Around New Year I usually back-track though my non-professional reading and compile a top five. Last month I came up with these:
1) Music and Freedom, Zoe Morrison—an Oz writer, though this is set largely in Oxford, UK; excellent storytelling, strong characters, lots of music.
2) 4321, Paul Auster, a rare male entry! I didn’t think I was an Auster kind of person, but this was gripping from beginning to its very far off end (extremely fat book, which I was not aware of when I started it on kindle). Four versions of a life; some found it too hard to keep track. I devoured it and enjoyed the brain tease, too (strangely). [This also, by the by, sent me down a rabbit hole of ‘versions’ literature, and I quite enjoyed Laura Barnett’s Versions of Us, as well.
3) Extinctions, Josephine Wilson—holding up West Australia’s reputation for great literature, this was thought-provoking about adoption, Aboriginality, academia, and Australia (the As).
4) Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman, a first novel for this UK writer, set in the UK. Obviously, from the title, we know that Eleanor Oliphant is far from fine, but she will be, though not in ways you expect. It’s been pegged as hopeful, happy literature, though I was fairly cut up about most of it. A tremendous debut.
5) The Life to Come, Michelle de Kretser. The stand out, I reckon. Making this my third Aussie book in the top 5! (Not typical.) Astonishingly evocative of modern Sydney. It can dip into mildly tedious cynicism, but its originality usually redeems such moments.
For 2016, these were on my list (copying from my Facebook post):
For my friends catching up on their fun reading this month, I’ve compiled my top five of 2016. Let me know yours, too!
1) Hope Farm, Peggy Frew—I rarely put Aussie novels on my list (not from principle) but this has stayed with me all year…
2) My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem, the first of a good swag of femmo memoirs this year—totally mesmerizing to be in the hold of such an assured writer.
3) The Mothers, Brit Bennet—a first novel by amazing black American femmo writer (combining some themes of this year’s list, apparently, for me)
4) The Hate Race, Maxine Clarke—probably the best book of the year, hard to read in some parts considering her age is so similar to mine, but her memories of public schooling as an Afro-Caribbean child are sooo different…
5) Negroland, Margo Jefferson—black American femmo memoir (the culmination it seems of my interests this year!); just finished, fantastic on the Chicago elite (and set two blocks from my friend Becky’s house!)