A non-definitive list of the books I loved in 2016

Dec 13, 2016


There’s a lot of ‘best of’ lists going around at this time of year. They serve multiple purposes: reminding me of the many books I failed to read in the previous 12 months, guiding me with Christmas shopping and giving authors a much-needed psychological boost when they see their book on such a list (see Readings Top 10 Fiction Books of 2016).

This particular ‘best of’ list has a specific purpose – it’s for Heidi – the amazing kinder teacher who has nurtured our oldest child through the past two years of kinder, and who works so incredibly hard (as all pre-school teachers do!) and who will finally have some time to read over the summer break and has asked me to compile her a list. And because the books I would recommend to Heidi are all ones I have loved this year, and would recommend to anyone, I’ve decided to multi-task and roll it into one.

Books that made me cry

Between a Wolf and a Dog – Georgia Blain (the last book I read, which is still resonating deeply within me like a chime. So saddened to learn that Georgia Blain died just this week. What an extraordinary writer. And an incredible loss to the world.)

La Rose – Louise Eldrich

Wasted – Elspeth Muir

Books that will change the world

Fight like a girl – Clementine Ford

The Hate Race – Maxine Beneba Clarke

Books that I couldn’t put down

The Road to Winter – Mark Smith

The Dry – Jane Harper

Books that I want to read again

Ruins – Rajith Savanadasa

Swallow the Air – Tara June Winch (about 10 years after everyone else!)

And a whole lot more that defy my arbitrary categorisation

Goodwood – Holly Throsby

The Girls – Emma Cline

Hot Milk – Deborah Levy

The Turner House – Angela Flournoy

The Good People – Hannah Kent

The Last Painting of Sara de Voss – Dominic Smith

Wild – Cheryl Strayed (also many years after everyone else!)

Everywhere I look – Helen Garner

My own Summer To Read list includes

Talking to my Country – Stan Grant

An Isolated Incident – Emily Maguire

Where the Trees Were – Inga Simpson

The Healing Party – Micheline Lee

Fine – Michelle Wright

Syrian dust – Francesca Borri

The Birdman’s Wife – Melissa Ashley

The World Without Us – Mireille Juchau

Gilgamesh – Joan London

The Blue Plateau – Mark Tredinnick (again – because I can not read this book enough)

The Boy Behind the Curtain – Tim Winton

Their Brilliant Careers – Ryan O’Neill

The Boundless Sublime – Lili Wilkinson

The Bone Sparrow – Zana Fraillon

And I’ve totally forgotten some. But that’s a start!

So there you go, Heidi, hope that you have a wonderful summer. Thank you for nurturing our girl through the last two years. I know she shares your love of play, and deep belief that good stories, told well, are one of the best things in the world.

For other readers, please do leave a comment and let us know the books you loved in 2016! xx


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Mark Smith

Great list Kate! I have to do something similar for Better Reading: Favourite Recent Debuts. I reckon Skylarking might find its place close to the top of that list.

December 13, 2016 at 2:17 am
Jo Monigatti

Jo Monigatti

Great idea Kate. Thank you for your reading list.
I’ve also enjoyed-
The Last Runaway-Tracey Chevalier
Salt Creek-Lucy Treloar
Nine Days-Toni Jordan
Return to the little coffee shop of Kabul- Deborah Rodriguez

December 13, 2016 at 5:54 am
    Kate Mildenhall" alt="Kate Mildenhall">

    Kate Mildenhall

    Thanks Jo! Yes, Salt Creek was one of my highlights that I got in at the end of last year – loved it. And Nine Days too – have you read Toni Jordan’s new one – Our Tiny Useless Hearts – it’s a hoot. A bedroom farce (rumoured to be set in Eltham or a town quite like it…) very different and very funny.
    I’ll have to put the other two on my list – thanks for sharing xxx Have a lovely Christmas with the fam xxx

    December 13, 2016 at 10:31 am

Kate’s first book, SKYLARKING was published in Australia by Black Inc. in 2016 and in the UK by Legend Press in 2017. Her second THE MOTHER FAULT is published in Australia by Simon & Schuster in 2020 and in the UK by Harper Collins UK in 2021. Kate’s third novel, THE HUMMINGBIRD EFFECT was published in Australia by Simon & Schuster in August 2023.

Stay in touch with Kate via her newsletter, The Bowerbird.