Claire and Tim’s top ten books of 2016


It’s been a crazy year in the world and on a personal scale, but I’ve always come back to books. I read 76 this year, lots of proofs (thank you publishers), lots newly published, and I discovered many books and authors that I somehow missed reading years ago. This is a list of my favourite books I read this year, and it was a very difficult list to make, so difficult that unlike last year’s list, I found it impossible to do a top three.

And after my top ten is Tim’s (my librarian husband) top 10. He still doesn’t have his own website, so just like last year, he’s invited himself onto mine. Although we read many of the same books, we only cross-over on three.


The link in the book’s title will take you to my full review on GoodReads.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. One of only three books published this year that made it onto my list. I loved this story of secrets and step families brought together.

Where you Once Belonged by Kent Haruf. I’ve read a lot of his work now – all of them about small-town America and the down-to-earth people who inhabit those places – and this one has really stuck with me.

The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon. This is a collection of short stories and I’ve been going on about it to anyone who will listen, all year. Every story a gem.

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. I’m so behind on Hollinghurst, having only discovered him, and The Swimming Pool Library last year. This seems to be a bit of a marmite book, but I loved it.

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift. Another book I’ve been telling everyone to read this year. So sad, so beautifully written.

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich. This isn’t published until 16th February in the UK (January 3rd img_4767in the US). It’s the only proof copy and the only debut on my list. This is going to be big, or it really ought to be big. It’s a wonderful, mesmerizing novel.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Again, another catch-up. I also read My Name is Lucy Barton this year, which I loved, but I enjoyed Olive Kitteridge’s difficult personality better.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym. Why did no one tell me about Barbara Pym before, or if you did, why didn’t I listen? Tim has bought me No Fond Return of Love for Christmas, so the good thing is I have her whole back catalogue to read.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. More catching-up with a book everyone else has already read. What was I reading when everyone was reading this? Loved it.

The Silence in the Garden by William Trevor. I’d tried Love and Summer a long time ago, but I wasn’t struck by it. I picked this up, probably (sadly) because Trevor died this year, and my goodness it was amazing. The writing, the atmosphere, the characters. I’m definitely going to go back and read more of his.

That’s my list. I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these and if you have, whether they would have made your top ten books.

Tim’s List


Tim doesn’t do reviews, so you’ll have to believe him when he says he loved all of these. We agreed on Idaho by Emily Ruskovich, Where you Once Belonged by Kent Haruf, and Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift, even though I’ve read all the books on his list, apart from The End of Vandalism. Here’s his list if you can’t read the titles in the picture:

The Girls by Emma Clineimg_4768
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury
The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage
Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen
Where you Once Belonged by Kent Haruf
The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke, translated by Jamie Bulloch



Swimming Lessons

My second novel, Swimming Lessons, will be published in January 2017 in the UK, and Canada, and February 2017 in the USA. Click on the country links to pre-order.

25 thoughts on “Claire and Tim’s top ten books of 2016

  1. LOts of great choices and lots to add to my TBR pile too. I also loved My Name is Lucy Barton and Commonwealth, and the Mark Haddon is just all kinds of wonderful – I love piers and live near Brighton pier. I really liked Emma Cline’s writing style in The Girls (had been dubious of the subject matter as don’t do grisly) and also was fascinated by the character portrayal in Eileen although I didn’t find it an ‘enjoyable’ read as such -I still can’t quite make up my mind about it. Have never got round to Mothering Sunday but seeing it here has jogged my memory I want to read it. Happy New Year to you and lots more great books in 2017!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved ‘A visit from the goon squad.’ Not read Graham Swift novels but love his short stories, try ‘England and other stories’. Still have the pleasure of ‘Olive Kitteridge’ to come (on my shelf) and never tried William Trevor, but did enjoy Mark Haddon’s shortlisted short story for BBC National Short Story comp so will check out his collection. My top ten for 2016 would include ‘Station Eleven’, again like you my reading is always behind everyone else.

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  3. Love seeing what others are reading, especially when the list comes from a favorite author! But how oh how did you both miss Our Endless Numbered Days? GREAT reading! 🙂 All the best with Swimming Lessons, Claire; I can’t wait to read it! I think it might be another book group choice. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree on Barbara Pym! Why did no one tell me about her until this year?? Also loved Olive Kitteridge (and much preferred it to My Name is Lucy Barton). A visit from the Good Squad is marvellous, and I’ve long liked Allan Hollinghurst. I really, really enjoyed Commonwealth – one of those books that you didn’t want to end. A book I only read this year and would make it in my top ten is All Passions Spent by Vita Sackville-West. I also discovered Elinor Lipman’s screamingly funny novels. I don’t know if she is out of print but Lutyens & Rubinstein always have a good selection. I’m very much looking forward to Swimming Lessons.

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  6. Thank you for the recommendations. I’ve been hearing a lot about Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth, but I’ve been hesitant because I so disliked State of Wonder. On the other hand, I adored Bel Canto, so maybe I will try it! And congratulations on your second book!

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  7. Something – and I can’t figure out what – has kept me from reading “Commonwealth”, but your recommendation convince me I should give it a try. Like you I enjoy Elizabeth Strout’s writing a lot – and I very much agree; Olive Kitteridge is a wonderful complex (anti-)heroin.

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