I did away with ‘top tens’ a few years ago, and instead I finish the reading year with a recap of the books that are still speaking to me (less about four and five-star ratings, more about what has stuck).
I tend to read a lot of memoirs and 2018 was no exception. A handful of memoirs by Australian women writers kicked off the year – Georgia Blain’s The Museum of Words, Biff Ward’s In My Mother’s Hands, and Paula Keogh’s The Green Bell – each deals with illness, albeit in different ways. Elements of each of these memoirs have stayed with me – Blain, that truth is stranger than fiction; Ward, that we just don’t know what is happening for someone, and Keogh, for the part about being loved.
In the middle of the year, I read two harrowing memoirs – Eggshell Skull and Staying – and then I finished the year with Magda Szubanski’s exceptional story, Reckoning. There’s so much in this book about cultural identity and trauma that I’ll be reading it again at some stage.
My Bruce Springsteen project dominated months, all prompted by his autobiography, Born to Run, and I was also thoroughly absorbed in Jessica Lee’s ‘swimming memoir’, Turning (reading it while in Berlin added to the experience).
My annual Richard Yates did not disappoint – I think Young Hearts Crying is up there with Easter Parade.
Late this year I came across Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. I listened to Strayed read the audio and as I drove to work, I cried and cried (arrived at work a wreck). I decided I needed the book and immediately picked it up on Kindle for a bargain price. Drove home, listened some more. Cried. Laughed. Loved Cheryl, hard. Ordered a hard copy so that I could have all the passages I wanted to highlight at hand.
There were two absolute stand-outs this year and both were big, sprawling family sagas that made me laugh and cry (the very best quality in a book, I reckon). The first was The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne – it had shades of Irving and I’m still thinking about little Cyril, knowing he’ll never be ‘a real Avery’. Later in the year I read Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life – I was embarrassingly late to the Atkinson party but the characters in this book were absolutely exquisite, and the historical detail, stunning.
In summary, 2018 has been a terrific reading year.
Thanks for your readership.