I’m getting in early with my Top 10 New Releases for this year for three reasons.
- I don’t think I’ll read any more new releases this year, and I suspect that any I do won’t be up to the standards of my top ten.
- I’ve started studying again and blogging takes up a lot of time (if you let it), so I’ve written this in the past (i.e. last week) before my class starts so I can prioritise reading loads of potentially less exciting stuff. This is probably going to be my last post for a while which means there will soon be tumbleweeds rolling through this little corner of the internet.
- I’m helping you guys out! Maybe there’ll be a book on here you can ask someone to sneak under the Christmas tree for you (or you can sneak it under there yourself), or maybe there’s the perfect book on here for a reader you know. If you don’t do Christmas, maybe there’s a book on here you can buy just because (which, as we know, is the best reason for buying books).
2016 has, I think we can all agree, been a pretty shitty year for a multitude of reasons that I won’t go into now because do we all really need a reminder? The release of some truly excellent books this year has been a shining light, though, and it’s been nice to be reminded that as shitty as the world gets there are still people out there creating and making wonderful things to bring a little bit of joy into our lives or perhaps enlighten us. So keep reading, friends.
10. The Dry by Jane Harper. [Goodreads]
I read this one pretty early in the year and all but devoured it in the space of a weekend – I probably should have reread it though because I flew through it so quickly that I didn’t give myself enough time to let it sink in so I could write a proper review of it, so here’s one from a newspaper. A thriller set in rural Australia, I’m not at all surprised this had been optioned for film rights before it was even published: the plot is ideal thriller fodder; the setting of a small town in the middle of a drought gives the book heat and intensity; and the writing and editing are sharp. I was convinced that something else would come along to knock this out of my top ten, but The Dry has proved itself a stayer. If you like thrillers then you can’t go past this one.
9. The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley. [Goodreads]
This is the second of three books by female Aussie writers on this list (the first being The Dry), which I’m really happy about – and all of them are debut novels. I was immediately drawn to this book by the cover, which isn’t always a good thing – there’s even a saying about books and covers – but I wasn’t let down in this case. A solid piece of historical fiction based on the real life of artist Elizabeth Gould, The Birdman’s Wife has done amazingly well in Australia, and I’m pretty sure it entered its second printing in the last couple of weeks, which I think is pretty great since it was only just released at the start of October (but I’m no expert on these things). Also, check out this photo I took of my budgie sitting atop the book – it’s delightful. [My review]
8. The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch. [Goodreads]
I’ve spent most of November doing a reread of the first five books in the ‘Peter Grant’ series by Ben Aaronovitch and I’ve had such a great time reliving the adventures of PC Peter Grant, his boss, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale (who I’m a bit in love with), and all the various beings of the demi-monde they interact with. The publication of The Hanging Tree has been pushed back several times, so when it was finally available I was so excited I could have burst. The book more than delivered, particularly in the final chapters when my heart was beating so hard and so fast I thought it’d leap out of my chest. It was all very intense. So many things happened, so many questions were answered, more questions were raised, and even better – the book had an open ending which means THERE’LL BE ANOTHER ONE.
7. The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin. [Goodreads]
Just like The Hanging Tree, this is another delayed installment in a fantastic series. Fans of Cronin’s ‘The Passage’ trilogy had been waiting for this third and final book since 2012 when the second book was released. So it’s been a long wait filled with false starts. Was it worth waiting four years? Absolutely. The City of Mirrors was probably the perfect way to end everything. I have so many feelings about this book that I can’t even articulate them properly – but it did break my heart several times over and I’d recommend having some tissues at hand from page 462 onwards because TEARS. And you should absolutely read all three of these books back to back so you can fully appreciate how amazing the characters are (you’ll also become incredibly attached to them which will add to the TEARS). [My little review]
6. Mr Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt. [Goodreads]
I’m pretty sure this was first released late last year in the US, but it wasn’t published here in Australia until about January this year, so I’m counting it. This might have been the surprise book of the year for me. I thought I’d enjoy it, but I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did. It was smart, mysterious, weird, creepy, original, and most of the time I had no idea where the long road in the book was taking me. But it was the end of that long road that has stuck with me and put this book in my top ten – it was unexpected and put everything else that came before it in a completely different light. It was final, but also not. I don’t know. If you like weird stuff (or just generally excellent books) and haven’t read this yet then you should go rectify that problem. [My review]
5. The Mothers by Brit Bennett. [Goodreads]
Ok. I knew I’d like this one because LOADS of readers who I’D TRUST WITH MY LIFE (or at least my reading life) absolutely loved it. I listened to the audiobook on Audible, so I’d be 100% ok with receiving this as a gift if anyone feels so inclined, because I know it’s a book I’ll read again and again. Having said that, the audio was amazing and I think that even people who aren’t fans of audiobooks will have no problems listening to this one because it’s the most perfect combination of story and narrator you could possibly get. The ending of The Mothers left me wanting more, not because the ending wasn’t right, but because it felt so real and don’t we always want more from reality? I’m excited to read more from Brit Bennett (or listen if it’s narrated by Adenrele Ojo). [My little review]
4. The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose. [Goodreads]
This is third of the three books by female Aussie authors on my list this year. I don’t have any more words for this book so I’m just going to copy and paste from my review: “I can’t really pinpoint why I loved The Museum of Modern Love so much. I don’t think it’s a novel that has any one thing that stands out above everything else; all the individual parts just fit together so beautifully to make a novel that’s both thoughtful and moving, without being over the top. It didn’t leave me elated and it didn’t leave me curled up in bed weeping. But I hugged it when I finished because it gave me that feeling – the one we readers sometimes feel at the conclusion of a book, but can’t quite put into words. It’s about so many things: relationships, life, and art; but it’s also about how these things work together.” [My full review]
3. Messages from a Lost World: Europe on the Brink by Stefan Zweig. [Goodreads]
This book has sat quietly at the back of my mind since February being a quiet achiever and the book on this list I’d most like to thrust into the hands of everyone I meet. Zweig witnessed two of the most horrible events of human history – WWI and WWII – and it’s these events that are largely the focus of these essays, but there are also some lovely ones about art and history that were definitely the highlights for me. The essays were written in the period between 1914 and 1941 – many of them originally given as speeches at various events – and this year Pushkin Press published them in English for the first time (a little loophole to get the book on my list). Despite some of the essays being over a century old, this collection could have been written a year ago. They could have been written today. They are as relevant now as they were then and in them you can see Zweig’s devastation at what the world was doing to itself. But. He also offers hope. I’ve said before that no one writes human nature like Zweig does, and I will stand by that assertion until the day I die. He doesn’t necessarily present solutions in Messages from a Lost World , but he does go a little way in helping us make sense of things that don’t make sense. [My review]
The North Water by Ian McGuire. [Goodreads]
This book is wow. I received an ARC of it from NetGalley all the way back in the latter part of 2015 (and then purchased a lovely hardcover of it when it was released in February), read it in November of that same year, and ever since then it had been sitting in the number one position for this list, all the way up until October of this year. So for nearly twelve whole months, nothing came close to matching my opinion of this book. The North Water is as dark, gritty, and gory a historical fiction as you can get and I unashamedly love it. On this list it stands out as my “definitely not for everyone” book. It’s super graphic in parts and I know it will make even those with the strongest stomachs a little uncomfortable. It’s setting is largely in the Arctic, giving it a bleakness that almost amplifies the moments of violence – it’s really quite horrifying. It’s also a lesson in sharp writing and editing as it packs a hell of a punch in just 270 pages (or 336 depending on which edition you read). I loved it, many people will hate it, but it’s a great book nonetheless. [My review]
1. The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life by John le Carré. [Goodreads]
If you’ve been reading this blog for a significant amount of time you’ll know that Mr le Carré is my absolute favourite author, so the fight for the number one position on my list of Top New Releases for 2016 was never going to be a fair one. This is probably the one book I was most looking forward to this year since it was first announced last year and it thankfully both met and exceeded my expectations. John le Carré covers everything in this collection of remembrances, including his time working for British Intelligence; his childhood and early teen years; time spent researching his novels in various – sometimes war torn – countries; and anecdotes about the people he’s met and known. I’ll forever shake my head about the Jerry Westerby thing (this will only make sense if you’ve read The Honourable Schoolboy, sorry), but after reading The Pigeon Tunnel it’s nice to think that le Carré perhaps shakes his head about it too. On its own The Pigeon Tunnel is an insightful and entertaining glimpse into the life of a brilliant author, but when looked at alongside his novels I feel like there’s now another layer I can explore whenever I read le Carré’s fictional work. [My little review]