Best Books 2016

best and worst reads 2016

I promised at the end of 2015 that I’d do a round-up of my favourite novels of the year and here I am, over twelve months later, with a slightly different post. It seems odd to go back to what I read in 2015, so the best picks from that year will have to be inserted (ooh err) into a more general book post or video at another time – I want to talk about 2016 novels whilst they are still fresh in my mind.

So here they are; my three favourite novels and three least favourite. It was quite a struggle to pick the three best, but not at all difficult to pull out the worst – I read so many absolute duds last year, I could give you about ten titles. Though please don’t be offended if you read them and loved them – we’re all different, thank goodness, and if we all liked the same books then the world would be a dull place indeed.

So, have a browse and feel free to discuss my choices in the comments below – FYI, I didn’t ever get around to reading A Little Life, mainly because so many of you put me off by saying how harrowing and depressing it was! Ha.

Best Reads:

Nutshell by Ian McEwan (find it online HERE). I enjoyed this immensely. A strange one to read when you’re heavily pregnant, because the narrative is told from the perspective of a nine month-old foetus. Trapped inside his mother’s womb, he reports on what he can hear in the outside world, and what unfolds is just fascinating – a thrilling murder, complete with evil plotting and police investigations and uncovered evidence. The baby’s voice is entirely adult – educated, precise and perceptive – and there are moments of pure genius, especially during sex scenes and when the mother gets drunk. Which is – uncomfortably – quite frequently. It’s a bizarre choice for my best read of the year, but I couldn’t put this down – it was at once disturbing and incredibly entertaining. A mad decision to have a foetus as a narrator, and by the end I was left feeling that it was entirely unreliable, and that perhaps everything I’d read had been a lie, but who cares? Heaps of fun and a nice antidote to all of the depressing death novels I ploughed through last year.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. (Find it online HERE.) Not strictly a novel, more a series of essays, but my God are they funny. It takes quite a lot to make me laugh out loud at a book, but this one had me snortling shamelessly on the London Underground, to the point where people were craning their necks to see the front cover. Sedaris’s anecdotes about his life in America and his travels to other countries are first-rate but Me Talk Pretty One Day was on a different level when it came to proper laughs – off-beat and often outrageous, he doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to baring all about his past.

This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell (find it online HERE). I whizzed through quite a few O’Farrell novels last year and loved them all, but This Must Be The Place took first prize for unputdownability. She’s great at presenting characters and then gradually weaving in more and more of their background so that by the end of a novel you’re au fait with the entire extended family and all of their quirks and secrets. I particularly enjoyed this one for the love story that runs through the narrative and the feistiness of the main characters – if you love books that start off with a small problem and then suck you into an all-consuming world of family affairs and interlocking storylines then this will be a real treat.

Worst Reads:

Mount! by Jilly Cooper (online HERE). I wanted to like this, mostly for nostalgic reasons, but after a hundred or so pages I couldn’t bear to go on. There were about three thousand characters (just read the character list at the start – it’s a novel in itself!) and I couldn’t tell most of them apart. They were all 2D shaggers who liked horses and lived in large Cotswolds houses. And I know that’s what Cooper is all about, but I think Mount! misses the humour of the novels I read as a teen.

The Good Girl, Mary Kubica (find it HERE). This had a promising start – I did have a bit of a chilling spine-tingle at the kidnapping part. But as soon as I started to find out what a totally useless tool the baddie was, I lost all interest. I didn’t care about any of the characters, even the mother who was pining for her missing daughter, because they all said such mediocre things and spoke in clichés, my ultimate literary turn-off. It just felt like a carbon copy, style-wise, of novels like Girl On The Train or one of the dozens that have the same “ooh, I can’t quite remember everything that happened, ooh what a mystery, how will we ever work out what really went down that night?” vibe.

In all fairness, Second Life (HERE) wasn’t the worst novel I read last year, it was just the most disappointing. I loved SJ Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep (HERE) with it’s quite brilliant twists and turns and solid, terrifying plot (it’s about a woman who can only remember what happens in the course of a day – when she goes to sleep she forgets everything and has to start again) but Second Life was – like The Good Girl – a weak mystery with no engaging characters. I couldn’t have cared less about any of them and the ending was simply bizarre. I didn’t know whether to roll my eyes or stab myself in the face repeatedly with a biro. I read it over the course of a day and a night (Christmas cough-cold-thing, had its benefits) so it obviously held my interest enough to keep going, but the crap ending had me furious that I’d wasted my time.

Thoughts, please – and add your own best/worst reads if you fancy…

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