I love reading. It’s what I do. In the car, on the turbo-trainer, in the bath, last thing at night, in the middle of the night, at breakfast…
Here are some of my favourite reads of 2016, loosely bundled into non-fiction and fiction genres. If you’re curious you can see the whole breadth of my taste on my Goodreads account. This year, for the first time, I diligently added and rated all the books I finished, which came to 97, not counting re-reads, ones I gave up on more than half-way through or those I’m dipping into over time.
(Important! The images are Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you buy through the link, I get a tiny percentage of the sale, though it doesn’t cost you any extra. If you prefer, you can search for the books in Amazon itself, or through iBooks, Kobo and online store, but please believe that I would be recommending these books anyway: I genuinely love them!)
Goldenhand by Garth Nix. The fifth in his Old Kingdom series – which I whole-heartedly recommend – and the last novel I finished in 2016, given to me as a Christmas present by my nephew, the one who introduced me to Garth Nix in the first place. Now there’s a young man who knows his aunt.
Summer Knight by Jim Butcher. The fourth in his Harry Dresden series. A wizard Private Investigator in contemporary Chicago. One of the local librarians got me hooked on the series this year and I’ve read five. This is my favourite so far.
Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb. The first in her Tawny Man series. My nephew got me into these and we now have an arrangement where I buy them and send them to him (via Hive, the independent bookshop hub online) and when he’s read them I show up on his doorstep and borrow them in bulk.
The Ghost of Grania O’Malley by Michael Morpurgo. I adore Michael Morpurgo’s writing – his book Shadow was another of my favourites this year. And an Irish pirate queen makes a fantastic, twisty heroine.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Another great writer my nephew introduced me to. The first book in the Chaos Walking series, this is set in a community of men on a settled planet where they can hear each other’s thoughts.
Craft Of Writing
Lisa Cron: Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)
A fantastic title for a practical book with a sacred-cow-busting approach to story outlining.
Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish, by James Scott Bell. A completely different approach to planning but just as stuffed with practical examples and exercises.
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon. I heard this author-artist on the Self-Publishing Podcast. A gorgeous, inspiring little book that now sits on my desk: one of the ones that reminds me that yes, it IS worth it, no matter how pointless writing can seem sometimes.
The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold: Adventures Along the Iron Curtain Trail, by Tim Moore. Another Christmas present, from my partner this time, another person who knows me rather well 🙂
My favourite travel writer by a mile, this is vintage Tim Moore, a man who knows how to spin a phrase and tiny bicycle wheels. As usual I was interrupting my partner to read out passages in fits of giggles, but he also manages to capture the tragic nature of the years leading up to the erection of the Iron Curtain and during the Cold War.
In The Woods by Tana French. This is the first of the Dublin Murder Squad series, though it’s the fifth I read. It doesn’t matter in this series (I read them this order: third, second, fourth, fifth, first and sixth) as the first person narrator changes in each. Utterly immersive stories.
The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie by Alan Bradley, the first in his Flavia de Luce series set in 1950s England. Eleven-year-old Flavia became my favourite heroine. I would have wanted to be her if I’d read these when I was eleven. What am I on about – I want to be her now.
Mystery In The Minster by Susannah Gregory. The seventeenth in her Matthew Bartholomew historical crime series. Vivid detail and intriguing whodunnit, totally immersed in the fourteenth century without slapping the reader in the face with historical detail every second sentence (unlike some I could mention).
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith. J K Rowling’s alter ego, just in case there is anyone on the planet who doesn’t know that yet. She is brilliant at plotting and it reads as if she was having such a brilliant time writing it; it shines off the page. Also, I have a massive crush on Cormoran Strike.
The Cradle Will Fall by Mary Higgins Clark. I thought I didn’t read this genre – I tend to come down on the mystery side of crime rather than the suspense – but it was on the shelf of the tiny cottage we rented in Whitby over the Easter weekend and I picked it up. And didn’t put it down again until I’d finished it, except for one reluctant visit to the loo with aching bladder. My God, does the woman know how to make you turn a page.
The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes. In bed with a head cold in November, I re-read this chunky novel by the Irish queen of chick lit. This time the theme is depression, running through a missing person detective plot. Here’s a link to a BBC World Book Club episode featuring her second novel, Rachel’s Holiday – one of my favourite novels of all time – where Marian speaks about the book and drug and alcohol addiction. Essential listening.
Lifesaving For Beginners by Ciara Geraghty. Two stories wound beautifully together, linked by a car crash that leaves one woman dead. Nine-year-old Milo is one of my favourite people.
Mindset and Productivity for Writers
How to Write a Novel When You’ve Got No Time or Money (and have a toddler hanging off your leg) by Celina Grace. Another encouraging and practical book with great advice on how to just get the words on the page.
Motivation for Creative People: How to Stay Creative While Gaining Money, Fame, and Reputation by Mark McGuinness. I’d go so far as to say this book is invaluable for creative types but useful for anyone running a small business from home. My partner, who runs a countryside and conservation contracting service, has taken up some of the tools in the book. Great advice, clearly written.
Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day by Chris Fox. Succinct and actionable advice from someone who’s achieved success doing exactly what he describes in here. I recommend all his books on writing and marketing.
The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane. He’s one of those writers who, when you read the first paragraph, draws you into a state of total safety. It feels to me like getting into a lovely safe bath: you know you’re in the hands of a writer who will never let you down, that you can trust him with your time and your mind, no matter what he is writing about. A pinnacle of nature writing.
Bring Me Sunshine: A Windswept, Rain-Soaked, Sun-Kissed, Snow-Capped Guide to Our Weather by Charlie Connelly. I love weather. I can’t imagine living somewhere where you know what the weather will do all day, though I love to visit them! A celebration of the weather of Britain and Ireland.
The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell. Utterly enchanting, a celebration of bookshops all over the world. Here’s a link to the marvellous Jen’s marvellous book vlog.