Monday musings on Australian literature: Aussie writers name their pick reads of 2016
December is, or has certainly become in recent years, the month of lists. As always, I’ll be saving my lists until the end of 2015, which means you won’t see them until January. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t share other people’s lists, does it?
I’ve gleaned the list I’m sharing here from a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald, a list I particularly enjoy because they ask a wide range of Aussie writers who come up with books crossing a variety of forms and genres. In my report on it, I’ve only included Australian books. I hope that, because of this and because my order of presentation is completely different, I haven’t broken copyright. If I have, I hope they forgive me, in recognition of our shared goal of promoting books and reading.
So, here’s the list of books, with the nominating author/s in parentheses at the end. I’ve used asterisks to denote those books nominated more than once, with the number of asterisks identifying the number of nominations.:
- Randa Abdel-Fattah’s When Michael met Mina (YA fiction) (Maxine Beneba Clarke)
- ***Steven Amsterdam’s The easy way out (fiction) (Maxine Beneba Clarke, Abigail Ulman, Charlotte Wood)
- Melissa Ashley’s The birdman’s wife (historical fiction) (Robert Adamson)
- Carmel Bird’s Family skeleton (fiction) (Jacinta Halloran)
- **Georgia Blain’s Between a wolf and a dog (fiction) (Toni Jordan, Charlotte Wood)
- Maxine Beneba Clarke’s Foreign soil (short stories) (Clare Wright).
- Maxine Beneba Clarke’s The hate race (memoir) (Zoe Morrison)
- Stephanie Bishop’s The other side of the world (fiction) (Katherine Brabon)
- Stephen Daisley’s Coming rain (fiction) (Clare Wright)
- Robin Dalton’s Aunts up the Cross (classic memoir, repub. by Text) (Tim Flannery)
- Catherine de Saint Phalle’s Poum and Alexandre: A Paris memoir (memoir) (Helen Garner)
- David Dyer’s The midnight watch (historical fiction) (Malcolm Knox)
- Sarah Engledow’s The popular pet book (non-fiction) (Chris Wallace-Crabbe)
- Richard Flanagan’s Notes on an exodus (non-fiction) (Katherine Brabon)
- **David Francis’ Wedding Bush Road (fiction) (Abigail Ulman, Don Watson)
- Peggy Frew’s Hope Farm (fiction) (Clare Wright)
- Alice Garner’s A shifting shore (non-fiction) (Gregory Day)
- ***Helen Garner’s Everywhere I look (essays) (Lisa Gorton, Jacinta Halloran, Joan London) (my review)
- Stan Grant’s Talking to my country (non-fiction) (Maxine Beneba Clarke)
- Tom Griffiths’ The art of time travel (non-fiction) (Clare Wright)
- Shirley Hazzard’s Cliffs of fall and other stories (short stories, orig. pub. 1963) (Helen Garner)
- Toni Jordan’s Our tiny useless hearts (fiction) (Graeme Simsion)
- Gisela Kaplan’s Bird minds (non-fiction) (Tim Winton)
- Hannah Kent’s The good people (historical fiction) (Malcolm Knox)
- Lee Kofman and Maria Katsonis’ Rebellious daughters (short story anthology) (Clare Wright)
- Julie Koh’s Portable curiosities (short stories) (Maxine Beneba Clarke)
- Anthony Lawrence’s Headwaters (poetry) (Robert Adamson)
- Micheline Lee’s The healing party (fiction) (Helen Garner)
- Cassie Lewis’ The blue decodes (poetry) (Robert Adamson)
- Tim Low’s Where song began (non-fiction) (Tim Flannery)
- Thornton McCamish’s Our man elsewhere (biography of Alan Moorehead) (Helen Garner)
- Adrian McKinty’s Rain dogs (historical crime fiction) (Michael Robotham)
- ***Kim Mahood’s Position doubtful (memoir) (Lisa Gorton, Jacinta Halloran, Tim Winton)
- Robert Manne’s The mind of The Islamic State (non-fiction) (Alex Miller)
- Zoe Morrison’s Music and freedom (memoir) (Graeme Simsion)
- **Ryan O’Neill’s Their brilliant careers (fiction) (Toni Jordan, AS Patric)
- Heather Rose’s The Museum of Modern Love (novel) (Hannah Kent)
- ** Josephine Rowe’s A loving, faithful animal (novel) (Jacinta Halloran, Fiona Wright) (my review)
- **Baba Schwartz’s The May beetles (memoir) (Helen Garner, Joan London)
- Sybille Smith’s Mothertongue (memoir) (Helen Garner)
- Randolph Stow’s The Merry-Go-Round in the sea (classic fiction) (Jacinta Halloran)
- **Ellen van Neerven’s Comfort food (poetry) (Maxine Beneba Clarke, Lisa Gorton)
- Dave Warner’s Before it breaks (crime fiction) (Michael Robotham)
- Alison Whittaker’s Lemons in the chicken wire (poetry) (Fiona Wright)
- Josephine Wilson’s Extinctions (fiction) (Charlotte Wood)
- Peter Wohlleben’s The hidden life of trees (non-fiction) (Tim Flannery)
As with last year’s smh list, there are books and authors I haven’t heard of, but I’m thrilled to see some books appearing multiple times, including a couple of books I loved this year – Garner’s Everywhere I look and Josephine Rowe’s A loving faithful animal – and Kim Mahood’s Position doubtful, which I know I’ll be reading next year. Tim Winton says of Mahood’s book:
If anyone’s written more beautifully and modestly about this country and its people I’m not aware of it. I think it’s a treasure.
A book I should clearly consider reading is three-asterisked Stephen Amsterdam’s The easy way out. Charlotte Wood describes it as “a sharp, snappy novel about assisted dying. Blackly witty but never glib, it’s humane and moving.”
It’s lovely to see Patrick White award-winner, Carmel Bird, in the list with her new novel Family skeleton, alongside older books by Shirley Hazzard and Randolph Stow. And it’s interesting to see the variety of memoirs admired by our authors.
While this year there are several books with two or three recommendations, last year had a runaway winner with five recommendations – Charlotte Wood’s The natural way of things. I noted then that I clearly needed to read it – and I did. In fact, I reviewed, in 2016, 7 books from last year’s list. I wonder if I’ll do something similar in 2017.
Meanwhile, do you enjoy end of year lists – and, more significantly, do they guide your reading choices in any way? If they do I’d love to know how.