The Must-Reads of 2016: Books from Yann Martel to Deborah Smith

The critics’ guide to the hottest tickets of the year ahead

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The Independent Culture


Human Acts by Han Kang; translated by Deborah Smith

After the astonishing success of The Vegetarian, a superbly unsettling novel about a wife’s transgressive rebellion against a stultifying marriage in Korea, Han Kang focuses this time on the violent suppression of the 1980 student uprising in Gwangju.

January, Portobello

The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle

One of 2016’s most intriguing debut novels from the editor and agent of John le Carré. Its protagonist is a conman living in a small English town and its author is writing under a pseudonym after spending a career in the “civil service”. It could all get very secret service.

January, Viking

Literary light: Canadian Yann Martel, whose Life of Pi won the Man Booker in 2002, will soon be joined in the shortlists by his American peers

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

A three-part novel from the Man Booker author of The Life of Pi, begins in Lisbon in 1904, and follows a young man in his search for treasure, jumping 35 years into a murder mystery and then another 50 to a Canadian senator and a chimpanzee…

February, Canongate

Quicksand: What it means to be a human being by Henning Mankell

The late crime writer of the Wallander  mysteries reflects on art, life, jealousy, the  Ice Age and more, in this collection of essays. Inspired by his cancer diagnosis in January 2014, it is billed as the closest thing to a  memoir as we will get.

February, Harvill Secker

Some Rain Must Fall  by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Will book number five in the My Struggle series live up to the cultish acclaim and frenzied  popularity of books one to four? Probably. This one deals with the death of his father and his debut as a writer before everything disintegrates and he leaves Sweden. Expect beautifully written angst.

February, Harvill Secker


Mothering Sunday: A Romance by Graham Swift

The Man-Booker novelist brings us a novel about one day – Mothering Sunday, 1924. Beginning with a secret assignation between an orphan maid and a wealthy young man, weeks before his wedding, it is the story of a life, and the decades that unfold after that one day.

February, Scribner


I Am No One by Patrick Flanery

A hotly contemporary novel by a critically acclaimed American novelist about creeping paranoia in an age of mass surveillance. The story revolves around a lonely, middle-aged history professor who becomes convinced he is being watched.

March, Atlantic

Sick in the Head: Conversations about Life and Comedy by Judd Apatow

The Hollywood comedy writer/director’s own story of his lifetime’s obsession with comedy is placed alongside conversations with the kings and queens of the medium, from Mel Brooks and Jerry Seinfeld to Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer.

March, Duckworth


The Gene: An Intimate History  by Siddhartha Mukherjee

After his masterful study of cancer in 2010, Pulitzer Prize-winning physician Siddhartha Mukherjee will now tell the story of the gene. Weaving the history of his family’s struggle with mental illness into the science bit, this promises to be another mesmerising book that humanises science.

June, Bodley Head