What I Read in 2016

Well, ignoring the fact that 2016 saw a chain of events begin to unfurl that is likely to bring about the end of civilisation, the last year was a pretty good one for reading.  It wasn’t a fantastic year for me personally – spending much of it coping first with a bullying manager, and then the fall-out from dealing with that (he has been dealt with!).  Books provided an excellent refuge from all of that.  I also took on a couple of whoppers – War and Peace and Ulysses – which I am rather proud of.  23 of the 41 books I read were written by women – hurray!

I have been keeping my book diary for over ten years now – it’s funny to look at the early entries, where time and space seemed plentiful:


Compared to the desperately tight scrawl of fearful middle-age:


Anyway, on to the books:

  1. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying – Marie Kondo – I got as far as clothes, and threw out about 8 bags of clothing that didn’t spark joy!  As far as books and knick-knacks go, she can do one!!
  2. SPQR – Mary Beard – Making up for all those Roman History classes that I spent in the pub.
  3. A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson – I nearly didn’t buy this, as I didn’t like the cover (a dead rabbit), but absolutely loved this. It’s linked to another brilliant Atkinson novel: Life After Life, and I recommend both.
  4. Dept. of Speculation – Jenny Offill
  5. A Spool of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler
  6. The Complete Eightball Vol.1 – Daniel Clowes
  7. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Anne Fowler
  8. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy – I have to admit that reading this was both prompted and aided by the the excellent BBC adaptation.
  9. A Book for Her – Bridget Christie – funny!
  10. Purity – Jonathan Franzen – not my favourite, but still really readable.
  11. The Big Short – Michael Lewis
  12. A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
  13. A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding – Jackie Copleton
  14. The Portable Veblen – Elizabeth McKenzie
  15. Not My Father’s Son: A Family Memoir – Alan Cumming
  16. A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson
  17. The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid
  18. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits – David Wong
  19. Dancing in the Dark: My Struggle Book 4 – Karl Ove Knausgaard – I’m still working my way through the My Struggle series, and still enjoying them.
  20. Nod – Adrian Barnes
  21. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark – Anna North
  22. My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante – I was curious about the hype, and now I’m hooked – I’ll be reading more of her work in 2017.
  23. The Kindness – Polly Samson
  24. Hotel du Lac – Anita Brookner
  25. Ruby – Cynthia Bond
  26. Slade House – David Mitchell
  27. The Deaths – Mark Lawson
  28. Time and Time Again – Ben Elton
  29. 2666 – Roberto Bolano
  30. American Housewife – Helen Ellis – I’m not a huge fan of short stories, but these were really funny.
  31. The Nest – Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
  32. The Less than Perfect Legend of Donna Creosote – Dan Micklethwaite
  33. Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body – Sara Pascoe
  34. Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff
  35. We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson
  36. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary – David Sedaris
  37. The Complete Eightball Vol.2 – Daniel Clowes
  38. Ulysses – James Joyce – This was a bit like reading a novel in a different language and  at times I felt lost.  I’m glad I read this, though, because it’s so radical for its time.
  39. Bonkers: My Life in Laughs – Jennifer Saunders
  40. The Actual One: How I Tried and Failed to Remain Twenty-Something Forever – Isy Suttie
  41. The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney

This year has begun promisingly – just started reading The Essex Serpent.  So, 2017 – any reading recommendations?  Any more whoppers that you think I should try?


6 responses »

  1. Oooh, book diary! Why haven´t I kept one! I suspect I´d be really smug about it. So, your list! David Mitchell´s new one, Slade House, how was that? “The Bone Clocks” gave me the heebie-jeebies with its vision of the “new world order”… I thought the occult forces bit was mainly nonsense but I loved the real world parts about the main character´s life and especially the post-oil bit. I happened to read three novels featuring the end of the world (as we know it) in quick succession: 7Eves, The Peripheral and The Bone Clocks, and Mitchell´s was by far the most realistic. – What did you think about 2666? I´ve only managed to read one Bolano, something about war games, and got stuck after 100 pages of The Savage Detectives even though everybody raves about it.

    • I love the way that David Mitchell switches genre with such apparent ease – I bought Bone Clocks not really knowing what it was about, just keen to read more of his work. Initially the whole spooky occult element jarred with me until I just decided to go with it. Slade House is really just more of the occult stuff, but enjoyable nonetheless. A little lighter than his other work (in terms of complexity, not subject!).

      I read 2666 knowing that it was considered “a big deal” and feeling increasingly disappointed – it starts off great: academic friends with a shared love of a reclusive author, but eventually becomes just a catalogue of women’s murders. It’s supposed to be a great experiment in form but just seemed like a bunch of dead women to me.

  2. Dr. T put me on to keeping a book diary back in 1988! Guess he forgot to mention it to you? 😀

    Every year I wonder whether you’ll read a book that I have (or visa versa) – Looking through your list we matched A Walk in the Woods – yay! 🙂

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