I feel like I read a lot of books in 2016. Part of the reason was that I was traveling in New Zealand for a couple of months where data was rather scarce, and so I had to entertain myself mostly with pre downloaded books rather than being on social media all night. Which wasn’t a bad thing at all I suppose.. Anywho, without further ado, here are my 12 favourite reads across all genres from 2016:
The Saxon Stories series – Bernard Cornwell
There are 9 books in the series and I think I went through 6 or 7 of them last year. It’s about the viking Uhtred who is British, raised by Danes and then is recruited by King Alfred of Wessex to help him expand his kingdom. Much of the story is based on real events and real characters, giving insights to the wars that took place in Britain before it could become ‘Englaland’. It’s exciting, there are fight scenes, love and plenty of swear words and I love it.
The Prague Cemetery – Umberto Eco
This book is about a man whose profession it becomes to make fake documents. He eventually makes a document stating that the Jews want to take over the world, infiltrate any institution of power and so on, and he spends much of the book trying to sell his fake story. I thought it was a little hard to read but still very interesting – and imagine my surprise when I had read the book and on the final page it is revealed that many of the characters were actually real, and that the fake story speaking of Jews gathering in the cemetery in Prague to discuss how to take over the world, is actually a real fake story!
The Martian – Andy Weir
This is just good old entertainment. Mark Watney, an astronaut, is by accident left behind on Mars, and will have to take care of himself until Earth can save him. I thought the first few chapters which is mostly Watney doing math about how to survive are a little tough to get through, but believe me, it gets good from there. Watney is very funny (I thought he was funnier in the book than in the movie), and the suspense just builds and builds when we start to see matters from Earth as well as from Mars. Very entertaining read.
The Lost Continent – Bill Bryson
So, it’s no secret that I am a big fan of Bill Bryson’s travel writing. In this book he takes it on himself to find the imaginary city of ‘Amalgam’ – the wholesome American small town that we always see in the movies, but which can be devastatingly tricky to actually find in real life. Bryson can make most things funny, same goes for the search of Amalgam. Reading this is what makes me want to go out and do something of the same – what is America like outside the big cities?
A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson
Well, what can I say, another Bill Bryson. I was reading this when I was in New Zealand, so anything that could get the wanderlust going! This certainly does – he tells of when he attempted to walk the Appalachian Trail all the way from Georgia to Maine. I’ll put a spoiler here and say that no, he did not make it all the way, but enough to say that he made an effort. As with any Bryson novel it is funny, and you will most likely walk away knowing more than when you began to read.
Wild – Cheryl Strayed
This book just hit home for me. Cheryl lost her mother in her early twenties, and from then her life takes a downward plunge. That’s why she decides to spend a summer hiking part of the Pacific Crest Trail. The story is partly about how she overcomes this massive physical challenge, and partly about how she finally starts coping with her mother’s death. I thought it was absolutely beautifully written and very inspiring.
The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton
This was another book I read in New Zealand – since I was there I figured it would be fun to read something that was actually set in New Zealand, which this is. Actually on the west coast of the South Island, centered around the small town of Hokitika. It is a love story with a mystery, so many loose ends and small clues to be followed, all narrated with reference to star signs and planets. The ending was maybe a bit weird, but it didn’t really matter. The story is very entertaining and I really, really like the way it is narrated.
Britt-Marie Was Here – Fredrik Backman
This is just one of those novels that is an enjoyment to read from start to finish. It is about Britt-Marie who is getting divorced and because of that moves away from her home and out into the country to a very small town where the one big thing the inhabitants have left to keep them going is football. This writer is excellent at making opposites meet in extremely funny ways, and at the same time make a story that is truly worthwhile, and might even squeeze a tear out of you. Thoroughly recommended.
Paris – Edward Rutherfurd
I have read 3 of Rutherfurd’s historical novels now, and this has so far been my favourite. It is basically the real history of the city of Paris told through the families and people that live in the city at various times in history. It is exciting, educating, gets the wanderlust going, and if you’re a fan of long reads this one’s for you at just about 1000 pages.
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
This was a surprise to me – I don’t really know what I had expected, but not this. The story is told by 6 year old Scout who is the daughter of lawyer Atticus Finch who is trying to defend a black man who allegedly raped a white woman. It is humourous, warm and filled with lovable characters. At the same time it takes a closer look at the racism that was very present in the South during the Great Depression. A classic, and I definitely see now why it is so.
Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck
This was my introduction to the writing of John Steinbeck, and I am happy to say that it is not going to be the last I read of him. He builds a big van to drive around the country for a couple of months, takes his dog Charley and a lot of good booze with him and sets out to see what’s up with his own country. This takes place in 1959 or 1960 (I am actually not sure), but his findings show that already back then America was starting to evolve into what we know now – small towns disappearing and shopping malls appearing countrywide. A very interesting read, not least because of the writing itself.
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
Set in Tudor England this is about the real character of Thomas Cromwell, seen from his own point of view. All I had ever heard of him was that he was this cruel character from back then, but this story sheds some light on who he also was – a loving father and husband, who managed to get to the very top of the political game because he was so good at what he did. It isn’t the easiest to read, but still very gripping, and I certainly found myself thinking ‘what happens next?!’ all the time.
This was my 12 favourite books out over 50 that I read last year. And now I’d love to hear about your favourites in the comment section below!