At this time of year, Reads of the Year lists are popping up in media outlets all over the place, filled with authors, journalists and broadcasters on what they’ve enjoyed most in 2016. Unfortunately, these lists all too often reflect subconscious bias, with some of them seeing male contributors recommend other men in 75% of their picks. I’m tired of Reads of the Year lists filled with men recommending men. To redress the balance and shake things up a bit, I’ve curated my own light hearted Reads of the Year list for TYCI, inviting friends likely to have fun and interesting suggestions to share their tips on their favourite writing by women in 2016.
For me, a few books stood out above the rest, and I’ve written about most of them in this column. From the cocktail-stick-sharp short stories by debut writer Lara Williams in the zeitgeist capturing collection Treats, to non-fiction Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City looking at artists inspired by alienation in the big city. Some of my favourite novels of the year were set in recent history, such as Bella Mia by Donatella di Pietrantonio (translated by Franca Scurti Simpson), following the emotional aftermath of families displaced by the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake in Italy with tender and well paced prose, The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride steeped in 90s London, theatre, and love, probably my most eagerly anticipated publication of the year (my tear-stained copy didn’t disappoint); and in Han Kang’s follow-up to the success of The Vegetarian with Human Acts (translated by Deborah Smith), on the 1980 Gwangju uprising of South Korea. It may have been a challenging year for many but, perhaps unsurprisingly, it has also been a year that has brought us bold and original writing.
Regular readers of my SPINE column know that I’m just as likely to be reading something brand new as a book from a few years ago: reading habits don’t always follow the publishing calendar, and the same is true of my contributors. I asked for what they’ve most enjoyed and there are some brilliant sounding suggestions in here.