Best Reads – 2016

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2016 has been a self-indulgent reading year; less serious fiction, more crime fiction and more non-fiction. And not enough poetry!

Reading has always a serendipitous activity for me, following my nose (or recommendations), searching through shelves at libraries and bookshops to find books that look interesting. My favourite read for 2016 was a book published in 2013 that I discovered on a table at a Bargain Books store in KZN.

The Book? Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (2013:Pan Macmillan).

Burial Rites is set in 1829 Iceland and is the story of Agnes charged with the murder of her former master. She is sent to an isolated farm to wait for her execution. As Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.

‘They said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from men, and now they must steal mine. I imagine, then, that we are all candle flames, greasy-bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind, and in the stillness of the room I hear footsteps, awful coming footsteps, coming to blow me out and send my life up away from me in a grey wreath of smoke. I will vanish into the air and the night. They will blow us all out, one by one, until it is only their own light by which they see themselves. Where will I be then?’ from the Prologue (p1)

More about the book and the author can be found on her website: http://hannahkentauthor.com/

The good news is that her new book The Good People will be released internationally in 2017.

I discovered Ann Leckie this year and after reading Ancillary Justice (which explores fascinating ideas around gender politics, AI, communities, identity and language) I read the other two books in the series: Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy.

More about the books and the author can be found on her website http://www.annleckie.com/

Bernard Minier, the French crime writer, was a guest author at the Franschhoek Literary Festival – I read two of his books: The Frozen Dead (2011) and A Song for Drowned Souls (2012). Crime fiction is my escape read and it is always wonderful to discover new and interesting crime writers.

More about the books and the author can be found on his website http://bernard-minier.com/en/

In Hitler, Verwoerd, Mandela and Me (2016) Marianne Thamm’s recounts her life story in a straight forward manner with humour and compassion. An interview with Thamm can be found on Aerodrome: http://aerodrome.co.za/worklife-marianne-thamm/

My poetry choice is Women’s Work (Seren Books:2016) edited by Eva Salzman and Amy Wack. It is an anthology that I am very glad is in my collection as I will return to it again and again.

The short story anthology Water published by Short Story Day Africa kept me delighted from beginning to end. This is the official website for Short Story Day Africa: http://shortstorydayafrica.org

Most of the books I read in 2016 can be found on my Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/5119136

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