Top 10 Books Of The Year – 2016- Part 1 (10-6)

In 2016 I managed to read 80 books which is the most I have ever read in one year.  (Last year’s total was 67 and my best ever year (2013) I read 72.  So, although I’m very pleased with myself it has proved to be much harder to come up with just 10 for my annual review of my year in books.  Anything that doesn’t make the top 10 gets culled from the bookshelves or off the Kindle so I’ve had to put much deliberation into this and come up with a list of ten books with only one author having made my top 10 on a previous occasion.  Unusually for me all of the chosen books are fiction. 7 of the 10 were authors whose work I have never read before  and there’s some debut novels in there as well.  I haven’t restricted myself to those authors whose works were published in 2016.  If I read it this year then it’s in the mix.  Last year 6 out of my 10 were published in 2015 and this year 50% of them were published in 2016, showing how exciting publishing still is and that there’s still great books coming out every month.  44 out of the 80 books I read this year were 2016 publications- a considerably higher percentage than ever before.  The only thing I have read less of is re-reads.  I’ve only revisited four books this year.  I’ve selected the very best of these which I will announce in two posts time.  There’s a satisfactory 50/50 split gender-wise on my list and all of the 10 have been reviewed on this site- click on the titles to link to the full review.

10. Jonathan Dark Or The Evidence Of Ghosts – A K Benedict (Orion 2016) (Read and reviewed in February)


An audacious, brave blend of modern crime, ghost story and fantasy which really works.  I thought/think that this has the potential to become a big seller but perhaps it has been difficult to market its genre-busting appeal.  I love this book for both its strengths and flaws.

9. The Lost Europeans – Emanuel Litvinoff (Apollo 2016 )(Read in May and reviewed in June)


In 2016 Apollo republished 8 of “the best books you’ve never heard of” and this debut originally from 1958 by a London born writer was the pick of the bunch.  Post war Berlin is brought alive through paranoia and guilt.



8. Miss Jane – Brad Watson (Picador 2016) (Read in September.  Reviewed in November)


Set in early twentieth century Mississippi this tale of rural survival sparkles because of the title character.  Miss Jane, because of an anatomical defect is an outsider yet shines through.  Probably the character I was most willing on to better things this year. Beautifully understated.


7. The High Mountains Of Portugal – Yann Martel (Canongate 2016) (Read and reviewed in January)


Martel’s “The Life Of Pi” was my 7th favourite book of 2003 and was even better on a re-read.  Thirteen years on and he’s here  at number 7 again and I expect that this will also re-read very well.  Three stories, all of which are quite bonkers, two exceptionally charming (still not too sure to make of the middle section).  Martel has me believing the unbelievable- the mark of a great storyteller.

6. The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox- Maggie O’Farrell (Headline 2006) (Read in January.  Reviewed in April)


Many thanks to newbooks who decided to have a Maggie O’Farrell retrospective prompting me to seek out this author via this extraordinary novel I had missed out on.  I sat on this review for quite a while because I didn’t know quite how to put my feelings about this book into words. I made it one of my 100 Essential reads.  It’s beautifully written and I am so looking forward to catching up with this author’s back catalogue.



Next post – The Top 5, includes a twentieth century classic, a translation, a debut, a Booker Shortlister and a literary award winner.

The Lost Europeans – Emanuel Litvinoff (Apollo 2016)



I’m familiar with Isherwood’s pre-war Berlin and the City during the war through Hans Fallada’s magnificent “Alone In Berlin”, but London-born Litivnoff has opened my eyes to the post-war years of the mid 50’s when a paranoid and guilt-ridden Germany was attempting to piece the country together.

This is a novel about restitution and identity.  Martin Stone, formerly  Silberstein, arrives in Berlin from the England he escaped to as a boy.  He is seeking financial reparation for the Nazi’s treatment of his family.  The Jews he encounters are unsurprisingly hostile towards the German nation but choosing to stay there for a variety of reasons.  There are some deep moral issues within their choices.  Martin meets up again with Hugo Krantz, a pre-war theatrical star, also an ex-London refugee, who is seeking a man he loved who joined the Nazis and betrayed and tortured him. How much of the past can be forgotten and how is it possible to move on?  Martin finds himself attracted to Karin, a German factory worker residing in East Berlin, but is it love or the need to reassert his identity?  Berlin has retained some of its pre-war seedy glamour. It can be a place where anything goes, but with continual looks over the shoulder.  No-one is sure who to trust and that paranoia comes across well to make a tense, gripping read.  Everyone has been unspeakably damaged yet still the pulse of the city lures them in.

Litvinoff’s debut novel was originally published in 1958 and was a real treat for me to discover.  I was fascinated by the characters and their dilemmas and I found the issues raised stimulating.  I would like to discuss this book with a book group for as well as being an accessible read there is a lot going on under the surface.

Occasionally Litvinoff is guilty of over-florid language and melodrama in the unfolding of the plot but this is still some achievement and has been the book I have enjoyed most to date in Apollo’s surprisingly wide-ranging series of eight of “the best books you’ve never read.”



The Lost Europeans was republished by Apollo in 2016