Normally I’m a voracious reader. Normally. But 2015 wasn’t really a normal year. It was a twelve month juggling act – work, freelance obligations, family commitments, and completing a thesis for my Master’s Degree – which didn’t leave a whole lot of spare time for my favourite escape, reading.
I did manage to preserve sanity by escaping to new worlds and meeting new characters on several occasions though, and my 2015 reading list shaped up to be quite eclectic. On reflection, I’m pleased to note fifty per cent of the list is made up of Australian authors. There is so much talent in the spheres of Australian writing, across all genres.
I read more forensically these days than I ever have before, and some titles gripped me more than others with the quality of writing and handling of character and plot. Enjoyment from reading will always be a matter of taste though (as it should be), so I haven’t offered reviews of each, just a few indulgent comments.
Overall, 2015 was a damn fine year of reading, even if it wasn’t abundant.
1. ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ by Shirley Jackson. Shirley Jackson is one of my literary heroes. She has an innate ability to create a false sense of security before tipping everything on end before you even realise what you’re reading. Merricat and her family stayed with me all year.
2. ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood. This had been on my ‘to read’ list for ages. I couldn’t put it down. It stirred many emotions – shock, outrage, frustration, stress.
3. ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ by Neil Gaiman. Ursula Monkton is shuddersome! I always enjoy books that tackle the crossover between childhood and adulthood, especially within dark and unsettling parameters.
4. ‘Last Year When We Were Young’ by Andrew McKiernan. A fabulous collection of intelligently crafted tales. While dipping, and often plunging, into delightful darkness, McKiernen’s work should appeal to any lover of well-told fiction, irrespective of genre.
5. ‘A Girl Like Me’ by Penny Matthews. Young adult novel centred around the true story of a tragic crime that took place over a hundred years ago in rural Australia. Nicely told – secrets, characters (real and imagined) that you care about, and an interesting glimpse into social dynamics of yesteryear Australia.
6. ‘Burial Rites’ by Hannah Kent. I badly wanted to love this book. Another story inspired by a real crime, but what a setting – Iceland in 1829! Plus a debut novel by a young female Aussie that had received rave reviews and award nominations. But I didn’t love it. I found the middle section a real struggle. Nevertheless I was totally impressed by the achievement of this book – the sheer volume of research, the powerful setting – Iceland’s landscape is brought to life in stunning detail and takes on a dark, cold, foreboding character of its own. I would surely die in a badstofa! What Kent has done is quite astounding and I look forward to her next offering, but I did wish the middle section of Burial Rites maintained the pace of the start and finish.
7. ‘Remarkable Creatures’ by Tracy Chevalier. Another work based on historical events. I’m dinosaur mad, and Mary Anning fascinates me, so this was a quick, easy read. Girl Power! (Or as much as we could wield in 1810).
8. ‘Blood Meridian’ by Cormac McCarthy. I tried to finish Blood Meridian, but admit I abandoned ship about midway. It was just too laborious and repetitive a read stylistically for my tastes. It has moments of utter literary brilliance (of course it does, it’s McCarthy), but I found myself having to be dragged back to it. I will give it a crack again down the track as I do want to see it through. I’ve noticed Blood Meridian seems to polarise many a reader – it’s either loved or loathed. I need to see it out properly and process before I can offer a more valid opinion.
9. ‘Do the Creepy Thing’ by Graham Joyce. The creepy thing the girls do before the creepy thing happens to them is by far creepier than the subsequent creepiness. Got it?
10. ‘Blueback’ by Tim Winton. I read this in one sitting. I love Tim Winton’s writing, and have such an affinity with the ocean that Blueback was always going to be an enjoyable read.
11. ‘So Much to Tell You’ by John Marsden. 14 year old Marina’s story told through diary form. I didn’t realise this was Marsden’s debut novel.
12. ‘Midnight and Moonshine’ by Angela Slatter and Lisa L Hannett. A classy collection of interconnected tales. Stunningly beautiful writing. Rich and intelligent. A unique book that deserves its accolades.
13. ‘Blockade Billy’ by Stephen King I much preferred the bonus story, ‘Morality’ at the end of the novella.
14. ‘Flutes in the Garden’ by Chip Richards. Beautifully written and illustrated with an important message – ‘a story of miracles and the magic of life’. This book was a gift to my son by the author, and it will always have a place on our family bookshelf
15. ‘11.22.63’ by Stephen King. SK delivers in spades. And the research component that underpins it is awe inspiring. I understand it is being made into a movie starring James Franco. Pass the popcorn!
16. ‘Two Wolves’ by Tristan Bancks. My last read of 2015 – Middle grade novel with terrific pacing, fabulous chacarterisation and real moments of tension.
I hope everyone had a great year of reading, and if you’re anything like me you already have your ‘to read’ pile growing for 2016. I hope I can squeeze in more titles this year.
What were your favourite reads of 2015?
Happy New Year, everyone … and happy writing, happy reading and happy days 🙂