The Top Ten Books I Read in 2016. girl sitting on pile of books.

The Top Ten Books I Read In 2016

There’s only one thing I enjoy more than writing (and sometimes more) and that’s reading. I review a lot of the books I read on Goodreads, an online book club where readers can post reviews of books and connect with other readers. It’s always fun at the end of the year to look back at all the books I read that year, so I thought I’d share with you the ten books I most enjoyed reading in 2016.

Although my preferred genres are crime and suspense with a noir flavour, I’ve been making an effort to read outside of these genres to broaden my tastes and expose myself to other styles of writing, which helps me to improve my own.

Neverwhere, a fantasy by Neil Gaiman and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King, also containing many fantasy stories, are two examples, and I thoroughly enjoyed both books. I’ve also included a couple of memoirs (Natural Born Keller by Amanda Keller and Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor), a collection of non-fiction articles (Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner) a book of short stories (Crime Scenes Stories edited by Zane Lovitt) and a novella (Gotham by Nick Earls).

I won’t apologize for my leanings towards Aussie authors – I’m helping to spread the word about some of the very talented authors we have Down Under. So here they are in no particular order. 

1. Cambodia Noir by Nicholas Seeley.

Once acclaimed war photographer Will Keller lives in Cambodia, taking any job that pays and spending his nights in a haze of sex, drugs, alcohol and violence. His descent into oblivion is interrupted when he is approached by a young woman who asks him to find her sister who disappeared during a stint as an intern at the local newspaper.

This story, which takes place in the underbelly of Phnom Penh against a backdrop of political unrest and corruption, is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a suspenseful, well-plotted story soaked with atmosphere that transports you right into the seething, steamy heart of Cambodia. It’s obvious that the author, himself a photographer, lived for some time in Cambodia.

Here’s my review on Goodreads.

2. Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor.

Award-winning Australian author Cory Taylor wrote this book at the age of 60 as she was in the last stages of melanoma-related brain cancer. In this exquisitely written, moving memoir, she explores our society’s attitudes towards mortality and death from an academic point of view, as well as the ways dying has changed her own attitudes towards life and death.

Taylor knew 10 years prior that she had a terminal illness, so she had plenty of time to prepare for it, but as she says, ‘dying is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.’ The book was published in May 2016 and she died in July 2016.

Here’s my review on Goodreads.

3. An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire.

When 25 year old Bella Michaels is brutally murdered in the small Australian town of Strathdee, the community is stunned and a media storm descends. Her older sister Chris, a barmaid at the local pub, tries to cope with her grief by searching for answers, but as time goes by with no arrest, she becomes increasingly suspicious of those around her.

This is not the usual crime story concerned with catching the killer. It’s about the fallout of such a crime and the effect on family, friends, the residents of the town and society as a whole. Narrated from the alternating points of view of Chris and reporter May, who arrives in town to cover the story, it grapples with a number of social issues, including the role of media, particularly social media in such events, ingrained male attitudes towards female victims of rape and murder and the damage inflicted by small town bigotry, gossip and rumours.

Here’s my review on Goodreads.

4. Crime Scenes Stories edited by Zane Lovitt.

This is a book of crime short stories by Australian authors, from emerging authors to well-known names such as Peter Corris, Leigh Redhead and Carmel Bird. The stories are about prostitutes, criminals, cops, authors and everyone in between and I enjoyed every story, which is not something I can often say about collections of short stories.

Here’s my review on Goodreads.

5. Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner.

This is a collection of articles, essays and diary entries by acclaimed Australian author Helen Garner. The subject matter is varied, from conversations with her grandchildren and a moving tribute to her mother to backstage at the ballet and the trial of a teenager convicted of killing her newborn baby.

Garner writes simply and eloquently with wisdom, compassion and humour, and a fine ear and eye for the frailties of human nature. Women of a certain age will especially enjoy her controversial essay on the insults of age.

Here’s my review on Goodreads.

6. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King.

This is a collection of stories from the master of short stories, ranging from crime to supernatural thriller. They’re connected by themes – morality, the afterlife, guilt, what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past. Two that come to mind are Obits, about a columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries and The Dune, about a judge who can foretell freak accident deaths by seeing names written in the sand.

At the beginning of each story, King describes how he came up with the story idea and the writing process involved, which as an author, I found particularly fascinating.

Here’s my review on Goodreads.

7. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

An act of kindness catapults young businessman Richard Mayhew into the bizarre world of London Below, a city under the streets of London populated by people who’ve fallen through the cracks. As he tries to find his way out he encounters monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and mysterious girls in black velvet.

This was one of my first forays into fantasy, and I thoroughly enjoyed this Alice in Wonderland for adults.

Here’s my review on Goodreads.

8. The Song Is You by Megan Abbott.

In October 1949, actress Jean Spangler disappeared, leaving behind a young daughter and lots of dark rumours. Two years later, PR man Gil ‘Hop’ Hopkins tries to piece together what happened, navigating a web of sex, drugs and blackmail.

Abbott has written a number of novels that take place in this era, and excels in Hollywood noir. It’s an absorbing narrative with a number of twists and turns and Abbott’s richly evocative writing draws you into the world of broken dreams and depravity behind the glamorous façade of the movie industry.

Here’s my review on Goodreads.

9. Gotham by Nick Earls.

This is the first in the five novella series The Wisdom Tree by Aussie author Nick Earls. Although the novellas are all stand-alone stories with different characters, they are linked by a common theme of relationships and what they mean to us in contemporary society.

This story is about the encounter between journalist Jeff Foster and famous rapper Na$ti Boi, whom he has flown to New York to interview for a story. He has also brought his wife and four year old sick daughter so she can receive treatment.

Earls has a light, deft touch but his stories are full of depth and nuance and he is excellent at portraying the ambiguities and undertones of relationships. Each novella is only 20 000 words long so you can read them in one sitting, but they stay with you for a long time afterwards.

Here’s my review on Goodreads.

10. Natural Born Keller by Amanda Keller.

Amanda Keller, popular Australian radio and TV personality, takes us on a nostalgia-filled journey through her life, from her childhood and ‘daggy’ teenage years to her varied career in TV and radio, which includes travelling the world as a reporter for the acclaimed TV science show Beyond 2000.

This is an entertaining, funny and heart-warming book, written with Keller’s trademark self-deprecating, zany humour. There are some emotionally wrenching parts as well, but overall the tone is positive and upbeat. A great book to read to start off the new year.

Here’s my review on Goodreads.

Have you read any of these books? Or have recommendations of your own? I’d love you to share your comments in the comments box below.

About the Author Robin Storey

Robin Storey is an Australian author from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is a certified book nerd and has no weird hobbies or unusual pets.

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2 comments
Leeza says January 4, 2017

This looks like a great selection of books and I’m excited to read some of them. I was saddened to hear that Cory Taylor died. I met her at the Whitsunday Writers’ Festival a few years ago and she was lovely. Her writing is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your top ten books Robyn. Cheers Leeza

Reply
    Robin Storey says January 5, 2017

    Thanks Leeza, hope you enjoy my recommendations. I agree with you that Cory Taylor’s writing is beautiful – I loved her novels Me and Mr Booker and My Beautiful Enemy.

    Reply
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