Books read in 2016

1. Right Oh Jeeves, P G Wodehouse. Mum gave me the this just before Christmas saying something like "have you really never read any P G Wodehouse, boy?" Very funny, of course. Characters like Gussie Fink-Nottle and Tuppy Glossop don't come up every day. The whole thing is a beautifully constructed farce of the first order. NB. When we got our dog in March, I was pleased that Bekki chose the name Augustus – he immediately became Gussie Fink-Nottle, at least for me.

2. The Girl on the Train, Paul Hawkins. Enjoyable psycho thriller. My inattention to detail meant that I was completely thrown by the first few chapters that are telling the story from the perspective of different women at different times living a few doors apart. I suspect that that was Hawkins' plan – and I fell for it. But by page 64 I worked out what was going on. The plot plodded on and was close enough to credible to be enjoyable. Not brilliant in the end, but OK.

3. Down to the Sea in Ships, Horatio Clare. An account of two voyages on container ships. The first is aboard a large ship that Clare joins in Felixstowe and sails via Suez and Hong Kong to LA, arriving exactly on time. The second is on a smaller, older vessel from Antwerp to Montreal. He weaves in stories of other ships, ancient and modern, and gives a view of life on board. The subject matter is fundamentally dull which provides the writer his challenge to make it interesting – in which he is as successful as can be asked for. It's not great, but it's like all travel – much more exciting when it's not routine. And this was pretty much all routine. The main focus, understandably, is on the lives of the crew (all male except the cook on the second voyage).

4. The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson (Book club, Kate) An excellent book. Johnson paints a full picture of life in North Korea, including all its miseries and occasional lighter moments. You feel as if you're in the hands of someone that has done extensive research (confirmed by the author interview at the end) so, allowing for literary narrative, you're learning about life in that most cut off society. Superbly constructed, the loss of all individuality and control over one's life is described through a series of life events. Very moving. Probably going to be my best read of the year.

5. After the Crash, Michel Bussi. A plodding, nit very thrilling thriller, but OK. The weakest point is the implausibility of the set up: a baby girl is thrown from a plane crash and is its sole survivor. If you can put that aside, it’s OK.

6. The Humans, Matt Haig (book club) Ghastly, predictable, unfunny. Dogs. Gave up on page 35, forced myself to try again and got to page 47 before throwing in the towel.

7. The Martian, Andy Weir (Book Club). I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this having seen the very mediocre film. It was terrific with many occasions to ‘literally laugh out loud.’ Excellent.

8. Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier (Book club, me). Gothic – so Donnie tells me.

9. The Kill List, Frederick Forsyth (holiday paperback). It’s Frederick Forsyth…

10. The Medusa Chronicles, Stephen Baxter & Alastair Reynolds. A follow up to an old Arthur C Clarke story. OK. Not great but OK.

11. The Long Cosmos, Stephen Baxter & Terry Pratchett Completing the story cycle. I really wish we could step from one Earth to another.

12. The Retribution, Val McDermid Terrific police procedural. I’ll read more of her stuff.

13. The Separation, Dinah Jefferies (Book club). A mother lied to and left behind in Malaysia while rotten husband takes the daughters back to England. Not a comfortable read but the picture is richly painted.

14. Obelisk, Stephen Baxter. A shot story collection with, of course, some more memorable than others. The time travelling rats with wormholes in their stomachs were interesting.

15. All The Nice Girls, Joan Bakewell (book club, Rachele). Can’t help thinking this is more autobiographical than Bakewell claims. I enjoyed reading about a school like Rebecca’s in war time. . There’s a section in it where the captain of their adopted ship, a key character in the story, explains the different watches, including ‘the dog watch.’ Sounds like the kind of thing one ought to know for a pub quiz.

16. Night Without Stars, Peter F Hamilton. As ever, I read through this very quickly and wished it were longer. This one has Paula Mayo re-birthed on Bienvenido, saving them from the Fallers in tue style. Loved it.