2016 – A Year’s Reading

My book of the year is one of the most recent I’ve read – Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End. A lyrical story carried along on a torrent of magical sentences. It sneaks in ahead of Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess, in which I was gloriously immersed for the best part of a month early in the year.


My discovery of the year is Patrick White’s Voss. Australia’s only Nobel Laureate has fallen out of favour since his death in 1990, but merits revival. David Marr’s thumping great biography of White is a superb evocation of an enigmatic and difficult man. I expect I’ll be reading plenty more Patrick White in 2017.

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My rediscovery – not that I ever forgot him – was JG Farrell. It had been at least a decade since I last read his books. Lavinia Greacen’s superb biography, together with her selection of Farrell’s letters and diaries, sent me back to Farrell’s Lost Booker Prize-winning Troubles. It was every bit as good as I remembered.


Moving to Spain in September has added a new dimension to my reading routine: I listen to audiobooks on my daily 10-mile walks. Adam Hochschild’s exceptional account of foreign fighters in the Spanish Civil War, Spain in Our Hearts, was by turns a profound and uncomfortable experience as I walked among people who are just a generation or two removed from the horrors of that era. By contrast, Tom Sharpe’s two South Africa-set books, Riotous Assembly and Indecent Exposure, had me laughing out loud, much to the bemusement of people on the Javea seafront.


In the year ahead, I hope to explore modern Spanish literature – I’ve already got books by Javier Marias and Enrique Vila-Matas lined up. My most anticipated forthcoming title is Lincoln in the Bardo, the first novel by George Saunders. I’m one of the few people I know who hasn’t had an advance copy. Reviews so far have left me jealous and impatient.


THE FULL 2016 LIST, starting with the most recent

(AB) – Audiobook

Riders in the Chariot by Patrick White

The Painter of Battles by Arturo Perez-Reverte (AB)

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (AB)

The Spire by William Golding (AB)

Patrick White: A Life by David Marr

Voss by Patrick White

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (AB)

Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited by Philip Eade

Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (AB)

Indecent Exposure by Tom Sharpe (AB)

Riotous Assembly by Tom Sharpe (AB)

The Song Dog by James McClure (AB)

The Terranauts by TC Boyle

Spain in Our Hearts by Adam Hochschild (AB)

Finale by Thomas Mallon

Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders (AB)

Conclave by Robert Harris

The Pigeon Tunnel by John le Carre

A Very English Scandal by John Preston

The English Teacher by Yiftach R Atir

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

The North Water by Ian McGuire

Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

The Many by Wyl Menmuir

All That Man Is by David Szalay

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (AB)

Water Music by TC Boyle

Chink: A Biography by Lavinia Greacen

Prospero’s Cell by Lawrence Durrell

Gerald Durrell: The Authorised Biography by Douglas Botting

Rabbit At Rest by John Updike (AB)

The Comedians by Graham Greene

The Dark Labyrinth by Lawrence Durrell

Rabbit is Rich by John Updike (AB)

The Maples Stories by John Updike

Harry Mount’s Odyssey by Harry Mount

Wildlife by Richard Ford

Updike by Adam Begley

The Dig by John Preston

Rabbit Redux by John Updike (AB)

In the Wet by Nevil Shute

Round the Bend by Nevil Shute

Trustee from the Toolroom by Nevil Shute

On the Beach by Nevil Shute

Requiem for a Wren by Nevil Shute

No Highway by Nevil Shute

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

Rabbit, Run by John Updike (AB)

The Complete Enderby by Anthony Burgess

Cakes and Ale by W Somerset Maugham

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

See You in November by Peter Stiff

Anthony Burgess by Roger Lewis

Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess

JG Farrell: In His Own Words ed by Lavinia Greacen

Troubles by JG Farrell

JG Farrell: The Making of a Writer by Lavinia Greacen