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My best books of 2016 reading list

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This is a list of books published this year that I can't wait to read.

    The Underground Railroad

    From prize-winning, bestselling author Colson Whitehead, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

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    War and Turpentine

    LONGLISTED FOR THE 2017 MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE Selected as a Book of the Year 2016 in The Times, Sunday Times and The Economist, and one of the 10 Best Books of 2016 in the New York Times Shortly before his death at the age of 90, Stefan Hertmans' grandfather Urbain gave his grandson a set of notebooks. As Stefan began to read, he found himself drawn into a conversation across the centuries, as Urbain - so quiet and reserved in life - revealed his eloquence and his private passions on the page. Gradually, as he learned of his grandfather's heroics in the First World War, the loss of his great love, and his later years spent seeking solace in art and painting, a portrait emerged of the grandfather he had never fully known. War and Turpentine is an exquisite, loving reconstruction of a man's interior life, at once deeply personal and yet so evocative of many of his generation, affected by the long shadow of war. In beautiful, glimmering prose, Hertmans shows us how our experiences shape us all, and how, even in a life of sorrow and heartache, dignity can be found.

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    The North Water

    LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016 A NEW YORK TIMES TOP TEN NOTABLE BOOK 2016 SHORTLISTED FOR THE LA TIMES BOOK PRIZE 2017 -- Winner of the RSL Encore Award 2017 --A ship sets sail with a killer on board . . . 1859. A man joins a whaling ship bound for the Arctic Circle. Having left the British Army with his reputation in tatters, Patrick Sumner has little option but to accept the position of ship's surgeon on this ill-fated voyage. But when, deep into the journey, a cabin boy is discovered brutally killed, Sumner finds himself forced to act. Soon he will face an evil even greater than he had encountered at the siege of Delhi, in the shape of Henry Drax: harpooner, murderer, monster . . . 'A tour de force' Hilary Mantel'Riveting and darkly brilliant' Colm Toibin

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    The Lonely City

    What does it mean to be lonely? How do we live, if we're not intimately engaged with another human being? How do we connect with other people? When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Fascinated by the experience, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving fluidly between works and lives - from Edward Hopper's Nighthawks to Andy Warhol's Time Capsules, from Henry Darger's hoarding to the depredations of the AIDS crisis - Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be resisted and redeemed. Humane, provocative and deeply moving, The Lonely City is about the spaces between people and the things that draw them together, about sexuality, mortality and the magical possibilities of art. It's a celebration of a strange and lovely state, adrift from the larger continent of human experience, but intrinsic to the very act of being alive.

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