Page-turners, prize-winners and poetry… We asked our favourite bookish people – from journalists and editors to YouTubers and publishers – for their favourite books of 2016 – how many of these have you read?
Nicola Balkind – Freelance Writer, Content Strategist and YouTuber
Sophomore novels can be tricky, but Eimear McBride handles the task with aplomb – and her nine years of painstaking work on the stunning The Lesser Bohemians has plenty to show for itself. The story is narrated in a stream-of-conscious style, directly from the mind of an unnamed 18-year-old Irish woman as she embarks upon her first year at a London drama school and falls in love with an actor 20 years her senior. Their unbridled sexual passion demonstrates the fervour of grief and joy that first love can unleash, and the intimacy forged through their sexual exploits and deep conversations will take you unexpected places.
Candice Carty-Williams – Senior Marketing Executive, Vintage Penguin Books & Creator of B4ME
I’d heard about The Power from a stranger at a wedding, from a girl at a party, and by eavesdropping on two people on the bus. What would the world be like if women had all the power – and by power – the ability to shoot electricity from their bodies? Naomi Alderman, through four very different global perspectives in the form of flawed, strong and unforgettable characters, presents to us a universe where the strength of women is, for once, visible.
Lorrie Hartshorn – Freelance Copywriter and Coach
I hadn’t read anything by Link before but I was hooked from the first page. She’s managed to create a collection of stories that are all astoundingly original, entirely different from one another in tone, subject and style, that somehow seem to run along the same unseen thread – it’s a real *collection* in that sense. I felt like I was sitting in a dark theatre, watching one story after another play out, knowing all the while that something dark and sinister was waiting backstage. I read Get in Trouble in one night, then read it again a week later – I absolutely loved it.
Sophie Mackintosh – Writer (Granta, The White Review & Tank Magazine)
Of all the books I read in 2016, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s beguiling debut was the one that stuck most with me – both for its lyrical, crystalline prose, and for its powerful meditation on family and place. I remember reaching the last page and knowing that I had just read something very special, something that was going to last with me a long time – each sentence was a delight, and there is this lush exuberance to Rowan’s writing that delights me, picture-perfect image after image. Harmless Like You is such a thoughtful exploration of how our own heritages impact upon us, of whether we are destined to repeat our own mistakes. I am so looking forward to seeing what she does next.
Bridget Minamore – Poet and Writer
This was lovely. The Muse is my book of the year mostly because I never read historical fiction before and also as I think Jessie Burton herself is great.
Elizabeth Morris – Events Manager at Waterstones Gower Street
Sarah Perry’s compulsive The Essex Serpent is a sumptuous gothic novel, humming with ideas and written with almost intimidating eloquence. Like A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book or Sarah Moss’s Bodies of Light it evokes the late-Victorian world in irresistible detail. The book itself is also a very beautiful, covetable object. I’m buying copies for everyone.
Leena Normington – Telegraph Online Business Development Manager and YouTuber
This is a sweeping and sharp poetry collection about race that shook me and revealed blind spots in my own life that I’d never even known I’d had. It should be added to every syllabus in the country and I owe my (very slow) ascent out of ignorance to its beautiful, beautiful pages. You might not have heard much about Even This Page Is White in the media, which is exactly why you should read it.
Nina Pottell – Books Editor at Prima Magazine
This book is the one I’ve loved and probably recommended the most. Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain was one of my first reads of 2016 and has really left its mark. It’s the story of five people whose lives are interlinked by an accident. The language is poetic, elegant and flows with grace. There is a part when an elderly man talks about love – and it’s written with such emotion and beauty I cried in public.
Francine Toon – Editor at Sceptre Books and Hodder Fiction
I loved its refreshingly dark and complicated protagonist and grubbily vivid sense of time and place. Eileen reads like a smart, feminist take on Hitchcock or Highsmith and was, for that reason, impossible to put down.
Deborah Smith – Publisher/Editor at Tilted Axis Press
Ladivine by Marie NDiaye (translated from the French by Jordan Stump)
Winner of both the Prix Goncourt and Prix Femina, Marie NDiaye’s consistently outstanding quality and power to both enchant and disturb puts her at the top of her game. Lavidine, an account of four generations of women, the first of whom immigrates to France from an unspecified ‘tropical’ country, ought to make her as much of a household name as Elena Ferrante and Han Kang. And long may her partnership with Stump continue – as a translator, I read those glorious gems of sentences with a mix of envy and admiration.
Julie Vuong – Freelance Books Journalist
Normally the subject of death is one I’m happy to give a wide berth. But Paul’s memoir – the first part recounting his life as a neurosurgeon and the second the aftermath of his diagnosis with terminal lung cancer – is a story I am keen to press into people’s hands. More philosophical than bleak, Paul’s writing left me in awe, of his profession and outlook, and his words on life and living still echo around my head. I urge you to read it. And, as the foreword says, ‘brace yourself’. When Breath Becomes Air is an emotional ride.
Laura Waddell – Publishing Professional and Writer. Board Scottish PEN
In a difficult year, it’s perhaps no surprise the writing has satisfied both the roles of being a comfort and especially sharp. This came out in March and mentally stuck with me. A short story collection of the most poignant, witty, and insightfully-scribed modern observations, told through everyday life, work and sex scenarios, Treats was my most recommended title of the year and one that I’d be unsurprised to see build up cult status in years to come.