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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.