Hmmm. It turns out that in 2016 I only read about one book per week. 52 books; 41 of them written by women; 31 of them fiction.
Which didn’t seem like enough until I remembered that I (usually) only read in bed, at night, and that sometimes exhaustion wins out over literary merit…
Or, as seems to be the case this year, exhaustion won out over any sort of merit at all! I’m afraid my literary diet for 2016 was chock full of sweet nothings, lots of easy reading and lighter-than-air commercial fiction, with only the occasional Big Book thrown in (perhaps to stop me floating away completely).
My reading themes for 2016?
Size matters. Some of the Big Books I read this year were truly excellent:
- Samuel Pepys by Clare Tomalin was the masterful and awe-inspiring work of a biographer at the top of her game.
- The Romanovs 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore explains much about Putin (who is clearly just a Tsar by another name)
- Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler was worth reading AND provided a useful example of how to fill a book with images sourced for free.
- Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird is another incredibly well written biography.
Other works of non-fiction were fascinating too:
- Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner – behold the work of the master.
- Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske continues to haunt me. I blogged about it here.
- The Road to Ruin by Niki Sava – even if only half of what Sava wrote about Tony Abbot and Peta Credlin is true, then their period in office remains a truly gobsmacking debacle.
- Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford. I sent a copy to one of my feminist friends in the USA (she got the tattoo before I sent the book, just FYI).
- My History: a memoir of growing up by Antonia Fraser. I blogged about it here.
- Eat Your History by Jacqui Newling. I blogged about it here.
- Second Half First by Drusilla Modjeska. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would but Modjeska, sent to boarding school as a little girl, seems to have grown into a woman who (unconsciously or not) always seeks outsider status.
Books about writing captured me, for obvious reasons:
- The Writers Room by Charlotte Wood is super insightful and worth re-reading.
- Searching for the Secret River was interesting and, weirdly, Kate Grenville contacted me just after I’d finished it!
- The Art of Time Travel by Tom Griffiths was excellent. I blogged about it here.
- Finding Eliza: Power and Colonial Storytelling by Larissa Behrendt was good too. I blogged about it here.
So. My favourite book of 2016? Uprooted by Naomi Novik. This book surprised and delighted me, and has stayed with me ever since.
Some honourable mentions from the fiction pile:
- An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire – I blogged about it here.
- The Midnight Watch by David Dwyer was a gripping and unusual take on the Titanic story.
- Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff was apparently Barak Obama’s book of the year. Easy to see why.
- Our Tiny Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan was hilarious and moving. Loved it.
- All That I Am by Anna Funder and The Life of Houses by Lisa Gorton were both beautifully written.
- Maestra by L.S. Hilton was a sexy thriller with fantastic female protagonist.
And some brickbats for the books I didn’t love (and/or didn’t finish):
- My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. Too boring
- Cosmo Cosmolino by Helen Garner. I know! But I couldn’t even finish it
- The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood. Too didactic.
- The North Water by Ian McGuire. Too violent.
I went mad for Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances (and blogged about it here). I also tried a couple of Ursula Le Guin’s groundbreaking science fictions, but the earth failed to move for me. Commercial fiction called to me, and rarely let me down. Bouquets to Cathy Kelly, Liane Moriarty and all the Aussie rural romance writers. Although a cliched US-based romance haunted me for all the wrong reasons!
My 2017 TBR pile is already tottering and I can’t wait to get stuck in to it.
Happy New Year one and all!
Well, obviously not everything you read was light and fluffy – I’ll probably skip Tony&Peta, Queen Victoria and the Romanovs – and we may have to disagree about Le Guin SF, The Natural Way of Things and Liane Moriarty. But you did introduce me to Garner’s essays, thankyou, and to Finding Eliza and the Art of Time Travel which I must read very soon. I’m sure you’ll find that one of the joys of being a Georgette Heyer fan is coming across ‘new’ ones in SH book stores. Looking forward to reports of more (substantial!) EMac progress in 2017..
I think my fluffiness cravings are a direct result of substantial progress with EM. When last I looked (um, yesterday) she was sixty-seven years old and at about 96,000 words. Only sixteen more years to go – huzzah!
Great write up Michelle. I love your Behold the master for Garner’s essays and then not being able to finish Cosmo. I’ve read and blogged about it.
I really want to read some of your non-fiction including Finding Eliza (on the TBR) and the Art of time travel (not on the physical I mean TBR!).
So much more to say, but I’ll stop here. Thanks for a very enjoyable write up which includes enough books I know to make me feel connected but enough I don’t know to intrigue me.
Snap! I use your blog to add to my TBR pile all the time.Glad you enjoyed the overview – the books I read last January seem an awfully long time ago!
Well, you’ve inspired me to read more – and record better what I read. Great post, and happy 2017 to you.
Thanks! Happy 2017 to you too. Recording what you read is a strange one, isn’t it. I’m not really sure why I started doing it in 2010 but it’s helpful now to check if I’ve read something before, or something by a particular writer before. I used to just record a title and author but these days I’ll often write a very short comment too. I just use a nice notebook that lives beside my bed. The weirdest part is looking back to see titles I have absolutely no memory of whatsoever!
Thankyou so much for saying that Michelle – that is, seeing books you know you’ve read but have no memory whatsoever. I have some books in my Read (as against TBR) bookshelves like that.
Phew – thank goodness it’s not just me. :-)
This post is a beauty, Michelle. It’s the most interesting book list I’ve read. Not that I read many but if they were as entertaining as yours, I’d read them no worries. :-)