It’s been another big year for reviewing in 2014. I’ve managed to review more than 130 books, of which 56 were by Australian Women Writers. Of these, 13 were by West Australian writers. Not every book I read in 2014 has been reviewed, simply because I needed to make time for “just because” reads – who wants reading to become a chore, another item on ever-increasing to-do or bucket lists? Nor have I included cookbook reviews in these numbers. Genres have ranged from literary to crime, contemporary to historical, romance to young adult … I’m not an “all your eggs in one basket” reader.
So, how do I choose my favourites? Do I choose best by genre? Best overall? Since books by Australian writers featured most heavily, I decided to go with my favourite Australian books of 2014 (to link to my reviews, click on the images or titles). That was the easy part, as it turns out. Here goes:
Elemental by Amanda Curtin is “an astonishing book, in both the tale and its telling”. It really struck a chord in me and introduced me to a gifted writer.
Letters to the End of Love by Yvette Walker is “in a word, beautiful”. An epistolary love story with searing prose, it also introduced me to another incredibly gifted writer.
Lyrebird Hill by Anna Romer has made me love “my favourite genre, gothic fiction, even more, if that’s possible”. It captivated me and I read it in one sitting.
It only took a few minutes for Lost & Found by Brooke Davis to enchant me – “I curled up on the lounge, lost in the unsophisticated, innocent world of three quirky and lovable characters”. I’m looking forward to meeting Brooke at my Stories on Stage event in 2015.
As the River Runs by Stephen Scourfield took my breath away with its poetic, emotionally charged prose. Set in Australia’s North-West, the novel surprised and captivated me.
Billabong Bend by Jennifer Scoullar put this writer on my must-read list: “Generous, visual and emotive, Billabong Bend is a love story for Australia inasmuch as it is a sassy romance between two people with more than a few obstacles to overcome.” More than just a rural romance.
Being Jade by Kate Belle is an unconventional love story, but it’s also a “beautiful and complex novel that will challenge readers to examine their hearts and true self”. It challenged me in a number of ways and made me think … and think.
Christos Tsiolkas’ short stories collection, Merciless Gods, is not an easy read, but a brilliant one: “For all the shocks and too-much-information discomfort, the emotion behind the stories get under your skin.”
The Ark by Annabel Smith surprised me because spec fic is not a genre I usually read. It sucked me in and “gets my vote for the most interesting and clever book I’ve read this year”.
And finally, The Lake’s Apprentice by Annamaria Weldon – again, not usually the type of book I’d pick up (a combination of non-fiction and poetry). Lucky I did: “Reading The Lake’s Apprentice was pure pleasure, both for the love of words that shone into my soul and for the journey they took me on … literally”.
Whether by chance or design, six of my Top 10 are by West Australian authors. I was honoured to host Amanda Curtin, Yvette Walker, Annabel Smith, Stephen Scourfield and Annamaria Weldon at Stories on Stage events this year, and those events led to some truly satisfying reading experiences. Thank you all for your words and your presence at Stories on Stage.
Other Australian books that stood out for me include The Hum of Concrete by Anna Solding, Isabelle of the Moon & Stars by S.A. Jones, and Mountain Ash by Margareta Osborn. And yet, there are so many more I read and loved. Aussie writers – you’ve made reading a continued joy in my life.
My favourite non-Australian book was The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (also known as The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – it reminded me of why I love reading so, so much.
And that’s it. My biggest “editing” project of the year is done. Reading-wise, I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings me. Hopefully, I will find more time for my own writing, too.