Regular readers of my blog will know two things about my end of year reading highlights post, but I’ll reiterate them here: I always do my list right at the end of the year when I have read (even if not reviewed) all the books I’m going to; and I do not do a list of “best” or even, really, “favourite” books. Instead, I do a sort of overview of the year through highlights which I think reflect my reading year. I also like to include literary highlights, that is, reading related activities which enhance my reading interests and knowledge. All being well, tomorrow I will share my blogging highlights.
My literary highlights, aka literary events, saw a return to more live events this year, though the pandemic has taught us that there are opportunities to be had by also continuing online experiences – so this year like last I enjoyed a bit of both
- Sydney Writers Festival: Live and Local: Once again, I attended the now well-established Sydney Writers Festival streamed series, but only one session unfortunately: Damon Galgut, Larissa Behrendt and Paige Clark in conversation with Sisonke Msimang
- Canberra Writers Festival: This clashed with one of my Melbourne trips and a theatre booking, but I managed to attend one day, and get to three sessions that day: a panel discussion with Kathryn Heyman, Chris Hammer and Diana Reid, on Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and with Germaine Greer
- Seymour Biography Lecture: This annual biography lecture returned this year after a COVID-hiatus with the entertaining yet thoughtful Jacqueline Kent at the podium.
- Book launches: Life seems so busy that I didn’t get to many such events but I got to a few: Nathan Hobby’s biography The red witch (online launch), Nigel Featherstone’s novel My heart is a little wild thing, Craig Silvey’s novel Runt, and Heather Rose’s memoir Nothing bad ever happens here.
I don’t have specific reading goals, just some “rules of thumb” which include reducing the TBR pile, increasing my reading of First Nations authors, and reading some non-anglo literature. While I didn’t make great inroads into these, I did make some, and, regardless, I had many reading highlights. Last year, I framed this post around my reading preferences, but this year I’m returning to my practice of pulling out random observations that epitomise my year’s reading.
- Re-find of the year: Elizabeth von Arnim was an author I loved back in the 1990s, and I managed to finally revisit her again this year, via not one but two novels – Vera and Expiation – which reminded me why I enjoy her so much. She is sharply observant about men and women but also witty. I also read this year one of the three biographies recently published about her, Gabrielle Carey’s Only happiness here.
- Retelling of the year: Retellings can be hit or miss for me but I was greatly moved by Tom Gauld’s graphic novel, Goliath.
- Topic of the year (1): Mothers and daughters featured heavily in this year’s reading, through Jane Sinclair’s memoir Shy love smiles and acid drops, Elisa Shua Dusapin’s Winter in Sokcho, Lucy Neave’s Believe in me, Nell Pierce’s A place near Eden, Jessica Au’s Cold enough for snow not to mention that absolute classic, and a reread for me, Jane Austen’s Sense and sensibility.
- Topic of the year (2): Colonialism and racism are issues that many of us read about in order to educate ourselves, and this year I read some magnificent explorations, from Damon Galgut’s The promise and Audrey Magee’s The colony to several works by people of colour, including Nella Larsen’s classic 1929 novel Passing, Julie Koh’s astonishing Portable curiosities, Evelyn Araluen’s Stella winner Dropbear, and Anita Heiss’s historical novel Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray.
- New nationality (for me): I love to add new nationalities to my reading diet, and this year it was Uruguayan, via Ida Vitale’s intriguing Byobu.
- New genre: Bibliomemoirs are not new, but the term for them is relatively so! Besides Gabrielle Carey’s Only happiness here (mentioned above), I read Carmel Bird’s thoughtful and engaging Telltale.
- Totemic critters: Every year something interesting pops out from my reading. An odd narrator, perhaps – like a skeleton. This year, it was totemic critters with a few books featuring a lurking critter, such as Nigel Featherstone’s quoll (My heart is a little wild thing) and Lucy Neave’s fox (Believe in me).
- The locals have it: I like to support local authors, and this year I have read more than usual – Nigel Featherstone’s My heart is a little wild thing, Shelley Burr’s debut rural noir Wake, Lucy Neave’s Believe in me, Nell Pierce’s A place near Eden, and (then resident) Margaret Barbalet’s Blood in the rain, plus two nonfiction works, Mark McKenna’s Return to Uluru and Biff Ward’s memoir-of-sorts, The third chopstick. I also read, but didn’t review several books by local picture book creators. For a little region, we achieve a lot!
These are just some of 2022’s highlights…
Some stats …
I don’t read to achieve specific stats, but I do have some reading preferences which I like to track to keep me honest to myself! This year I was closer to my preferred ratios in most of the categories than I have been for years – without specifically trying. It just happened:
My preferences are …
- to read mostly fiction: 74% of my reading was fiction (meaning, everything not non-fiction, so novels, short stories, and poetry). This is close to my plucked-out-of-the-air 75% rule of thumb, and I’m pleased with that.
- to give precedence to women: 64% of this year’s reading was by women writers, which is similar to last year’s 65%, and around my preferred two-thirds proportion.
- to read non-Australian as well as Australian writers: 32% of this year’s reading was by non-Australian writers, which is close to my goal of around one-third non-Australian, two-thirds Australian.
- to read older books: 34% of the works I read were published before 2000, which is more than in recent years. I did say last year that I wanted to increase this, because I love checking out older works.
- to support new releases: 19% of this year’s reads were published in 2022, which is rather less than last year’s 25% for that year’s releases, but I’m fine with that – even if my to-be-reviewed pile isn’t.
- to tackle the TBR, which for me means books I’ve had for over 12 months: This year I read just 5, which is similar to the last few years. I’d really love to lift this number because I have so many good (older) books there waiting to be read!
Overall, it was a perfectly fine reading year but I didn’t read as much as I was hoping, mainly because Mr Gums and I are travelling more often to Melbourne to visit family. This is a good thing so I’m not complaining, but still, I’d like to have read more. 2023 is going to be a challenging year with a downsizing move in the offing, as well as our trips to Melbourne. Watch this space!
Meanwhile, a huge thanks to all of you who read my posts, engage in discussion, recommend more books and, generally, be thoughtful and fun people. Our little community is special, to me!
I wish you all an excellent 2023, and thank you once again for hanging in this year.
What were your 2022 reading or literary highlights?