Books :: 2016

I really thought I'd started this list before now (Aug 2016!), but I can't find a draft, a document, a scribbled note ... I really hope I've not left anything out ...

We Have Now Begun our Descent
I bought this at the airport during the mad job I worked on at the beginning of the year. I'd just met Justice Malala for the first time and was such a fan - the man walks, talks, thinks brilliance and I wanted to get to know him better.
It is a hard read, very depressing at times, but so incredibly spot on and delivered with a light touch and deeply insightful knowledge of our country. 

The Son
A rollicking Western, appropriately read on holiday in the Karoo among red rocks and scrubby bush just like the cover.
Disturbing, haunting and totally compelling.

Slade House
David Mitchell can do no wrong for me. Which is just as well as this book was strange, even by his standards. I devoured it.

Best White and other Anxious Delusions
Hilarious collection of essays on what it is to be white and filled with good intentions in South Africa. Rebecca has one of those encyclopedic memories (for totally frivolous and very important detail) which make her a pleasure to read. She's a regular columnist and writer of serious political pieces, I imagine she had a lot of fun writing this.

Elizabeth is Missing
One of my best of the year. Warm, intriguing, heart-breaking and utterly lovely.

The Miniturist

Mobile Library
This little book progressed along nicely, not blowing my socks off but keeping me interested enough. I was 20 pages from the end on the evening of book club and considered returning it without finishing it - I thought I had the gist of it and imagined it would end fairly predictably. 
I decided to keep it to finish though, and am so pleased I did. The ending was a complete shock and changed my whole perception of the story. Love it when novels do that.

Mr March, father to my childhood friends Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, appears in this intriguing novel all about him. Geraldine Brooks has successfully crept back into my good books after my traumatic experience with Year of Wonders, am actually thinking of re-reading that to try and exorcise that whole experience!

The Awakening
Very old feminist novel currently experiencing a revival. Beautifully written and hauntingly painful.

Instructions for a Heatwave
Currently one of my favourite novelists - Maggie O'Farrell stole my heart with The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox in 2014 and she continues to impress. A marvelous tale of family feuds and foibles.

A Man of Good Hope
Jonny Steinberg is on my list of top 10 authors. His style is impeccable, his empathy and touch astounding. 3 Letter Plague is one of my best books ever - about HIV/AIDS in rural SA - and this is as moving and insightful. He writes with such respect, quietly relaying the story of people with whom he ostensibly has nothing in common at all. A gift indeed.

I'm having quite a local reading year. Another collection of essays by a South African. GG Alcock grew up Zulu in rural KZN and now uses all that local knowledge - of language and culture - to market products to the thriving informal markets of the country. I sound cynical because I am a little, but one can't deny his unique insights and I learnt a lot reading this.

More local content - this time a novel. This one is firmly in the category of 'I read it so you don't have to'. What a load of crap. I've been curious for a while to read something by this author - we have many mutual friends in common - but this was disappointing. Stilted dialogue and a cast of completely inauthentic characters who we are continually told are golden and fascinating and compelling. Not.
That said, I finished it. But honestly I think I was rubber-necking!

The Girl on the Train
I've been curious to read this for a while, imagining it to a Gone Girl type novel. I suppose it was similar, just British, which obviously made it quite dissimilar!
I enjoyed it, read it quickly, despaired in the main character but it was well-paced enough to be a gripping read.

The Space Race
Continuing on my local binge...
Alex Latimer's daughter is in Stella's class, and they're quite friendly, so naturally I was curious to read his adult literature. This was good fun. Tight story line (however improbable - South Africa in the space race!), good characters, funny, dark - everything you'd like in a novel right? I read it in 2 days.

To Kill a Mocking Bird

After You'd Gone

The Gallery of Vanished Husbands

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao


Zoo City

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

A God in Ruins

Dear Bullet

Vernon God Little

I Am Pilgrim

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