Top 10 Best Fiction Books of 2016

Here, we take a look back at the big hitters and prize-winners of 2016, a year which was pretty turbulent in many respects... but at least provided us with some brilliant books to escape into! Browse below to discover your favourite from the best fiction books of 2016.

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1. Golden Hill

Francis Spufford

It is 1746. A delightful and handsome stranger, Mr Smith, has just arrived in the small town of New York from England. It turns out he has an order for a thousand pounds which he wishes to cash - a perplexing yet compelling proposition. Can this unfamiliar man be trusted when he refuses to say what he will do with his fortune, in a place already rife with financial corruption? And what will happen when the enigmatic Mr Smith falls for Tabitha, his creditor's daughter? This book won the Costa First Novel Award 2016.

2. 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. This book won the National Book Award 2016 for Fiction.

3. 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.

4. The Glorious Heresies

Lisa McInerney

One murder affects the lives of five misfits on the fringes of Ireland's post-crash society. Ryan is a 15-year-old drug dealer, desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous consequences. Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after 40 years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she gave up years before, has become a formidable gangster. Seeking atonement, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked for, and risks bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the limelight... This biting, funny novel won the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016.

5. The Bombs that Brought Us Together

Brian Conaghan

Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award 2016, this powerful tale will appeal to young thriller fans. Charlie Law is 14 years old and has lived in Little Town his entire life under strict rules: no drinking, no fighting, no litter. But then he meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, and everything changes. Bombs start to fall, Old Country's soldiers arrive, and Charlie soon learns that to keep loved ones safe, sometimes you have to do bad things. He finds himself entangled in a perilous game, featuring a gun, a bad man, his best friend and his dearest enemy.

6. We Don't Know What We're Doing

Thomas Morris

Winner of the Wales Book of the Year Award 2016, this enthralling book of short stories features a young video shop assistant who exchanges the home comforts of one mother-figure for a fleeting encounter with another; two siblings who find themselves in a coal mine with a Japanese tourist; a Welsh stag on a debauched weekend in Dublin who confesses an unimaginable truth, and many more engrossing tales. It provides illuminating glimpses into the lives of Caerphilly, highlighting the lost, the lonely and the bemused.

7. Children of Time

Adrian Tchaikovsky

The last members of the dying human race left a ruined Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. They discover the greatest treasure of a lost age - a world terraformed and prepared for human life. However, it is not simply waiting for them, pristine, untouched. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind's worst nightmare. Two civilisations will have to fight for their new world, both testing the limits of what they will do to survive. Who are the true heirs of this new Earth? This book won the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2016.

8. Days Without End

Sebastian Barry

Set in the mid- 19th century, this compelling tale follows Thomas McNulty and his brother-in-arms, John Cole, as they go to fight in the Indian Wars and the Civil War. Both men find their days filled with both hardship and wonder - and when a young Indian girl crosses their path, they both sense the possibility of lasting happiness... as long as they can survive. This book was the winner of the Costa Novel Award 2016.

9. 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.

10. My Name is Lucy Barton

Elizabeth Strout

As Lucy Barton recovers from what should have been a simple operation, her mother - to whom she hasn't spoken in many years - comes to visit her. This forces Lucy to confront the tension and longing that have influenced every part of her life: her impoverished childhood; her escape to New York; her dream to become a writer; her unsettled marriage; and her love for her two daughters. Lucy's narrative voice is keenly observant, deeply human, and completely unforgettable. This stunning exploration of the tender relationship between mother and daughter is guaranteed to move and inspire its readers.

  • AUMWI
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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 BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016 THE NEW YORK TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER An exquisite story of mothers and daughters from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn't spoken for many years, comes to see her. Her unexpected visit forces Lucy to confront the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of her life: her impoverished childhood in Amgash, Illinois, her escape to New York and her desire to become a writer, her faltering marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable. In My Name Is Lucy Barton, one of America's finest writers shows how a simple hospital visit illuminates the most tender relationship of all-the one between mother and daughter.
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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 . . .
  • Golden Hill - Paperback - 9780571225200 - Francis Spufford
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    Winner of the Costa First Novel Award, Francis Spufford's debut fiction novel, Golden Hill, is a book that will transport you right back to New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan Island, in 1746.

    A charming stranger from England arrives and has a compelling (yet suspicious) proposition for the counting house on Golden Hill Street - he wishes to cash and order for #1,000...

    With questions hanging over whether he can be trusted, the young man has the gift of the gab and decides to create a new life for himself in a place that is just starting to develop its unique character. But then he falls in love and enters a whole new world of trouble...
  • The Bombs that Brought Us Together - Hardback - 9781408855744 - Brian Conaghan
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    Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award 2016, Brian Conaghan's The Bombs that Brought Us Together is a powerful tale of survival and morality that will appeal to fans of John Boyne and Patrick Ness.

    Charlie Law is a 14-year-old who has lived in Little Town his whole life. On the border with Old Country, he's had to live by a string of rules: no drinking, no litter, no fighting. But then he meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country and everything changes...

    Bombs start to fall and then Old Country's soldiers arrive... Charlie soon learns that to keep the people you love safe, sometimes you have to do bad things. Charlie finds himself sucked into a dangerous game that includes a gun, a bad man, his closest friend and his dearest enemy.
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    Winner of the Costa Book of the Year 2016 and the Costa Novel Award 2016, The Secret Scripture author Sebastian Barry's Days Without End is set in the mid-19th century and follows Thomas McNulty and his brother-in-arms John Cole as they sign up for the US army and go on to fight in the Indian wars and the Civil War.

    Despite the horrors and hardships, both men find their days filled with wonder. A young Indian girl crosses their path and both men sense the possibility of lasting happiness - as long as they can survive.

    Spanning from the West to Tennessee, this an intensely poignant look at two men and the fates they were dealt during some of America's most fateful periods.
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    'The Glorious Heresies heralds the arrival of a glorious, foul-mouthed, fizzing new talent' SUNDAY TIMES 'Totally and unmistakably the real deal' KEVIN BARRY 'A real stunner; a wild ride of a read' DONAL RYAN 'A gripping and often riotously funny tale' COLIN BARRETT 'A punchy, edgy, sexy, fizzing feast of a debut novel' JOSEPH O'CONNOR 'He was definitely dead, whoever he was. He wore a once-black jumper and a pair of shiny tracksuit bottoms. The back of his head was cracked and his hair matted, but it had been foxy before that. A tall man, a skinny rake, another string of piss, now departed. She hadn't gotten a look at his face before she flaked him with the Holy Stone and she couldn't bring herself to turn him over.' One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland's post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of other perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight ...Biting, moving and darkly funny, The Glorious Heresies explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland's twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family.
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    WHO WILL INHERIT THIS NEW EARTH? The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age - a world terraformed and prepared for human life. But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind's worst nightmare. Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?
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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.
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    A young video shop assistant exchanges the home comforts of one mother-figure for a fleeting encounter with another; a brother and sister find themselves at the bottom of a coal mine with a Japanese tourist; a Welsh stag on a debauched weekend in Dublin confesses an unimaginable truth; and a twice-widowed pensioner tries to persuade the lovely Mrs Morgan to be his date at the town's summer festival...Set in Caerphilly, a sleepy castle town in South Wales, Thomas Morris' debut collection reveals its treasures in unexpected ways, offering vivid and moving glimpses of the lost, lonely and bemused. By turns poignant, witty, and tender - these entertaining stories detail the lives of people who know where they are, but don't know what they're doing. This is the work of a young writer with a startlingly fresh voice, an uncanny ear for dialogue and a broad emotional range. We Don't Know What We're Doing is a major launch for the Faber fiction list in 2015.