve heard nothing but good things – really excited about it! I find myself agreeing with half of your list and disagreeing with the other half: loved The North Water, The Gathering, and My Name is Lucy Barton; didn’t care for Bel Canto or Norwegian Wood; hated Narrow Road to the Deep North. Great to see someone else’s perspective 🙂

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  • January 5, 2017 at 12:45 pm
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    I’ll definitely want to read Do Not Say We Have Nothing. I’ve seen one or two reviews and it sounds outstanding.

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  • December 29, 2016 at 6:45 pm
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    Lucy Barton seems to have been a hit with several bloggers this year, so it’s good to see it on your list as well. Maybe I’ll get around to reading Elizabeth Strout in 2017 – I have a copy of Olive Kitteridge as a potential starting point.

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    • December 30, 2016 at 6:17 pm
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      I might get around to reading Olive Kitteridge myself – I remember seeing the title mentioned extensively a few years ago around the time of publication I imagine but it clearly didnt register that deeply since I never bought it….

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  • December 29, 2016 at 6:22 pm
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    I found The Gathering so heart-wrenching, and The Narrow Road to the Deep North was a fantastic read, two truly great books.

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    • December 30, 2016 at 6:18 pm
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      Ive not yet written a review of the Narrow Road because I dont feel I can do justice to it somehow. I loved the way the ending examines the issue of forgiveness and reconciliation

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      • December 30, 2016 at 6:20 pm
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        Agreed! Exactly the reason I haven’t written one yet, myself. I think I will have to give it a reread if I ever do decide to review it. 🙂

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  • December 29, 2016 at 2:30 pm
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    A very good top ten list! Was it easy to choose or were there so many good books you had to debate a little?

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  • December 29, 2016 at 11:54 am
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    I’ve only read two of your top picks (Lucy Barton and Narrow Road) and both are jostling for a place on my own Top 10 for 2016.
    I plan to read the Thien and the McGuire and, although Bel Canto has been on my TBR list for eons, I’m going to open my Patchett account with Commonwealth.
    Have a great New Year and see you around these parts in 2017 🙂

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  • December 29, 2016 at 8:15 am
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    I tried reading Bel Canto a few months ago, but stopped…maybe I should pick it up again….?

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  • December 29, 2016 at 5:00 am
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    Looks like a great list. I haven’t read most of them. I have read Elizabeth Strout, though. I really love her “Olive Kittredge.” I also enjoyed “Bel Canto.” So many books, so little time!

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  • December 28, 2016 at 10:43 pm
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    Delighted to see Flanagan’s book in this list, of course:)
    I’ve read The Many too, and felt a bit the same way, I do like ambiguity in my books and the atmospherics of that one made it quite intriguing.
    I’ve read Bel Canto and The Gathering too, and really liked them both. I have the Murakami on my TBR and this year, I think I must decide either to read his masterworks or offload them. My initiation to Murakami was 1Q84 and I didn’t like it much so I need some encouragement to get on with it!

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  • December 28, 2016 at 9:28 pm
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    I loved the Richard Flanagan novel! And I have read and loved Fear and Trembling (and about a dozen other books by Amélie Nothomb). I have not read any of the newer books though.

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    • December 28, 2016 at 9:34 pm
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      Do you have a recommendation for the next Nothomb it would be good for me to read Syvlie?

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  • December 28, 2016 at 5:27 pm
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    Great list. I’ve read none of these but I’m not good at picking up contemporary fiction which covers a few of them.

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    • December 28, 2016 at 9:35 pm
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      I was so surprised at how many of the titles were contemporary works because I didnt think I had read that many this year.

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  • December 28, 2016 at 4:43 pm
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    What a great list! I also read “Lucy Barton” and immediately picked up “Olive Kitteridge” afterward. I loved it even more and highly recommend it. Strout is an extraordinary writer. I also love Anne Enright and do enjoy the atmosphere she is able to create. It always feels Irish but not in a trite and stereotypical way.

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  • December 28, 2016 at 4:07 pm
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    My Name Is Lucy Barton is the only one I’ve read on your list. Bel Canto is on my list of books to read, though, as I’ve enjoyed Ann Patchett.

    Thanks for sharing, and enjoy many more books in the New Year.

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  • December 28, 2016 at 3:43 pm
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    I hope to get to Fear and Trembling next year. I read my first Nothomb this year: the Stranger Next Door and it made my best of year list too. I read Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth this year and that was excellent too.

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  • December 28, 2016 at 2:58 pm
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    I have read four of your top 10 – nos 6, 7, 8 and 9 – but three of them before I started blogging back in 2009 so my memory is a bit shaky. I enjoyed Bel canto but it never grabbed me the way it has some, and I think I felt the same about The gathering too. More vivid in my memory is Norwegian Wood, and of course Narrow road.

    I’m interested to see the Northomb there having seen her also on Guy’s list. She is clearly someone I need to find time to read.

    Reply

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