Best Books of 2016 (so far)

Top 15 Fiction of 2016 (Jan - June)

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos cover image

#1: The Last Painting of Sara de Vos

by Dominic Smith

A literary novel of breathtaking scope, ambition and achievement.

'I was intoxicated by this book, you'll love it.' - Ben @ A&R

A dazzling and mesmerising story that charts the collision course between a rare landscape by a female Dutch painter of the Golden Age, an inheritor of the work in 1950s Manhattan, and a celebrated art historian who painted a forgery of it in her youth.

This is what we long for: the profound pleasure of being swept into vivid new worlds, worlds peopled by characters so intriguing and real that we can't shake them, even long after the reading's done... more

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#2: Everyone Brave Is Forgiven

by Chris Cleave

Moving from Blitz-torn London to the Siege of Malta, this is a story of passion, loss, prejudice and incredible courage. This is the novel Chris Cleave was born to write.

When war is declared, Mary North leaves finishing school unfinished, goes straight to the War Office, and signs up.

Tom Shaw decides to give it a miss - until his flatmate Alistair unexpectedly enlists, and the conflict can no longer be avoided.

Young, bright and brave, Mary is certain she'd be a marvelous spy. When she is - bewilderingly - made a teacher, she instead finds herself defying prejudice to protect the children her country would rather forget... more

The Dry cover image

#3: The Dry

by Jane Harper

A desperate act in a small town with big secrets

'One of the most stunning debuts I've ever read' - David Baldacci

The debut Aussie Crime that is taking the world by storm. Cunningly crafted and darkly honest about life out bush. Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well...

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret... more

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#4: My Name is Lucy Barton

by Elizabeth Strout

This is an exquisite story of mothers and daughters from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge.

'You’ll find yourself nodding in contented agreement at every memory and observance this curious book offers up.' - Ben @ A&R

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... more

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#5: Mothering Sunday

by Graham Swift

An intensely moving and beautifully written new novel from the Booker-prize winning author of Last Orders and Waterland.

It is March 30th 1924. It is Mothering Sunday.

How will Jane Fairchild, orphan and housemaid, occupy her time when she has no mother to visit? How, shaped by the events of this never to be forgotten day, will her future unfold?

Beginning with an intimate assignation and opening to embrace decades, Mothering Sunday has at its heart both the story of a life and the life that stories can magically contain. Constantly surprising, joyously sensual and deeply moving, it is Graham Swift at his thrilling best... more

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#6: The Noise of Time

by Julian Barnes

Art and Power collide in Julian Barnes's first novel since the Booker-winning The Sense of an Ending

Art is the whisper of history, heard above the noise of time. Art does not exist for art's sake: it exist's for people's sake. But which people, and who defines them?

In May 1937 a man in his early thirties waits by the lift of a Leningrad apartment block.

He waits all through the night, expecting to be taken away to the Big House. Any celebrity he has known in the previous decade is no use to him now. And few who are taken to the Big House ever return... more

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#7: The High Places

by Fiona McFarlane

The Night Guest introduced an Australian writer 'with the promise of literary greatness' (Los Angeles Times). The High Places delivers on that promise.

The dazzling stories in this collection find those moments when people confront the strangeness and mystery of their lives. The revelations of intimidating old friends on holiday. An accident on a dark country road. A marine biologist in conversation with the ghost of Charles Darwin. The sudden arrival of American parachutists in a Queensland country town. A lottery win. A farmer troubled by miracles in the middle of a drought...

The people in The High Places are jolted into seeing themselves from a fresh and often disconcerting perspective... more

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#8: The City of Mirrors

by Justin Cronin

The publishing phenomenon that began with the astonishing worldwide bestseller The Passage now comes to its epic conclusion.

In life I was a scientist called Fanning. Then, in a jungle in Bolivia, I died. I died, and then I was brought back to life...

Prompted by a voice that lives in her blood, the fearsome warrior known as Alicia of Blades is drawn towards to one of the great cities of The Time Before. The ruined city of New York. Ruined but not empty. For this is the final refuge of Zero, the first and last of The Twelve. The one who must be destroyed if mankind is to have a future... more

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#9: Britt-Marie Was Here

by Fredrik Backman

From the critically acclaimed author of the international phenomenon A Man Called Ove. A funny, poignant and uplifting tale of love, community, and second chances.

For as long as anyone can remember, Britt-Marie has been an acquired taste. It's not that she's judgemental, or fussy, or difficult - she just expects things to be done in a certain way. A cutlery drawer should be arranged in the right order, for example (knives, forks, then spoons). We're not animals, are we?

But behind the passive-aggressive, socially awkward, absurdly pedantic busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams and a warmer heart than anyone around her realizes... more

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#10: Where The Trees Were

by Inga Simpson

A beautiful new novel about the innocence of childhood and the scars that stay with you for life, from the award winning author of Mr Wigg and Nest

We swear, on these trees, to always be friends. To protect each other - and this place.

Finding those carved trees forged a bond between Jay and her four childhood friends and opened their eyes to a wider world. But their attempt to protect the grove ends in disaster, and that one day on the river changes their lives forever... more

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Top 10 Non-Fiction of 2016 (Jan - June)

Everwhere I Look cover image

#1: Everwhere I Look

by Helen Garner

Helen Garner is one of Australia’s greatest writers. Her short non-fiction covers all dimensions of life with precision, charm and authority.

Spanning fifteen years of work, Everywhere I Look is a book full of unexpected moments, sudden shafts of light, piercing intuition, flashes of anger and incidental humour. It takes us from backstage at the ballet to the trial of a woman for the murder of her newborn baby. It moves effortlessly from the significance of moving house to the pleasure of re-reading Pride and Prejudice.

Everywhere I Look includes Garner’s famous and controversial essay on the insults of age, her deeply moving tribute to her mother and extracts from her diaries, which have been part of her working life for as long as she has been a writer... more

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#2: Talking To My Country

by Stan Grant

An extraordinarily powerful and personal meditation on race, culture and national identity.

In July 2015, as the debate over Adam Goodes being booed at AFL games raged and got ever more heated and ugly, Stan Grant wrote a short but powerful piece for The Guardian that almost immediately went viral, not only in Australia but right around the world, being shared over 100,000 times on social media. His was a personal, passionate and powerful response to racism in Australian and the sorrow, shame, anger and hardship of being an indigenous man.

Talking To My Country is that rare and special book that talks to every Australian about their country - what it is, and what it could be.... more

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#3: The Genius of Birds

by Jennifer Ackerman

For decades, people have written off birds as largely witless, driven by instinct and capable of only the simplest mental processes. But this just isn't true.

In The Genius of Birds, popular science writer Jennifer Ackerman presents the latest research on bird intelligence and reveals that birds are much, much smarter than we ever supposed. Bird brains, it turns out, are mostly made of sophisticated information processing systems that work in much the same way as our own cerebral cortices.

Whether it's making complex navigations, singing in regional accents, or joking around with humans, birds are capable of high-level abstract thinking, problem-solving, remembering, learning by example, recognising faces, and even conversing in a meaningful way?—?all with brains so tiny each would fit inside a walnut.... more

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#4: The Road to Ruin

by Niki Savva

Kevin Rudd was given no warning, but even he lasted longer than Abbott. Julia Gillard had plenty of warnings, but even she lasted longer than Abbott.

Abbott ignored all the warnings, from beginning to end - the public ones, the private ones, from his friends, his colleagues, the media. His colleagues were not being disloyal. They did not feel they had betrayed him; they believed he had betrayed them. Their motives were honourable. They didn't want him to fail; they wanted the government to succeed, and they wanted the Coalition re-elected.

In The Road to Ruin, prominent political commentator, author, and columnist for The Australian Niki Savva reveals the ruinous behaviour of former prime minister Tony Abbott and his chief of staff, Peta Credlin. .. more

The Gene cover image

#5: The Gene

By Siddhartha Mukherjee

The Gene is the story of one of the most powerful and dangerous ideas in our history, from bestselling, prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee.

The story of the gene begins in an obscure Augustinian abbey in Moravia in 1856 where a monk stumbles on the idea of a unit of heredity. It intersects with Darwin's theory of evolution, and collides with the horrors of Nazi eugenics in the 1940s. The gene transforms post-war biology. It reorganizes our understanding of sexuality, temperament, choice and free will.

Majestic in its ambition, and unflinching in its honesty, The Gene gives us a definitive account of the fundamental unit of heredity and a vision of both humanity's past and future... more

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#6: Wasted

by Elspeth Muir

A Story of Alcohol, Grief and a Death in Brisbane

I don’t know why it was so important that there was alcohol, always. To go without just seemed to not be an option. Without it, I would rub up against the elements of the world, and chafe and blister. With it, everything was softer, easier.

Why do some of us drink so much, and what happens when we do? Fewer young Australians are drinking heavily, but the rates of alcohol abuse and associated problems - from blackouts to sexual assaults and one-punch killings - are undiminished.

Intimate and beautifully told, Wasted mixes memoir with reportage to illuminate the sorrows, and the joys, of drinking... more

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#7: The Killing Season Uncut

by Sarah Ferguson

This is the book that goes behind the scenes of the series, candidly revealing the stories behind the interviews.

Rudd and Gillard dominate the drama as they strain to claim the narrative of Labor's years in power. The journey to screen for each of their interviews is telling in itself. Kevin Rudd gives his painful account of the period and recalled in vivid detail the events of losing the prime ministership. Julia Gillard is frank and unsparing of her colleagues

More than a hundred people were interviewed for The Killing Season — ministers, backbenchers, staffers, party officials, pollsters and public servants—recording their vivid accounts of the public and private events that made the Rudd and Gillard governments and then brought them undone. ... more

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#8: When Breath Becomes Air

by Paul Kalanithi

One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

'Finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option...Unmissable' - New York Times

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade's training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithie's transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity, the brain and finally into a patient and a new father... more

The Fighter cover image

#9: The Fighter

by Arnold Zable

Henry Nissen was a champion boxer, the boy from Amess Street in working-class Carlton who fought his way up to beat some of the world's best in the 1970s.

Now, he works on the Melbourne docks, loading and unloading, taking shifts as they come up. But his real work is on the streets. He's in and out of police stations and courts giving character statements and providing support, working to give the disaffected another chance.

And all the while, in the background is the memory of another fighter, his mother—and her devastating decline into madness.

The Fighter is a moving and poetic portrait of a compassionate man, but also a window onto the unnoticed recesses of Melbourne... more

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#10: The Oldest Foods on Earth

by John Newton

Why have white Australians so often rejected the delicious and nourishing foods native to our own continent - the wild rices, native fruits, meats, herbs and spices?

This is one food revolution that really matters - and it will change how you look at Australia. We celebrate cultural and culinary diversity yet shun the foods that grew here before white settlers arrived. We love superfoods from remote exotic locations, yet reject those that grow in our own land.

In this, the most important of his many books, John Newton boils down these paradoxes by arguing that if you are what you eat, we need to eat different foods.

And, with the help of some amazing recipes from the likes of Rene Redzepi's Noma, Peter Gilmore and Kylie Kwong, he shows that the tide is turning, and that there is a revolution happening today in Australian restaurants and beyond... more

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Top 10 Kids & Young Adult of 2016 (Jan - June)

Circle cover image

#1: Circle

by Jeannie Baker

In an infinity of sky, tiny godwit birds follow ancient, invisible migratory pathways, flying on and on for nine nights and nine days, flying without rest... This is their story.

'Circle is a work of art. Something you and your kids will gawk at as you turn the pages.' - Ben @ A&R

From the creator of the critically acclaimed Where the Forest Meets the Sea and Mirror, comes a poetic, eco-conscious picture book which explores the complex, interdependency of nature. This is the story of the little-known Bar-tailed Godwit who, following invisible pathways that have been used for thousands of years, undertakes the longest unbroken migration of any bird, a total of 11,000 kilometres, flying from Australia and New Zealand to their breeding grounds in the Arctic... and back again... more

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#2: Raymie Nightingale

by Kate Dicamillo

In her seventh novel, international bestselling author and twice winner of the prestigious Newbery Medal Kate DiCamillo tells a masterful story that blends pathos and humour.

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father - who has run away with a dental hygienist - will see Raymie's picture in the paper and (maybe) come home.

To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton, but she has to compete with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante with her show-business background and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who's determined to sabotage the contest... more

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#3: The Moonlight Dreamers

by Sioban Curham

An unforgettable story of friendship, self-belief and love. Amber, Maali, Sky and Rose are not like everyone else and they don't want to be.

Becoming friends gives them the courage to be themselves.

A inspirational, heart-warming book about four girls trying to find their place in the world. Siobhan Curham celebrates very different but like-minded friends in this captivating novel. Amber craves excitement and adventure. Instead, she's being bullied at school for having two dads, and life at home isn't much better.

Inspired by Oscar Wilde, Amber realizes that among the millions of people in London, there must be others who feel the same as she does. Other dreamers - moonlight dreamers... more

The World's Worst Children cover image

#4: The World's Worst Children

by David Walliams and Tony Ross

From the world's favourite author, David Walliams - ten cautionary tales and a delightfully dreadful cast of characters; all in a gorgeously gifty FULL COLOUR format!

Are you ready to meet the World's Worst Children? Five beastly boys and five gruesome girls!

Like Sofia Sofa - a TV super-fan so stuck to the sofa that she's turning into one! Or Dribbling Drew - a boy whose drool gets him into trouble on a school trip! And not forgetting Blubbering Bertha - a girl who bawls and tells terrible tales! Also featuring a special appearance from fan-favourite, Raj... more

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#5: Introducing Teddy

by Jessica Walton and Dougal MacPherson

A sweet and gentle story about being true to yourself and being a good friend.

I don't care if you're a girl teddy or a boy teddy! What matters is that you are my friend.

Errol and his teddy, Thomas, are best friends who do everything together. Whether it's riding a bike, playing in the tree house, having a tea party or all of the above, every day holds something fun to do together. One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas the Teddy is sad, and Errol can't figure out why. Then Thomas the Teddy finally tells Errol what Teddy has been afraid to say... more

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#6: A Court of Mist and Fury

by Sarah J. Maas

From the New York Times bestselling author comes the second book in a breathtaking and seductive series about a girl with a human heart in a dangerous faerie world.

After rescuing her lover Tamlin from the wicked Faerie Queen, Feyre returns to the Spring Court, immortal and possessing the powers of the High Fae. But even at the start of her new life she cannot escape her harrowing past - she owes a debt to the dangerous and alluring High Lord Rhysand, and on her wedding day he claims her for his dreaded Night Court.

Perfect for lovers of swoony fiction and fans of fantasy from Tamora Pierce to Leigh Bardugo and George R. R. Martin, this second book takes the sexy and action-packed blockbuster series to new heights, and is even more impossible to put down than the first... more

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#7: You Know Me Well

by David Levithan and Nina Lacour

A tender and joyful young-adult novel tracing the powerful friendship of two lovesick teenagers - a gay boy, Mark, and a lesbian girl, Katie - over the course of Pride Week in San Francisco.

'Fresh, unique, funny and achingly honest...I didn't just read this book - I inhaled it.' - Jodi Picoult

Told in alternating chapters, You Know Me Well explores how Mark and Katie help one another overcome heartbreak, fractured friendships and the dizzying speeds of change... more

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#8: Australia to Z

by Armin Greder

Juxtaposing words and images, the multi-award-winning author of The Island shines an uncompromising light on what it is to be Australian.

'This book is hilarious, heartbreaking and all over brilliant.' - Ben @ A&R

Australia to Z is an illustrated alphabet book that does more than teach letters. It celebrates our country while encouraging readers to be critical and honest about Australia and its culture.

A book both kids and adults can learn from... more

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#9: Pig the Winner

by Aaron Blabey

Pig, the world's greediest Pug, won't play fair. He'll do anything to win!

Pig was a pug and I'm sorry to say if he didn't come first it would ruin his day.

Won't he ever learn?!

Another laugh-out-loud book from the best-selling creator of Pig the Pug and Pig the Fibber... more

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#10: Frankie

by Shivaun Plozza

Frankie Vega is angry. Just ask the guy whose nose she broke.

Or the cop investigating the burglary she witnessed, or her cheating ex-boyfriend or her aunt who's tired of giving second chances...

'Great dialogue and strongly paced. Frankie's a gutsy character with a lot of heart.' - Melina Marchetta

When a kid shows up claiming to be Frankie's half brother, it opens the door to a past she doesn't want to remember. And when that kid goes missing, the only person willing to help is a boy with stupidly blue eyes... and secrets of his own... more

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