The 10 best books of 2016
2016 has been one of those years where you probably considered just giving up on everything, but didn’t because we at least had books to provide us with a modicum of comfort.
And thankfully for us, there have been some great reads on both the local and international scene that have been published this year.
We share a list of our favourites.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Imbolo Mbue’s debut work was the subject of a six figure auction in the States last year, and it is quite evident as to why that is.
This book deals with the well documented, but elusive American dream, exploring themes of marriage, class, race, and influence using two contrasting families in New York in 2007.
It’s a timely novel, especially considering the plight of immigrants from around the world.
The Call by Peadar O'Guilin
Peadar O’Guilin’s book is a novel I’ve been hearing about a lot over the last couple of months.
And with good reason because it features a strong-willed heroine, disabled by polio, in a battle to survive and prepare for The Call – an event that forces all those eligible to participate in a fight for their lives in the space of three minutes and four seconds.
It’s book that’s a testimony to the perseverance of human nature and takes a look at what happens when the will to survive is stronger than the insurmountable obstacles before you.
South by Frank Owen
The world as we know it has come to an end. America is now a unified state after a devastating civil war, but solidly divided: North vs South.
The North secured its victory with a lethal biological weapon: an airborne virus which has the capability to spread even faster than it kills. But there’s hope: a small disease free colony down South exists, where food and provisions are a plenty.
South has all the skop, skiet en donner of a high velocity action movie and the graceful prose of the most distinguished pieces of literature.
Oh, and did you know that Frank Owen is actually the collaboration of Diane Awerbuck and Alex Latimer – both South African authors?
I’m the Girl Who Was Raped by Michelle Hattingh
Michelle breaks down rape myths while simultaneously addressing the grave lack of assistance for rape victims in Cape Town – one of the world’s rape capital cities.
You feel like you are there with her, like you can smell and almost taste the salty sea air. The fear, hearts racing, shadows and the cold. The bitter cold, even in summer. I felt it, through her words.
It’s not an easy read, but certainly a necessary one.
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Octogenarian neighbours who share a love of disliking each other may find themselves forced to admit that they share common ground.
Told against the backdrop of political and social change, the story of these ageing frenemies is engaging, amusing and touching all at the same time.
Flawed by Cecilia Ahern
This book pulls no punches when it comes to social commentary. Cecilia Ahern manages to make sly digs at our obsession with celeb and pop culture, highlighting the ridiculous pedestals we place them on, and the need to chase perfection because of that obsession.
This book is not an easy read, but it’s one that makes you question the emphasis that society places on what it means to be perfect.
A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi
Born of Afghan emigrants to America, author Nadia Hashimi has embraced the country and its complex family and gender politics to create highly readable fiction with fascinating characters who will stay with you long after the last page is turned.
Grey Magic by JT Lawrence
Our South African authors are seriously doing us proud this year and JT Lawrence is definitely an author whose name should be on your list.
This book has everything – family and expectations, love and fear, murder and mayhem, animals and potion gardens. The past and the present collide in this story, and sparks fly.
Cold Case Confession by Alex Eliseev
For any fan of true crime writing, Cold Case is up there with Karyn Maughan’s Love Is War: The Modimolle Monster and the Mandy Weiner/Barry Bateman collaboration, Behind The Door: The Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp Story.
Eliseev’s hope is that the story gives us more insight into the workings of our justice system. For me it does, but at the same time it also unveils the secret and sordid world that exists behind the ragged curtain we South Africans pull over our lives.
The Babylon Eye by Masha du Toit
(Another local indie author whose name should be on your list)
The Babylon Eye, the first in this series, centres around the middle-aged Elke. She’s been serving a prison sentence for “eco terrorism” (read: killing poachers) in a future alternate Cape Town. Prior to her incarceration, she was an expert at training cybernetically-enhanced dogs.
Now one of those dogs is lost in the station between the human reality and an alien reality and she is given an offer: win her freedom by finding it.
The Babylon Eye is a story with real heart for people who like being whisked away to imaginative new universes.