We asked the TOAST Team and TOAST Travels contributors (past, present and future) for the best books (old or new) that they have read this year. Here are their recommendations. We hope you find something to tempt you...
Louisa Thomsen Brits – TOAST Travels contributor
A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler
In the middle of a year of hype, this humane, calm, unsentimental novel about the solemn, singular life of labourer Andreas Egger penetrates what it is to be alive – to experience small joys, pain, disquieting intimacies and love.
About Trees by Katie Holten
A nuanced archive of thought on trees illuminated by Katie Holten’s font, each letter corresponding to the distinct silhouette of a specific species of tree. Reading it is like slipping into a forest of folklore or the secret landscape of a vital and long-forgotten language.
Orlando Gough – TOAST Travels contributor
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
By the end of the first paragraph of this savage exuberant black (in several ways) satire, I knew I was in the hands of someone who understands how the world works. Which is odd, because it was turned down by eighteen publishers, before becoming the second consecutive Booker Prize winner from the adventurous publishing house Oneworld.
The Outrun by Amy Liptrot (also one of our TOAST Book Club reads)
Amy Liptrot’s account of her recovery from alcoholism is a hymn to wild places and their healing power. Without romanticising, she describes her slow convalescence on the Orkney Islands, mapping it tellingly onto her previous chaotic life in London. Painfully honest, beautifully written, life-affirming.
Matt Collins – TOAST Travels contributor
At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
Wonderful descriptions of apple grafting and plant-hunting in a 19th century New World America. Chevalier weaves an enthralling, feverish narrative through a backdrop of exploratory horticulture.
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
I’ve been working my way through Evelyn Waugh’s pre-war novels this year, and Scoop has been a definite favourite. While its nature-writing protagonist falls prey to the dark sense of humour unifying these early Waugh works, Scoop’s ending is uncharacteristically bright.
James Seaton – TOAST Co-founder & Creative Director
War Music: An Account of Homer’s Iliad by Christopher Logue
My best book of the 2016, surprising me by how much it moved me, how much I relished picking it up each day. It’s a collecting together of Logue’s re-workings of the Iliad, begun in 1959 and still unfinished at his death in 2011 - thus complete in parts, incomplete in others. This doesn’t matter at all: the verse is as free as it needs to be yet thoroughly grounded on a beautiful prosody; the language is demotic and vivid; the imagery is liberated but absolutely accurate; and the characterisation so clear - and so clearly containing the seeds of tragedy. Witty, shocking, beautiful, fast-paced and, of course - as war inevitably is - disastrously tragic. A wonderful book.
The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner
I’d read anything this young American poet, novelist and essayist produces. I loved both his novels - Leaving the Atocha Station, his first - and the only book I’ve ever finished and immediately re-read, both for sheer enjoyment and knowing there was more to be had from it than was yielded by the first reading - and 10:04, his second.
In this longish essay he counterintuitively reveals his love of poetry through his hatred for it: hatred because of the near impossibility of poetry ever achieving the sublime goals expected of it - but goals nonetheless worth pursuing. Along the way he writes with his usual blend of playfulness, digression, wit and high intelligence.
Betsy Tobin - TOAST Travels contributor
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
One of this year’s absolute delights, veteran non-fiction writer Francis Spufford’s debut novel is a boisterous 17th century adventure set in early New York. Impeccable writing, fantastic characters, and a surprise ending that will leave you wreathed in smiles.
Jon Day – TOAST Travels contributor (and Man Booker Prize Judge - so they must be good!)
The Invention of Angela Carter by Edmund Gordon
A glorious and important biography of this most magical of writers.
The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
Laing blends memoir, essay and criticism in a way that feels utterly assured. Her great skill is to remind us how and why art matters; how it can shape lives and provide solace.
Jessica Seaton – TOAST Co-founder & Brand Director
The Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya Von Bremzen
What may appear on the surface to be a book about Soviet food, turns out to be a warm and lively memoir about family and nation, expressed through a deep love of its culinary tradition. Threaded through is a fascinating romp through 20th century Soviet history. Written with verve and humour by Anja von Bremzen whose life in New York as a culinary journalist only makes her longing for her homeland stronger.
Weatherland – Writers & Artists under English Skies by Alexandra Harris
Weatherland begins and ends in the water meadows of East Sussex, floodwater seeping away through sluice gates and ditches. We are in the present day, but Alexandra soon takes us back, lyrically and eruditely recreating each age’s obsessions with aspects of English weather, from the Anglo-Saxon’s love of cold and winter (you’d have thought no other season existed) to the Victorian obsession with damp and moss – each age reflects its character and outlook through how its artists depict weather. A fascinating read.
Emily Mears – TOAST Copywriter
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
The story spins on a pivotal moment that sends ripples into the future. Exquisitely written and beautifully brief – not a word is wasted.
The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes
A story of regret and long hidden truths. Barnes writes with an addictive honesty and lucidity - the quiet master of human observation.
The Stories by Jane Gardam
Gardam draws her characters with such deftness and natural wit that you hardly believe they are fictional. All the stories have an energy and pace and all seem to linger…
Jane Hardy – TOAST Senior Technologist
Loot by Joe Orton
I love that crazy mixed up morality and dark humour... stiff body upside down in the wardrobe... glass eye rolling around the floor... hilarious. But of course this is all a front!!
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Such a beautiful timeless story so rich but weighted with sadness. I found the tragedy of this story overwhelming – human nature is sometimes so disappointing. It is hard to imagine that this deeply tragic story was written by such a young woman.
Alys Fowler – TOAST Travels contributor
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
A strange and wonderful mix of motherhood and gender-queer studies. It's the sort of book where you take a big gulp of air and don't breathe out again till the last page is over.
Jessica Adams – TOAST Product Developer
The Bees by Laline Paull
This quirky and gripping novel follows the life of a young sanitation bee called Flora 717. Flora 717, our heroine, is not like the other bees in her rank and she slowly breaks all the 'codes' in the rigid system of the hive. There is a real sense of mythology, of fear of the elite and devotion to the queen. I was fascinated by the inner workings of the hive and never thought I would feel such empathy for a bee!
Illustrations by Jessica Creighton
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