It’s almost Christmas and Santa’s promising plenty of hours for reading; so it’s time once again for my end-of-year list of the best books I read during 2016 (here’s last year’s list). These have nothing to do with urbanism; in fact they’re mostly novels. This custom dates from when I first started The Urbanist as it was originally set up with the intent of discussing novels as well as urban issues. That ambition went by the wayside long ago but the holiday season provides an excuse to return to reading, at least for one day of the year.
Of the books I read during 2016, a number stand out as worth recommending to others as good reads. I don’t classify them as “beach reads” or “serious literature”; if they’re worth spending a lot of time with then they’ve got to be engaging in one way or another.
My top picks from the books I’ve read this year are (books published in 2015 & 2016 shown with asterisk):
- A God in ruins*, Kate Atkinson
- The story of the lost child*, Elena Ferrante
- News of the world*, Paulette Jiles
- Dalva, Jim Harrison
- Between a wolf and a dog*, Georgia Blain
- Salt Creek*, Lucy Treloar
- Our souls at night*, Kent Haruf
- Everyday is for the thief, Teju Cole
- The Strays*, Emily Bitto
- The North Water*, Ian McGuire
- Burning down George Orwell’s house*, Andrew Ervin
- The cellist of Sarajevo, Steven Galloway
- Brooklyn, Colm Toibin
- On Chesil Beach, Colin McEwan
- A spool of blue thread*, Anne Tyler
- Early warning*, Jane Smiley
- Holy Bible, Vanessa Russell
- Necessary lies, Diane Chamberlain
- This house of grief, Helen Garner
- Born to run*, Bruce Spingsteen
- Boyhoodlum*, Anson Cameron
- Blind man’s bluff, Sherry Sontag
There were other books I rated three stars; they were all quite good but didn’t have that extra edge that made them stand out to me. They include some that have rated really well elsewhere so you might love them e.g. The nix*, Nathan Hill; The sympathiser*, Viet Thanh Nguyen; The vegetarian*, Kang Han; The dry*, Jane Harper; Decoded, Mai Jia; The last days of night*, Graham Moore; Purity*, Jonanathan Frantzen; The hate race*, Maxine Beneba Clark; and Between the world and me*, Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The books I plan to read over the holidays include The association of small bombs*, Karan Mahajan; My name is Lucy Barton*, Elizabeth Strout; and Golden Hill*, Francis Spufford. I also want to finish the fascinating City dreamers*, by Graeme Davison.