The 2016 Tony’s Reading List Awards

img_5551A Happy New Year to one and all, and with 2017 just about to begin, it’s time to wrap up the old year once and for all with the Tony’s Reading List Awards for 2016!  The blog has been around for eight years now, and every year I’ve looked back at the reading highlights (and lowlights…) of the previous twelve months to try to answer one burning question – why do I do this?

As usual, I have no answer, but we might as well see how my reading year went, anyway 😉

As is traditional by now, the awards ceremony begins with the Most-Read Author Award, which is… well, I think you can probably work that out for yourselves, no?  Drum roll, please…

1) Patrick Modiano (12)
2) Anthony Trollope (8)
3=) Bae Suah (5)
3=) Peter Stamm (5)
5) Javier Marías (4)

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new winner, and I’m fairly certain that it’s a new record too.  Last year saw my casual interest in Modiano’s work deepen, meaning that even a reread of The Barchester Chronicles wasn’t enough to see multiple winner Anthony Trollope stop him from taking top spot.  It’s a top-five dominated by old(ish) white men, but Bae Suah does break that trend with a mixture of rereads and new books allowing her to appear on this list for the first time – congratulations 🙂

The next prize to hand out is for the Most-Read Country, with the usual suspects battling it out for the honour.

1) South Korea (33)
2) Japan (24)
3) France (20)
4) England (14)
5) Spain (13)
6) Germany (12)

2015 saw Japan wrest the title from the Koreans, but this time around the result has been reversed – I predict that the two will be battling it out for top spot again in 2017 🙂

Perhaps the big surprise here is Germany’s drop down the rankings.  Having been in the top four every year so far (and even taking out top spot on a couple of occasions), Germany has slipped down to number six owing to a glut of French and Spanish books, as well as some English non-fiction and rereads.  Something to work on for next year 😦

If we look at the annual statistics for English-language books versus the rest of the world, it’s pretty much business as usual.  Of the 180 books I read in 2016, only 17 were originally published in English, meaning that 163 (of which I read 28 in the original language – 21 in German, 4 in French, 2 in Spanish, 1 in Italian) were originally written in a language other than English.  The proportion of English-language books has increased from last year’s highly symbolic 3%(!), but it’s safe to say that my interests still lie firmly with fiction in translation.

It’s time now to get a little more specific and talk about the books that stood out last year, but before looking at those that shone, we must first dispatch those that stank the place out.  2016 saw much stricter judgement used during my monthly wrap-up posts, so this time around we have six nominees for the Golden Turkey Award:

Natsume Sōseki’s The Heredity of Taste
Lee Jang-wook’s Old Man River
Yang Gui-ja’s ‘Rust’
Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s Football
Kang Young-sook’s Rina
Judith Hermann’s Lettipark

And the ‘winner’ is Yang Gui-ja’s ‘Rust’ – but it wouldn’t be fair to neglect the translator, Ahn Jung-hyo, here.  You see, I can honestly say that ‘Rust’ would never have taken out this award were it not for Ahn’s translation.  Take a bow!  Or hide, sobbing, in the corner, up to you…

Let’s leave the year’s turkey to be stuffed for the awards dinner and head on instead to the joy of a new award, Emily’s Book of the Year.  In this one, my little helper will choose from the books she reviewed for me on the blog this year – which were:

Meet at the Ark at Eight by Ulrich Hub
The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen
Wildwitch: Wildfire by Lene Kaaberbøl
An Elephantasy by María Elena Walsh
Tow-Truck Pluck by Annie M.G. Schmidt & Fiep Westendorp
The Beach at Night by Elena Ferrante

And Emily’s choice is… An Elephantasy!!!  In her own words:

“Flying elephants – what’s not to like?  I give this book a five-star rating :)”

Thank you, Emily, for those deep insights…

Let’s move on, then, from children’s literature to more adult fare, with my own Book of the Year Award.  As has been the case for several years now, the list of the best books has been compiled by choosing the outstanding title reviewed on the blog each month (all links are to my reviews).  While this does mean that several good books miss out as they didn’t quite make it through their monthly heat, I did feature the best of the rest in a recent post, so don’t feel too bad for them 😉  This year’s top twelve are:

JanuaryDeath by Water by Kenzaburō Ōe
(tr. Deborah Boliver Boehm: Atlantic Books)

FebruaryYour Face Tomorrow 3: Poison, Shadow and Farewell
by Javier Marías
(tr. Margaret Jull Costa: Chatto & Windus)

MarchHopscotch by Julio Cortázar
(tr. Gregory Rabassa: Pantheon Books)

AprilSigns Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera
(tr. Lisa Dillman: And Other Stories)

MaySome Rain May Fall by Karl Ove Knausgaard
(tr. Don Bartlett: Harvill Secker)

JuneThe Man I Became by Peter Verhelst
(tr. David Colmer: Peirene Press)

JulyWar and War by László Krasznahorkai
(tr. George Szirtes: New Directions)

AugustDeath in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda
(tr. Martha Tennent: Open Letter Books)

SeptemberFish Have No Feet by Jón Kalman Stefánsson
(tr. Philip Roughton: MacLehose Press)

OctoberA Greater Music by Bae Suah
(tr. Deborah Smith: Open Letter Books)

NovemberThe Confusions of Young Törleß by Robert Musil
(tr. Shaun Whiteside: Penguin)

DecemberThe Spirits of the Earth by Catherine Colomb
(tr. John Taylor: Seagull Books)

This year’s delightful dozen has no place for English-language fiction, and only Spain has two contenders (albeit for different languages).  The other countries represented are Japan, Argentina, Mexico, Norway, Belgium, Hungary, Iceland, South Korea, Austria and Switzerland, with men outnumbering women by a hefty nine to three in 2016.

Of these twelve champions, only a select few can make my shortlist, and this time around I’ve gone for these five wonders of fiction:

Death by Water
Your Face Tomorrow 3: Poison, Shadow and Farewell
War and War
The Confusions of Young Törleß

And the winner is:

Javier Marías’ Your Face Tomorrow
translated by Margaret Jull Costa

While I was tempted to go for Poison, Shadow and Farewell anyway, the fact that it capped off a marvellous trilogy of books probably forced my hand.  It’s a wonderful series, and if you haven’t read it, make time for the pleasure in 2017 🙂

And that’s a wrap for 2016 – on to 2017 and my ninth (!!!) year of blogging.  Watch out for a couple of posts in early January looking back at the year that was on a more personal note and then considering what lies ahead.  Thank you all for dropping by, and I hope to see you all here again very soon 🙂

11 thoughts on “The 2016 Tony’s Reading List Awards

    1. Tony, As a book blogger record mmendation has just lifted my Book of the Year, I’ve invested in vol 1 of Your Face Tomorrow in the hope of a repeating pattern in 2017. No pressure ….

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Lizzy – Ah, the pressure 😉 I’m sure you’ll enjoy it even if the first part is slightly slow to move on – it is worth it, though, I assure you…


  1. This has become one of my favorite new surfing spots. Great concept. I figured it would come down to Marias or Krasznahorkai. Early resolution: start both in 2017.


    1. Jeredunn – I have to admit that I was tempted to go for old László, and the fact that the Marías was capping off a wonderful trilogy probably pushed me in the other direction. But, yes, if you haven’t already, two writers to explore 🙂


    1. Kaggsy – Modiano’s not really a one great book kind of writer, but the more you read, the more you get out of his work. If I had to single out one, I’d probably go for ‘So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighbourhood’, but it’s definitely more about the cumulative effect of his stories…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A great choice – pleased to see I’ve read 3 of your top 5 and very likely to read the other 2.
    Glad to see you rate The Man I Became which I’ve recently read.


    1. Grant – Yes, not sure it’s got a lot of attention, but I enjoyed it, a clever little book. Unfortunately, I think it was MBIP eligible for last year, so no chance of any publicity on that front 😦


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