Lately I’ve seen a number of blog posts of people’s favourite reads for 2016. I find this so interesting, and helpful too, as I’m always on the lookout for a new author to try, or even a new genre to explore. I’ve encountered some of my favourite books in this way. And so, I thought I would share my own favourite reads for 2016, in the hopes that someone else might find a new author to love or expand their reading into a genre where they might not otherwise have ventured. I should perhaps clarify that these are not necessarily books that have been published in 2016, but rather books that I have read in 2016. So here goes, in no particular order.
The Dry by Jane Harper – A contemporary crime novel, I devoured this book in a very short time. Delving into the dark past of a small Australian town in the midst of a drought, Harper captures the atmosphere beautifully, not only the setting, but the relationships between the townspeople, the farmers and the shopkeepers, and the newly settled city folk seeking but not quite finding the peaceful country lifestyle. Beautifully written, the story nevertheless moves along at a good pace, keeping readers in suspense, and the pages turning.
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey – I loved Jasper Jones. Set in the town of Corrigan Australia in the summer of 1965, the characters are engaging, the prose lyrical yet easy to read, the setting solid and real. Silvey has a unique voice, the ability to draw out tension and bring it to a feverish conclusion, all the while masterfully weaving in the subplots of this coming-of-age story. There is young love, racism, families falling apart and unspeakable secrets.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – Humorous and dark at the same time, Big Little Lies follows the lives of a group of parents whose children are just starting school. We’ve all been there, the group standing outside the classroom, waiting for our children to finish school, talking about play dates and packed lunches, the upcoming school concert and volunteering in the canteen. But what we don’t see are the secrets we all are holding, what goes on behind closed doors once we drive away from the school. Moriarty touches big issues that aren’t discussed openly; bullying, stereotyping, single parenting, domestic violence. And she does it well.
To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – The one a classic, the other a new publication of an unpublished manuscript. The same story told from different points of view. I felt I had to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird to fully appreciate Go Set a Watchman. There have been varied reviews of this new publication, and while I don’t think it has the strength or vision of To Kill a Mockingbird, I do think it has its own merits, puts a new filter on the story, and is worth a read.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler – A beautiful insight into family love, a family in strife, and a young woman coming to terms with the grief of losing her beloved ‘twin’, losing touch with her brother and searching for her own identity.
The Trap by Melanie Raabe – A chilling psychological thriller, The Trap kept me on the edge of my seat. Linda Conrad has seen her sister’s killer. Twelve years later she sees his face again. She knows who he is. And she sets the perfect trap. But can she be absolutely certain he is the one?
The Good People by Hannah Kent – I have yet to finish this book, but I can already tell that it will be on my list of favourites for this year. I love a good historical novel, and Hannah Kent is developing a reputation as one of the best. Set in 19th century Ireland, The Good People follows the story of three women, Nora, a new widow struggling to survive on her own while caring for her disabled grandson, Mary, the fourteen year old servant girl Nora hires to help her, and Nance, a local wise-woman who has a reputation for being able to commune with ‘the Good People’, the fairies. Kent’s writing is beautiful and evocative. She has the ability to draw images with her words that plant the reader firmly in time and place, and draw empathy for her characters. This is one I will be sorry to finish.