Good reads: Top picks of books for 2016

It looks like 2016 is going to be another bumper year for books, from both debut and bestselling authors, as well as bloggers, and established writers creating their own versions of vintage classics. Here some industry insiders help us sort the wheat from the chaff...

Coleraine native Maggie O'Farrell, one of the big names with a new book coming out in 2016


CATHY Rentzenbrink, author and contributing editor of trade publication The Bookseller, says: "In terms of genre, adult colouring books have been massive this year and that trend looks set to continue."

YouTubers and Instagram stars are also making their mark in the world of publishing, she says.

"So many celebrity tie-in books are now celebrities in the new sense, on YouTube. Zoella (Zoe Sugg) was Girl Online, which knocked David Walliams off the top spot. Her brother Joe Sugg also wrote a book, Username: Evie.

"Increasingly, cookery and lifestyle books are written by bloggers or YouTubers, so that will continue next year. The young talent coming through may have YouTube or Instagram careers."


Rentzenbrink, whose heart-rending memoir The Last Act Of Love was a huge hit in 2015, predicts that thrillers will remain popular.

"There's a trend where we always want to know what the big thriller is going to be for next year, which started with Before I Go To Sleep, then Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train.

"Next year's big thriller is going to be The Widow, a debut novel by Fiona Barton, about a woman called Jean whose husband has just died. As the story unfolds, it emerges that her husband might have been a murderer. It's a cracker."

Next year will see the 100th anniversary of Agatha Christie's creation of Hercule Poirot and, after the success of her first Poirot novel The Monogram Murders, Sophie Hannah will be writing another book in the series, Closed Casket (HarperCollins), due out in September.


Anniversaries always spawn a surge of books and 2016 is no exception. Hooks include the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, which already spawned a plethora of books in 2015, both academic and for a more general readership with a keen interest in Irish history.

It's also the centenary of the Battle of the Somme – Andrew MacDonald's new history of which is due in April – the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death and the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Bronte's birth. Expect new tomes on all of these subjects.


Big names with new novels out in 2016 include Maggie O'Farrell, Chris Cleave, Joanne Harris and the late Terry Pratchett, who with Stephen Baxter completed The Long Cosmos, the last in the Long Earth series. Meanwhile, popular social commentator Caitlin Moran draws up her own 'Moranifesto' in her eponymous new book.

Also out in January is acclaimed author Helen Dunmore's latest novel, Exposure (Cornerstone), set in London in the Cold War 60s and focusing on a civil servant wrongly imprisoned for spying.

Strongly anticipated debuts include Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain by 25-year-old playwright Barney Norris (Transworld, April), about five people involved in some way in a serious car crash, and how their lives are affected.

And Lisa Owens joins the female fiction genre with her first novel Not Working (Picador, April) about a character called Claire Flannery, who quits her job to find out what her true vocation may be – only to realise she has no idea about how to go about it.


The repackaging and retelling of classic tales are also still on the rise, Rentzenbrink observes.

"Howard Jacobson has written Shylock Is My Name: The Merchant Of Venice Retold (Hogarth, Feb). It's part of a scheme where established authors pick a play and write a novel inspired by that play.

"The Borough Press is also conducting an Austen project, where authors are doing a similar thing, but with Jane Austen in mind. Joanna Trollope wrote a contemporary version of Sense And Sensibility, Alexander McCall Smith wrote his own version of Emma, now Curtis Sittenfeld is writing Eligible, which is Pride And Prejudice set in modern-day Cincinnati."

Rentzenbrink thinks that reworkings of classics by contemporary authors will only increase readership generally.


Current affairs will be big in the non-fiction sector in 2016, with books on Syria and the refugee crisis coming to the fore, says Sanderson.

"There are, inevitably, quite a few books on the refugee crisis, including The New Odyssey by Patrick Kingsley (Guardian Faber, Jun) and Cast Away by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson (Portobello, Jun)," she notes. "Another one, City Of Thorns by Ben Rawlence (Portobello, Jun), centres on the world's biggest refugee camp in northern Kenya."

But there are also more uplifting real-life tales from William Shatner, who gives a personal tribute to Leonard Nimoy, his co-star in Star Trek and friend for 50 years in Leonard: A Life (Sidgwick, Feb), and from Alexei Sayle, whose second volume of memoirs, Thatcher Stole My Trousers (Bloomsbury, Mar), gives an entertaining history of British stand-up.

On the celebrity front, there will be memoirs from Chris Packham; Billy Connolly's account of his travels in the US with Billy Connolly Tracks Across America, and Joan Bakewell's musings in Stop The Clocks – Thoughts On What I Leave Behind. Meanwhile, Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz and Instagram sensation Alice Liveing will be showing us how to lead healthier lives with a variety of wellbeing books out early on in the year.

And if it all gets too much, you can always resort to adult colouring – there are so many coming out, you'll be spoilt for choice, but bestselling Millie Marotta brings out the third book, Wild Savannah (Batsford, Feb) in her hugely successful series.


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