66 Words on Each of My Favourite Fiction Books Of 2016

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Hardback | 1200 pages

Comprising 4 full-length novels and 56 short stories, I imagined I would read one or two here and there, perhaps finishing them all by the age of retirement. I read it in a month. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle manages to blend his droll narrative style with a kind of 'orchestral' plot that builds here, meanders there, and often climbs to a grand crescendo before the end.

Best of: The Valley of Fear

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Paperback | 544 pages

I picked this book up at a newsagent and expected as much out of it as that admission promises. But, oh my word! Brilliant. I'm not sure who Anthony Doerr is, but he writes beautifully. The story is wonderful and unique and sad and fraught, the characters are expertly constructed, but more than all that, it's just beautifully written. Like words painted by an Old Master.

Best of: Marie-Laure. Everything about her.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Paperback | 1076 pages

I read Pillars because I like Epics and was told this was one. It's not. It's just a long story. That said, it's a decent read - the first half especially, before it lags. It's hard not to think Follett has a good 500 pager on his hands - or a TV miniseries (as it turns out). I'd still recommend it if it weren't for the gratuitous sex.

Best of: The first 500 pages.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Paperback | 288 pages

I remember adoring the movie as a child, which makes it more disappointing, because I didn't love this book. Which is strange. It's got everything I need: written by a British gentleman from another era, featuring talking animals, replete with quaint olde time language... And I still didn't love it. Or even like it, much. I guess they can't all be classics, even when they are.

Best of: Graham's vivid descriptions of his beloved riverside world.

Harry Potter: The Complete Collection by J. K. Rowling

Paperback | 3422 pages

7 best-selling novels, not a word of which I had read before. Why? My loyalties lie with legends like Tolkien and Feist and Martin and Brooks (okay not Brooks.) However... it turns out these Potter books are really very good. As in almost every case, it's the combination of a self-contained world, a solid plot, and careful character development that suspends disbelief and wins the reader.

Best of: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The English Spy by Daniel Silva

Paperback | 496 pages

This, the fifteenth in the series, is arguably the most complex story yet, set just months after "The Heist" (#14). This is in my top 5 of 16: the scale is vast, taking in The Troubles of Ireland, featuring an ex-IRA bomber, the Russian, Israeli, and British intelligence agencies, set in virtually all the locations of previous books, this is Silva doing what he does best. 

Best of: Silva's depth of research and attention to detail.

The Black Widow by Daniel Silva

Paperback | 400 pages

Silva's Gabriel Allon thrillers are fantastic. Fast-pace, grand-scale, ripped-from-the-headlines plot, global setting, believable characters. I've read each of the 16 books in the series in the first month they were published. This one rates somewhere in the middle of the top 16. It's good, but there's only so much more you can get out of a (albeit brilliant) character like Gabriel Allon. He's finally looking tired.

Best of: Silva's treatment of radical Islam. 

The Martian by Andy Weir

Paperback | 384 pages

I've got this thing about not watching the movie version of any book I like. LOTR did it to me. And The Hobbit. And The Narnias. So I haven't seen The Matt Damon Martian because I enjoyed this book. It dragged it's feet a little half way through, that aside, I was hooked from the opening lines:

I’m pretty much fucked.
That’s my considered opinion.
Fucked.
— Mark Watney

Best of: Watney is the true and better MacGyver.