This year was my reading group’s 30th year, and for the first time ever we decided to vote on our top picks for the year. Will it become a tradition? Who knows? Anyhow, in the spirit of end-of-year lists, I thought you might be interested to see the result, because you will know some of these books.
First, though, here’s what we read in the order we read them (with links to my reviews). I missed one when I was travelling – unfortunately:
- Passionate nomad, by Jane Fletcher Geniesse (biography)
- Travels with my aunt, by Graham Greene (novel, classic)
- Troppo, by Madelaine Dickie (novel)
- Black rock, white city, by AS Patric (novel)
- Nutshell, by Ian McEwan (novel)
- Position doubtful, by Kim Mahood (hybrid memoir)
- Our souls at night, by Kent Haruf (novel)
- Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee (novel)
- The museum of modern love, by Heather Rose (novel)
- Talking to my country, by Stan Grant (hybrid memoir)
- Dancing to the precipice: Lucie de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution, by Caroline Moorehead (biography)
And now, the winners …
- Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee (7 votes)
- The museum of modern love, by Heather Rose (6 votes)
- Black rock white city, by AS Patrić (5 votes)
Highly commended were Nutshell by Ian McEwan (3 votes), and Our souls at night by Kent Haruf (3 votes). In other words, five books received 24 of the 32 votes cast, which is pretty decisive, don’t you think?
But of course, this is not a scientific survey. Votes were all given equal weight, even where people indicated an order of preference, and not everyone read every book, which means different people voted from different “pools”. If all had read every book Pachinko may have had even more votes (because my memory tells me that every one, or almost everyone, who read it voted for it.)
- PACHINKO: Most members who commented on this one liked it for the cultural history it provides about Koreans in Japan, something which few us knew much about. One member added that “the story was told so very well without pathos but with sympathy for the victims.”
- THE MUSEUM OF MODERN LOVE: Comments on this included that it was revealing about “Abramovic the artist and the relationship with her audience”, with one member saying “it was almost perfect. It satisfied on so many levels”.
- BLACK ROCK WHITE CITY: Two members were uncertain about this to start with, one saying “I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy it but found I was totally absorbed very quickly” and another that “I started with low expectations and his beautiful writing won me over.” In the end, all who voted for it agreed, I’d say, with the member who called it “a fabulous and quirky story related to the migrant experience .”
- NUTSHELL: The two members who commented on this one wrote “beautiful writing and a very innovative theme, makes me look at foetuses in a different way” and “clever, quirky and a lot of fun.”
- OUR SOULS AT NIGHT: As for this one, if you’ve read Haruf you won’t be surprised at comments describing it as “a real gem”, as “deceptively simple with big themes and big heart.”
And next year, do I hear you ask?
- Rabih Alameddine’s An unnecessary woman
- Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The sympathizer (which most of you know I’ve already read)
- Claire Coleman’s Terra nullius
- Helen Garner night: read any from Garner’s oeuvre (an experiment. We’ve done poetry nights where we bring a poem or two to share, but never something like this.)
- Richard Flanagan’s First person
- Randolph Stow’s The merry-go-round in the sea (our classic, because we always like to do at least one)
If you are in a reading group – face-to-face or online – I’d love to hear your highlights and/or what you plan to read in 2018.