My favourite books of 2016

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas! I’m back, as promised, with my list of favourite books of the year. This is a slightly shorter list than in recent years, though I’m not sure whether that means I haven’t read as many outstanding books this year or just that I’ve become more discerning and better at narrowing the choices down. Anyway, here are nine of the best, plus a few more which didn’t quite make it onto my final list…



Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

From my review: “This is one of the most compelling mystery novels I’ve read for a long time. Both the fictional story and the ‘real life’ one had me completely gripped, trying to figure out which clues were important and which were designed to mislead us, who had a valid alibi and who didn’t…needless to say, I failed to solve either of the mysteries and fell into most of the traps that had been set for the reader.”


Exposure by Helen Dunmore

From my review: “The first thing I need to say is that although Exposure certainly is a Cold War spy novel of sorts, it’s also a compelling story of love and betrayal, secrets and lies, as seen through the eyes of a wonderful cast of strong and complex characters.”

Kristin Lavransdatter

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

From my review: “I have always loved long books, the sort you can bury yourself in for weeks, becoming immersed in a fully-formed fictional world and getting to know characters who, by the time you reach the final page, feel almost like personal friends. Kristin Lavransdatter, though, is more than just a ‘long’ book – it’s a very long book!”

Prince of Foxes

Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger

From my review: “Not being an expert on the Renaissance (although I always enjoy reading about it and am gradually building up my knowledge) I found that I was learning a lot from Prince of Foxes as well as being entertained by it. It really is a great book!”


Dictator by Robert Harris

From my review: “Until recently, I didn’t have much interest in Ancient Rome and would never have thought that I could find reading about the intricacies of Roman politics so exciting and fascinating. How wrong I was! In fact, the only negative thing I can say about this trilogy is that it has now come to an end.”

Lorna Doone

Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore

From my review: “A clan of murderous outlaws, a dashing highwayman, stolen jewels, family feuds, political intrigue, lots of beautiful scenery and a tender love story: R.D. Blackmore’s 1869 classic, Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor, has all of these things and more.”

The White Witch

The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge

From my review: “…but what I loved most about this book were the details of daily village life in the seventeenth century, the beautiful descriptions of the English countryside, and the undercurrents of magic, mystery and mythology which run throughout the story.”

Troy Chimneys

Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy

From my review: “I was so impressed by the writing and by Margaret Kennedy’s grasp of the period (or periods, as there are really two) in which the story takes place. The Victorian letters felt authentic and Miles Lufton’s own narrative style felt so much like the voice of a Regency gentleman that I could easily forget I was reading a book written in the 1950s and by a woman.”


The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

From my review: “The Woodlanders was apparently one of Hardy’s own favourites; he is quoted as having said, ‘On taking up The Woodlanders and reading it after many years, I like it as a story best of all’. Now that I’ve read more than half of his novels, I have to say that I think I agree with him.”


And these books deserve a special mention too:

The Strangler Vine by MJ Carter
The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin
Flush by Virginia Woolf
Revelation by CJ Sansom
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Revelations of Carey Ravine by Debra Daley


Have you read any of these books? Which books have you enjoyed most in 2016?

21 thoughts on “My favourite books of 2016

  1. Lisa says:

    Magpie Murders finally comes out here in the US in March, and I can’t wait to read it.

    I felt the same way about Troy Chimneys – though the ending left me very sad.

    • Helen says:

      I would probably never have read Elizabeth Goudge without your reading weeks, so thank you! I’m glad Troy Chimneys is on your Mount TBR list – I hope you like it. 🙂

  2. heavenali says:

    That’s a lovely varied list. I read Exposure at the beginning of the year, and the story has certainly stayed with me. Funnily enough I also read Troy Chimneys this year too. I really fancy reading The Magpie Murders- although I expect it is more gruesome than I generally like.
    Happy new year to you. My list will be up on NYE all being well.

    • Helen says:

      I think you might like Magpie Murders. It reminded me of Agatha Christie and I didn’t find it too gruesome at all. I’ll look forward to seeing your list!

  3. Carmen says:

    Great choices, Helen! I’m surprised that you rounded them up to a short list given the amount of books you read. I hope I get to read the Cicero trilogy in the upcoming year. When I read your review of The Moving Toyshop, I made a mental note to read it at some point.

    • Helen says:

      My list is usually much longer, but this year I feel that I’ve read a lot of good books but not many great ones, which made it much easier to narrow them down! All three Cicero novels are wonderful, so I hope you do get to read them next year.

  4. The Book Whisperer says:

    I have Magpie Murders on my radar and it has just moved up the list several places now – I love mysteries that I can’t solve; I get fed up of working out who dunnit so early on. Really looking forward to this now. I haven’t read The Woodlanders either but love Hardy and The Mayor of Casterbridge is one of my all time favourites (have you read this one?). I’ll be sure to check out the others on your list too now.

    • Helen says:

      Magpie Murders is brilliant – I think you’ll enjoy it. 🙂 And yes, I loved The Mayor of Casterbridge too, but I thought The Woodlanders was even better.

  5. jessicabookworm says:

    I’ve sadly not read any of the books on your list, however it is a great selection and I would happily try any of them 🙂 Yesterday, I dwindled down all my great reads down to my ten favourites for 2016 and my post will be up tomorrow. Happy reading in 2017!

  6. FictionFan says:

    Love the variety in your list! Magpie Murders and Exposure made my end of year lists too, and I really want to read that Robert Harris. And Lorna Doone is on my Classics Club list, so I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it… 🙂

    • Helen says:

      I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Robert Harris so far. All three of his Cicero novels are excellent – and I still have Conclave on the TBR which I’m hoping will be one of my first books read in 2017. 🙂

    • Helen says:

      Yes, Exposure is fascinating and not really what I’d been expecting. I loved it and would definitely recommend reading it, as well as Lorna Doone and Troy Chimneys. 🙂

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