Book People's Top 10 Best Books of 2016

2016 has been a turbulent year to say the least, so why not escape the world's woes for a while with some of the brilliant books below? From gripping fictional tales to inspiring non-fiction works, here are some of the best books of 2016.

1. When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

On the cusp of completing 10 years of neurosurgeon training, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. In this stunning reflection on life and mortality, Kalanithi chronicles his transformation from medical student to patient, considering what constitutes a meaningful existence and how to face life when it is devastatingly interrupted.

2. Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups

Bruno Vincent

This hilarious new series is great for Enid Blyton fans or anyone who enjoys a laugh at modern culture. George, Dick, Anne, Julian and Timmy face a host of new challenges. Can their friendship survive Brexit? Can they find a decent gluten-free cream tea? How will they fare when they attempt to give up booze for charity? Find out in these riotous reads.

3. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well

Meik Wiking

Embrace the new craze of 'hygge' - a term that more or less means comfort, warmth and togetherness - and live life the Danish way with this inspiring, beautiful book. Choose the right lighting, organise dinner parties, dress comfortably and more with the practical steps provided.

4. Swing Time

Zadie Smith

This enthralling novel travels from North West London to West Africa and features two girls who dream of being dancers, but only one has the talent. The other has ideas about rhythm, time, black bodies and black music, and more. The close and complicated friendship between the girls ends in their early 20s, but is never forgotten.


Mary Beard

Discover the fascinating history and culture of Ancient Rome in this engrossing book. It explores its empire, conquest, cruelty and excess, its journey from an insignificant village to a dominating world power, its politics, social structure, and religious controversy, and explains why the Romans are still important to us.

6. The Sellout

Paul Beatty

Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2016, this cutting satire follows a protagonist who sets out to put his hometown of Dickens back on the map by reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which ultimately lands him in the Supreme Court. It challenges the sacred tenets of the US Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement and more, in a humorous, perceptive way.

7. Planet Earth II: A New World Revealed

Stephen Moss

Planet Earth II has been captivating us on TV with phenomenal footage of incredible animals and stunning landscapes. In this beautiful new book, you can continue to marvel at jaw-dropping photography and fascinating facts, with over 250 breathtaking images and lots of information on different creatures and environments, from arid deserts to lush jungles.

8. Hurrah for Gin

Katie Kirby

Perfect for any parent, this riotous read contains absolutely no useful advice whatsoever, but does prove highly entertaining with its candid portrayal of the wonderful highs and desperate lows of parenthood, complemented by amusing stick-man illustrations.

9. The Underground Railroad

Colson Whitehead

Follow Cora and Caesar, slaves working on a cotton plantation in Georgia, as they embark on a daring escape through the Underground Railroad across America. Whitehead's imagining of its physical form sees it as a dilapidated box car pulled along by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can. Cora and Caesar must travel state by state, encountering a new world at every stop, trying to evade the slave-catcher on their heels.

10. Before the Fall

Noah Hawley

After the Batemans' private jet crashes into the ocean, anonymity will no longer be possible for Scott Burroughs and the Batemans' small son, JJ, the only survivors. A flurry of speculation follows, which soon peppers the official investigation with false conjectures. Was there a bomb, a missile perhaps? Who is Scott Burroughs? Discover the intricate lives of those who were on board as you read this intense, exhilarating novel.

  • PETH
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    It's now a decade since the BBC's Planet Earth wowed everyone with its groundbreaking footage that showed us our planet from an entirely new perspective. To mark this occasion, not only will there be a second series - Planet Earth II - but you can also own this jaw-dropping tie-in book.

    Providing the most exciting and immersive picture of our world's wildlife yet, this book has over 250 breathtaking photographs and stills from the show's spectacular footage and will help you make sense of the complex life of some of our most amazing places. Each chapter focuses on a different environment, from the most desolate desert to the depths of the jungle and Stephen Moss' informative text explains how the resident creatures have evolved and adapted to these extreme conditions.

    This book also looks at how the animals compete with each other in their efforts for survival. It even focuses on the urban environment and the range of behaviours occurring right under our noses.
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    At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade's training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi's transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity - the brain - and finally into a patient and a new father. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away? Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.
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    From the creator and writer of the Emmy Award-winning series Fargo. The rich are different. But fate is blind. Down-on-his-luck artist Scott Burroughs would usually take the ferry back to New York from Martha's Vineyard, but he is unexpectedly offered a spare seat on the Bateman family's private jet. Then just minutes after take-off, the plane crashes into the ocean and of the eight passengers and three crew, only Scott and the Batemans' small son, JJ, are left alive. The extraordinary nature of their survival, combined with the fact that David Bateman was CEO of a populist TV news channel, means that Scott will not be returning to anonymity. Along with the orphaned boy, he is engulfed by a maelstrom of speculation, which soon overtakes the official investigation into the tragedy. Who else was on the plane? Was there a bomb, a missile? Who is Scott Burroughs? As the chapters drive towards their heart-stopping conclusion, weaving with ever-increasing suspense between the shocking aftermath of the crash and the intimate backstory of each of the passengers and crew members, Noah Hawley creates a searching, thrilling novel of love, fame, wealth, art, entertainment and power.
    Mary Beard
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    Sunday Times Top 10 Bestseller Ancient Rome matters. Its history of empire, conquest, cruelty and excess is something against which we still judge ourselves. Its myths and stories - from Romulus and Remus to the Rape of Lucretia - still strike a chord with us. And its debates about citizenship, security and the rights of the individual still influence our own debates on civil liberty today. SPQR is a new look at Roman history from one of the world's foremost classicists. It explores not only how Rome grew from an insignificant village in central Italy to a power that controlled territory from Spain to Syria, but also how the Romans thought about themselves and their achievements, and why they are still important to us. Covering 1,000 years of history, and casting fresh light on the basics of Roman culture from slavery to running water, as well as exploring democracy, migration, religious controversy, social mobility and exploitation in the larger context of the empire, this is a definitive history of ancient Rome. SPQR is the Romans' own abbreviation for their state: Senatus Populusque Romanus, 'the Senate and People of Rome'.
  • HYGG
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    The Little Book of Hygge is a book that encourages you to live life the Danish way and embrace the well-being benefits of Hygge.

    A word that has no direct translation, Hygge more or less means comfort, warmth or togetherness. It's the feeling of sharing good food with your closest friends and exchanging easy conversation or waking up to a beautiful, crisp morning. It basically means comfort, warmth or togetherness.

    Full of warming photography, this little book shows you how to become more Hygge by offering up a variety of practical steps and tips. From choosing the right lighting to organising dinner parties and even dressing comfortably, the tips are all backed up by author Meik Wiking's years of research at Copenhagen's Happiness Research Institute.
  • Five Go Gluten-Free - Hardback - 9781786482228 - Bruno Vincent
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    Enid Blyton for Grown-ups is a hilarious parody series that finds George, Dick, Anne, Julian and Timmy the dog facing a host of new challenges that will resonate with adults. In this book, they confront a brand new challenge - is it possible to get a gluten-free cream tea?

    The Five are all feeling rather rum and whatever they do in their attempts to get better doesn't seem to work. As they try to cure themselves, all sorts of terrifying issues occur. Julian goes online and self-diagnoses that he has pancreatic cancer and bird flu, Anne decides to have herself exorcised, Dick goes to witch doctor who calls himself a 'homeopath' and George is the one who discovers they need to go on an exclusion diet - hence the group enter a world of hard-to-find and maddeningly expensive specialist food.
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    Best served with gin, this hilarious, near-the-knuckle book tells you the things no other parenting guide dares. Not a how-to guide, Hurrah for Gin is actually a book for perfectly imperfect parent that lists out some of the frustrations you're bound to come across as your little one grows...

    Containing no useful advice whatsoever - but with a series of funny stick-man cartoons that will have anyone who has raised a child laughing out loud - this is a painfully but wonderfully honest portrait of the ups and downs of parenthood.

    Showing how it's entirely possible to love your children unconditionally while also finding them extremely infuriating, this book covers all the way from pregnancy to starting school. It's inspired by the popular Hurrah for Gin Facebook page.

    Please note this book contains language some may deem inappropriate.
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    Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction 2016 Shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award 2016 A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. Born in the 'agrarian ghetto' of Dickens on the outskirts of Los Angeles and raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, the narrator of The Sellout spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He was led to believe that his father's pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family's financial woes. But when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that's left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral. Fuelled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been wiped off the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town's most famous resident - the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins - he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court. In his trademark absurdist style, which has the uncanny ability to make readers want to both laugh and cry, The Sellout is an outrageous and outrageously entertaining indictment of our time.
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    Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017, White Teeth author Zadie Smith's Swing Time is an ambitious, extraordinary and beautifully written novel about two brown girls who meet in a dance class in West London.

    Both girls dream of being dancers but only one has the requisite talent. The other is full of ideas about rhythm, time and what it means to belong and to be free. They have a close but complicated childhood friendship that comes to abrupt end in their early 20s. Although it's never revisited, neither girl forgets what it meant...

    This is a story about music and identity, race and class, and about those who follow the dance and those who lead it . . .
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    Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017 and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2017, Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad is an exciting, impeccable and moving read about a slave's desperate bid for freedom.

    Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia and also an outcast even among her fellow Africans. She is approaching womanhood and it's clear that even greater pain lies ahead. When Caesar, a slave who has only recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to escape to the north...

    The Underground Railroad is a dilapidated box car being pulled along tracks by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives along the way and Cora and Caesar first stop off in South Carolina. it seems like a haven but then they discover a slave catcher is close on their heels.

    Every stop of the journey finds a different world in this novel that expertly recreates the unique terrors for black people during the pre-Civil War era.