As 2016 ends and we head into the New Year, the time has come to reflect on a year’s worth of reading and pick out the cream of the crop. Throughout the last 12 months, I read a total of 137 books, which makes singling out just 10 of them a fun if somewhat daunting task. Without further ado, let’s start the countdown.
- The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
The first of Mitchell’s books I read, though I have since read another, this intricate and multi-layered fantastical epic features fleshed out, well developed characters throughout decades of their lives and it made me feel very excited to continue to explore his fascinating work.
- The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
It seems no list of favourites is complete without an appearance from Mr Ness somewhere. One of his adult novels, this beautiful story is inspired by a Japanese folk tale. It is both a modern story about loneliness and the power of art, as well as a whimsical tale of love, longing and storytelling as a means of great beauty.
- The Trees by Ali Shaw
Unsettling and deeply enchanting in tone, this is both a dark and gritty tale of survival and one for lovers of magical realism. Shaw beautifully paints with words a world reclaimed by mysterious, secret-bearing trees which erupt from the ground, plunging society into chaos and sparking a treacherous journey through new and dangerous terrain for our group of wonderfully realised characters.
- The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
Incredibly charming, this first book in the Fairyland series has a lot of Alice in Wonderland vibes, as a young girl is whisked away to a bonkers world, meeting many a quirky character throughout her stay, not least a dragon-like creature who believes his father is a library. The writing and imagery are gorgeous, and the dark undertones complete the fairy tale feel.
- The Collector by John Fowles
This is one that didn’t necessarily stand out right away as a potential favourite for the year, but one that has really stayed with me and continued to haunt my thoughts – which is in itself the sign of a great book, I believe. We follow a disturbed young man as he kidnaps and imprisons the object of his affections, believing he can make her love him in time. His victim, however, is not as meek as she may at first seem.
- Why God is a Woman by Nin Andrews
A series of prose poems, this wonderful collection tells the ongoing story of a fictional island where men are descendants of angels and women come from the sea. A type of social satire, Andrews shrewdly flips gender roles, presenting women as the dominant sex, as they objectify young men when their wings begin to sprout and browbeat their husbands to prepare them for a life of domesticity. Beautiful and poignant, this collection has a lot to say.
- The Book Collector by Alice Thompson
Another tale heavily influenced by fairy tales (something I evidently love), this is a tale of obsession, madness and murder. It explores what it really means to be insane and the warped control of men over women in the world of fairy tales, as well as in our own world.
- Peter and Alice by John Logan
Considering that I almost never read plays, the fact that this is my 3rd favourite read of the year speaks volumes for how much it impacted me. A fictionalised account of the real life meeting between the man and woman who inspired the protagonists of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland in their youth, it discusses the highs and lows of trying to live up to the legacies created by their fictional counterparts. It’s beautifully realised, expertly handled and will ultimately break your heart.
- Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Hugely atmospheric, the way this book toys with your senses is incredible. Set in a world in which there is something outside which drives anyone who sees it to insanity, our protagonist has lived in seclusion with her two young children for years, but she must blindfold them and set out in search of safety. It utterly gripped me, thrilled me far more than I could have expected, and though it was one of my first reads of the year, I still get chills when I think about the truly haunting and intense climax.
- Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry
The settings in this rich tale include a brutal women’s asylum, the gritty streets of New York and an enchanting sideshow. Set at the turn of the century, we follow an eclectic cast of characters who seem completely separate at first, but whose lives slowly weave together, forming a complex tapestry of beautiful and heart breaking storytelling. Each character has their own distinct personalities, pasts, flaws and motivations, and I fell completely in love with them. Secrets big and small lead to an eventual revelation that changes both everything and nothing all at once, and I utterly adored it, as well as the breathless journey towards the bittersweet conclusion it began. I urge you to learn nothing else of this book; simply dive in and let it sweep you away.
There we have it! 2016 was quite the year and I am excited to see what books 2017 will bring my way. What were your favourite reads of the year?