Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 22, 2016

2016 ANZLitLovers Australian and New Zealand Best Books of the Year

I’m not really keen on doing these Best Books lists because it’s always a struggle to choose when there are so many good books I’ve read, but here goes anyway…

These are the books I really liked and admired during 2016.  They are books that I read this year, not necessarily published this year.

(At the time of writing there are 9 days reading left for this year, so who knows what other treasure I might find…)

The contenders are ANZ authors only.  If you read this blog regularly you know that I also read international authors and translations too, but for this list, well, it’s summertime here so let the sun shine on antipodean authors.  All links go to my reviews.


I rated all of these 4 stars on Goodreads, and I felt a surge of pleasure remembering them when I looked at their covers at See What You Read in 2016.  (I didn’t rate anything 5 stars, as I’ve said before, I reserve five stars for a work of genius such as James Joyce’s Ulysses or Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance or Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria or anything by Gerald Murnane or Patrick White).  Here are my 4-star books in the order that I read them, culled from an original list of 48 4-star fiction reads.

  1. Hill of Grace by Stephen Orr, Wakefield Press, 2004
  2. Chappy by Patricia Grace, Penguin, 2015
  3. The End of Seeing by Christy Collins, Seizure, 2015
  4. A Loving Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe, UQP, 2016
  5. The Queen’s Play by Aashish Kaul, Roundfire Books, 2014
  6. Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar, Picador (Pan Macmillan), 2015
  7. One by Patrick Holland, Transit Lounge, 2016
  8. Seeing the Elephant by Portland Jones, Margaret River Press, 2016
  9. The Book of Fame by Lloyd Jones, The Text Publishing Company, 2010
  10. Ruins by Rajith Savanadasa, Hachette, 2016
  11. Tu by Patricia Grace, Penguin, 2004
  12. A Most Peculiar Act by Marie Munkara, Magabala Books, 2014
  13. The Fringe Dwellers by Nene Gare, Bolinda Audio, 2013
  14. My Sister Chaos by Lara Fergus, Spinifex Press, 2014
  15. Out of Ireland by Christopher Koch, Vintage, (Random House) 2000, first published 1999.
  16. Wood Green by Sean Rabin, Giramondo, 2016
  17. Where the Rekohu Bone Sings by Tina Makereti, Random House New Zealand, 2014
  18. Music and Freedom by Zoe Morrison, Vintage (Penguin Random House) 2016
  19. An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire, Picador (Pan Macmillan), 2016
  20. Seven Poor Men of Sydney by Christina Stead, Sirius Quality Paperbacks, (an imprint of Angus and Robertson), 1981
  21. The Beauties and Furies by Christina Stead, Virago Modern Classics, 1982 (now available as a Text Classic)
  22. Family Skeleton by Carmel Bird, UWAP (University of Western Australia Press), 2016
  23. The Floating Garden by Emma Ashmere, Spinifex Press, 2015
  24. The World Repair Video Game by David Ireland, Island Magazine, 2015
  25. Extinctions by Josephine Wilson, UWAP (University of Western Australia Press), 2016
  26. The Historian’s Daughter by Rashida Murphy, UWAP (University of Western Australian), 2016

BTW Note that all but seven of these 26 books are published by small indie publishers!

Non Fiction (BTW I am usually really mean with 4 star ratings for non-fiction so this was a very good year!)

  1. Real Modern, Everyday New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s, by Bronwyn Labrum, Te Papa Press, 2015
  2. Sister, Sister by Anna Blay, Port Campbell Press, 2012 (first published by Hale & Ironmonger 1998)
  3. Doing Life, A Biography of Elizabeth Jolley by Brian Dibble, UWAP (University of Western Australian Press, 2008
  4. On Radji Beach, the Story of Australian Nurses after the Fall of Singapore, by Ian W Shaw, Pan Macmillan, 2010
  5. Talking to My Country by Stan Grant, Harper Collins, 2016
  6. Journey to Horseshoe Bend by T.G.H. Strehlow, Giramondo Publishing, 2015
  7. Georgiana Molloy, the Mind That Shines by Bernice Barry, Picador, 2016
  8. Journalism at the Crossroads by Margaret Simons, Scribe Publications, 2012
  9. The Art of Reading by Damon Young, Melbourne University Press, 2016
  10. The Media and the Massacre by Sonya Voumard, Transit Lounge, 2016
  11. Dogs in Australian Art (expanded edition) by Steven Miller, Wakefield, 2016.  (Actually, I gave this 5 stars, but that was because of the dogs so I admit my bias and confess that it’s really only a 4-star book, not quite in the realm of James Joyce and Patrick White).
  12. Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea by Marie Munkara, Vintage (Penguin-Random House), 2016
  13. Gurrumul, His Life and Music by Robert Hillman, Harper Collins 2013
  14. How to Vote Progressive in Australia, Labor or Green, by Dennis Altman, Monash University Publishing, 2016
  15. Balancing Act: Australia Between Recession and Renewal (Quarterly Essay #61) by George Megalogenis, Black Inc, 2016
  16. Firing Line: Australia’s Path to War (Quarterly Essay #62) by James Brown, Black Inc, 2016
  17. Two Sisters, a True Story by Ngarta and Jukuna, Magabala Books, 2016
  18. Henry Handel Richardson, a study, by Nettie Palmer, Angus and Robertson, 1950
  19. Finding Eliza, Power and Colonial Storytelling by Larissa Behrendt, UQP, 2016
  20. Living with the Locals, Early Europeans Experience of Indigenous Life by John Maynard and Victoria Haskins, NLA (National Library of Australia) Publishing, 2016
  21. The Australian Dream: Blood, History and Becoming (Quarterly Essay #64) by Stan Grant, Black Inc, 2016

Note that only five of these weren’t published by small indie publishers.

Now, some of those are flawed in one way or another (and I said so in my reviews) so although they were interesting, memorable and/or beautifully written, if I have to whittle this down, out they go.  Then as in 2015 I’m using a highly sophisticated criteria: which books have I banged on about most to people in my f2f life?  This is not as silly as it sounds … I have read 200+ books this year and I am always talking about books online.  But the books that made their way into everyday conversation with family and friends did so because they have something important to contribute to our understanding of life  These books weren’t just good to read, pleasurable, entertaining, or absorbing.  I rabbited on about the themes and issues and insights in these books because they matter.

Best ANZ LitLovers Fiction Books of 2016

  1. Hill of Grace by Stephen Orr
  2. Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar
  3. One by Patrick Holland
  4. The Book of Fame by Lloyd Jones
  5. A Most Peculiar Act by Marie Munkara
  6. An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire
  7. The Floating Garden by Emma Ashmere
  8. The World Repair Video Game by David Ireland

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Best ANZ LitLovers Non Fiction Books of 2016 (You can see that books about journalism and politics mattered in a Federal Election year).

  1. Real Modern, Everyday New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s, by Bronwyn Labrum
  2. Sister, Sister by Anna Blay
  3. Talking to My Country by Stan Grant
  4. Journey to Horseshoe Bend by T.G.H. Strehlow
  5. Journalism at the Crossroads by Margaret Simons
  6. The Art of Reading by Damon Young
  7. The Media and the Massacre by Sonya Voumard
  8. How to Vote Progressive in Australia, Labor or Green, by Dennis Altman
  9. Firing Line: Australia’s Path to War (Quarterly Essay #62) by James Brown
  10. Finding Eliza, Power and Colonial Storytelling by Larissa Behrendt
  11. Living with the Locals, Early Europeans Experience of Indigenous Life by John Maynard and Victoria Haskins
  12. The Australian Dream: Blood, History and Becoming (Quarterly Essay #64) by Stan Grant

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The ANZ LitLovers Book of the Year is

*drum roll*

an-isolated-incidentJust nudging out The World Repair Video Game and Stan Grant’s books, the ANZ LitLovers Best Book of the Year is Emily Maguire’s An Isolated Incident.   Next time you see the media interviewing locals after yet another woman has been murdered by someone who’s supposed to love her, and you hear the words I never thought that something like this could happen here [in my quiet safe community] just remember the ironic title of this book.  Murder of women is not an isolated incident, it happens every day in Australia in a suburb or town near you.  In this powerful novel, the cops know exactly who has murdered a local woman because they know her murder was inevitable because they know her violent husband.  And still it happened.

If you haven’t read it, go get a copy!

Over to you

Your thoughts on my choices?  What was your best book of the year?




  1. Wonderful list, Lisa! Loved your favourites! So happy to know that Emily Maguire’s book was your favourite of the year! Love Emily Maguire! I so want to read Damon Young’s The Art of Reading! Thanks so much for sharing your favourites list!


    • Vishy, I predict that you will *love* The Art of Reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Lisa! I can’t wait to read it!


  2. That’s some list(s) Lisa. I’ve only read 2 on your fiction top reads – Salt Creek and Hill of Grace. I picked up Emily McGuire’s book yesterday in a book shop but thought “crime, no thanks” – obviously a bad call. I’ve not read any of your non-fiction reads but I am keen to read Stan Grant’s book.


    • *chuckle* I thought the same thing at first about the Maguire book… but no, it’s not a crime novel, though there’s crime in it.


  3. I always enjoy your lists, Lisa, mainly because I’m familiar with most of them, unlike some lists which contain a lot of books I’ve never heard of. Sounds like I should try to read your Best Book. I’ve only read a small number in your lists, but I have a few of them on my TBR!

    I don’t usually name a best book, and I haven’t really started preparing my top books of 2016 yet so you’ll have to wait until after January 1 to see my list.


    • Thanks, Sue, I like it when I know the books too. (Ha ha, it can be easier on the purse as well, because there’s less temptation to buy if they’re already on the TBR!)
      I’ve only ever once before named a Best Book, and that was Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance, but as I was writing this the Maguire book just kept surfacing over and over and I began to realise afresh that I just want everybody to read it. Everybody.
      Knowing your commitments to keep up with family far and wide, I’m not surprised you haven’t done your list yet… but I have finished all my festive season running around. All I need to do now is a last minute spruce up with the vacuum cleaner and some elbow grease, and make some shortbread, today or tomorrow, and that’s it:) Phew!


      • Lucky you Lisa! Wish that was all I had to do. Are you going out on the day as usual then Boxing Day at yours?

        As for my list I always, anyhow, like to do it at the beginning of January so I can look at all of the year..


        • I’m having Christmas lunch with my dear old dad at Arcare, and we will open his presents which are under his ‘tree’ on his bedside table. (I have decorated his room with as much fa-la-la as I could fit and Arcare have tinsel and trees all over the place). $25 for turkey with all the trimmings for family whose loved one is too frail to spend the day with family, so LOL it’s a bargain compared to what we usually spend on a posh lunch. The Spouse will frolic with in-laws and The Offspring with his father, then yes, our Christmas proper will be on Boxing Day.


          • Thanks for answering Lisa. I was wondering about how you would manage your Dad this year. Sounds like a plan. I always think of you on Boxing Day when we are recovering from our big day the say before. We used to do a Boxing Day picnic, which was a lovely tradition but as my parents have got older out various traditions have changed, just like yours! The main thing is to enjoy family – and I hope you have a lovely time this year with all of yours.


            • You too, Sue, and I hope the weather is kind!

              Liked by 1 person

              • It’s going to be better than yours I think! Xmas Day 30°C and possible thunderstorm. I don’t know about your Boxing Day but I hear you Christmas Day is going to be pretty brutal?


                • Oh, everything’s got aircon, we’ll be right:)

                  Liked by 1 person

  4. Brilliant lists Lisa… and a great choice for book of the year. All the best for you and your family this festive season. Thanks for your blog! John


    • Thanks, John, and thank you for your blog too, I never miss a post even if I don’t always have time to comment.
      All the best to you too for the festive season, I hope Santa brings you a sackful of beaut books!


  5. I’m working on my list even as we speak. Nice to see that Stead made the list a couple of times.


    • I’ve just seen yours, LOL, it’s amazing when you think about it, that on top of all our other festive season commitments, we do these lists as well! All the best for the annual frivolity and thanks for your blog!


  6. Interesting lists Lisa. I don’t rate An Isolated Incident as highly as you do, nor The Fringe Dwellers. And I think I would find it difficult to leave Seven Poor Men of Sydney out of any top ten in the year I read it. I think the best of Stead is clearly a 5 in your system. Meanwhile I really must read Salt Creek.


    • Ha ha, I remember your doubts about the trucking details in An Isolated Incident…
      But I’ll go in to bat (hey! #LisaDoesSportingMetaphor!) for The Fringe Dwellers. It’s not great literature, and it’s not a book that would/could be written now, but in its time it brought attention to the way indigenous people were marginalised and I read it in that light. It was courageous writing for its time.
      Yes, I did mull over both the Steads. But although I really liked reading them, especially Seven Poor Men, they are not IMO Stead at her best.


      • Ah the trucking. NOW I remember the book in more detail!! Haha – or should it be, today, Ho Ho Ho!


  7. Hi Lisa,

    Thrilled to see Sister Sister on the non-fiction list! Thanks for all your support this year, and best wishes for a happy holiday season,

    Regards Anna Anna Rosner Blay Managing Editor HYBRID PUBLISHERS PO Box 52 Ormond VIC 3204 Australia

    Tel: (03) 9504 3462 See our website at:



    • Best wishes to you too, Anna!


  8. Oh bugger! There goes my plan to curb my always-growing TBR pile of Australian books!! So many good ones on this list, Lisa. I must bookmark this page for future reference as I’m sure it will help me decide which titles to spend my precious pennies on.


    • *chuckle* Yay, mission accomplished!


  9. Merry Christmas, Lisa. The very best of the Season to you and yours my friend. :-)


    • Thank you Celestine, and all the best for the festive season to you too:)


  10. Reblogged this on The Logical Place.


  11. Lisa, Sorry I didn’t answer earlier, I somehow missed the email. I agree with your choice of Emily Maguire’s novel, a haunting story. Your lists are amazing. Happy New Year and good reading.


  12. […] isolated incident by Emily Maguire (Picador/Novel) (Lisa named this as her book of the year last year, so I really should make this a […]


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