I leave it as long as possible each year, in case I read something truly wonderful in the final days of December, but this is the final post I’ll write in 2016 as I’m off to Taunton for new year out of the reaches of the internet. I always love compiling my favourite books (very much ordered by how much I liked them than by any objective assessment), and putting them in strict order, because I enjoy lists so much.
As usual, I have a couple of rules: no re-reads, and an author can only appear once. As isn’t unusual, my top ten expanded to a top twelve; it’s been a good year for reading. Without further ado…
12. The Making Of (2013) by Brecht Evens
I wouldn’t say that I have completely come around to graphic books, but I have read a few now – another one was on my longlist – and I loved Brecht Evens’ beautiful watercolours and quirky tale-telling.
11. Alfred and Guinevere (1958) by James Schuyler
An NYRB gem which portrays children’s conversation astonishingly well. An author I’m keen to try again in 2016.
10. Cluny Brown (1944) by Margery Sharp
More than a decade passed between reading my first and second Sharp novels: this witty tale of a maid who gets above her station was a delight. Thanks Jane at Beyond Eden Rock for running a Margery Sharp week!
9. Anne of Green Gables (1908) by L.M. Montgomery
I finally read OVW’s favourite children’s book, and we can now be proper kindred spirits. Matthew for best father figure ever? Yup.
8. Barchester Towers (1857) by Anthony Trollope
I didn’t get around to writing about this properly, but the linked post mentions it. Am I an anomaly to finding this one (though wonderful) inferior to The Warden?
7. On the Move (2015) by Oliver Sacks
This year the world lost a great and (more importantly) kind man, but it was a privilege and pleasure to read his autobiography before he died.
6. Virginia Woolf’s Garden (2013) by Caroline Zoob
The beautiful photography in this book is probably what sells it the most – it’s breathtaking – but Zoob’s descriptions of Leonard and Virginia Woolf are also wonderful. Thanks Colin for this present last Christmas!
5. Quick Curtain (1934) by Alan Melville
Easily my favourite of the joyous British Library Crime Classics that have delighted so any of us this year – Melville’s plotting may not be Christie level, but his writing is very funny, and his quick-witted characters exchange quips brilliantly.
4. A Curious Friendship (2015) by Anna Thomasson
I can’t quite believe anybody wrote a book about Edith Olivier: Anna’s biography of Olivier’s friendship with Rex Whistler is perfectly researched, wisely told, and – above all – an immersively engaging read.
3. My Family and Other Animals (1954) by Gerald Durrell
A riotously funny memoir of life with an eccentric family on Corfu. I wasn’t enamoured by the sections of wildlife, but they are easily outweighed by the hilarious familial exchanges.
2. Nuts in May (1942) by Cornelia Otis Skinner
What a wonderful discovery! Cornelia Otis Skinner is the American E.M. Delafield in many ways – a self-deprecating wife and mother who writes hilariously about the ridiculous moments of everyday life.
1. The Shelf (2014) by Phyllis Rose
And, in at number one – this wonderful book about a reading challenge! Rose chooses to read all the books on a (more or less) random shelf from a New York library, and the various ventures it leads her on. A joy for any bibliophile.