My best books from 2016

2016 was bad when evaluated in terms of celebrity deaths, climate change indicators and world politics. However, for me at least, it was a very good year for reading. Here’s my roundup of recommendations to help 2017 be a good reading year for you. All the titles are hyperlinked so you can do some impulse shopping…

Novels to get lost in

A Man Called Ove – Fredrick Backman

man called ove

Miserable, isolated, suicidal old man very slowly gets won over to the idea of living a bit longer. This is a painfully moving and not one bit syrupy story of the power of human connection.



The Portable Veblen – Elizabeth Mackenzie

Portable Veblen

This is an incredibly quirky and surprising story with a lot of talk about squirrels and the best kind of redemption. Veblen, if you were wondering, was the economist who coined the term ‘conspicuous consumption’ but whether that is who our heroine is named after you will have to read the book to find out.


Not Working – Lisa Owens

Not working

A young woman gives up her meaningless job to take some time to decide what she wants to do with her life. Cue obsession with bush by front door and a lot of daytime TV. One of those books that makes you (or maybe just me) wince with recognition.



The Trouble with Goats and Sheep – Joanna Cannon

goats and sheep

I read this after hearing the author interviewed on Radio 4 and really liking the sound of her and the book. It’s a mystery as seen through the eyes of a child. Very satisfying and evocative.



The Wonder – Emma Donoghue

the wonder

If you’ve only heard of Emma Donoghue for her book ‘The Room’ and the very idea of it freaked you out, don’t be put off. This is a brilliant read (as was ‘The Room’ but this isn’t nearly as haunting) about a girl in rural Ireland who is apparently surviving without food, and the nurse sent to verify the miracle.



Non-fiction to expand your world

Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson

just mercy

A powerful, painful, inspiring account of a young lawyer’s experiences seeking justice for black death row inmates in the southern US.




Lab Girl –Hope Yahren

lab girl

Part memoir by a quirky, driven and acutely self-aware female scientist, part peek into the secret life of trees, this book had me gripped even though I don’t have a scientific bone in my body.




At Home – Bill Bryson

at home

Bryson goes room by room around his house, from there taking us on a tour of the history of private living. It is the size of a brick, and more of a dip in and out kind of a read than a page turner, but I preserved to the end and I was glad I had.



Letters of Note – Shaun Usher

letters of note

This is a collection of letters from a wide range of people. Each one is like a short story. They are funny, profound, offensive, earth-shatteringly significant and piteously trivial. Absolutely compulsive reading.



Books that help with the struggles of being a human

Don’t Beat Yourself Up – Tania Bright

dont beat yourself up

I don’t have an older sister but if I did I’d love to think she’d give me advice like this – warm, brutally honest, funny and hard come-by.




Rising Strong – Brene Brown

Rising strong

All about developing resilience. Just brilliant. I’m planning to read it again soon.




The Road Back to You – Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

Road back

I’ve just got into the Enneagram, a personality type thingie with a lot of nuance and some spiritual depth. This has been an interesting read although I’m still not sure what number I am.




Christian Books

Body – Paula Gooder


If you’ve ever thought being spiritual meant ambivalence about your physicality, or wondered what the relationship was between soul and spirit, or had worries about whether you’d disappear into wispy nothingness in heaven READ THIS BOOK!



Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs – Ellen E. Davis


I never expected I’d use words like ‘gripping,’ ‘life-changing’ or ‘intriguing’ about a Bible commentary, and yet here I am: this commentary is gripping, life-changing and intriguing.



Leap Over a Wall – Eugene Peterson

Theleap over life of David retold with wisdom, humour, insight and profound understanding of both God and human nature. Peterson: my hero. This was my fifth time of reading and it gets better each time.