Having consumed such a stunning selection of books already this year, for the first time I feel compelled to do a short ‘bookshelf’ blog. These are the picks of my usual eclectic reading mix.
Kicked off my 2019 reading year with Tim Winton’s The Shepherd’s Hut. As anyone who has followed my blogs will know, I have a great deal of respect for Tim, his writing and – whether coast, river or outback – his great West Australian settings. I thought there was a bit of Dostoyevsky’s s Crime and Punishment in this book: a young man on the run for a crime he didn’t commit. Of all the many reviews for this book, for me Ron Charles, book critic for The Washington Post, sums it up best as ‘almost too painful to read, but also too plaintive to put down.’
I’m a big fan of the recommendations of Anne Day, owner of The Lane Bookshop, and Where the Crawdads Sing, a debut novel by American wildlife scientist Delia Owens was one of two books she held in her hands that day. A page-turner? Oh yes, but so much more. Don’t miss this one.
Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan Love this guy’s work, but for me, this genre-crossing book beats anything he’s written so far. Think of some of the classics: from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to Orwell’s 1984. Mark my words in the-not too-distant future our grandchildren will look up with awe and say ‘Remember Machines Like Me. He wasn’t far off the mark, that author.’ Or we can take a bet, if you like!’
My family tease that the last book I’ve read is always ‘the best book I’ve ever read’, and this was certainly true of Leigh Sales’ Any Ordinary Day which I found quite extraordinary. I loved the honesty and humility that came over in this book and it gave me a new empathy for journalists and interviewing techniques.
It wasn’t long before I came across Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe. Another genre-bender (aren’t they just the best!!). This is a debut novel that’s currently taking out just about every award going. Nothing to say but read it.
The Silent Patient. A psychological thriller by Alex Michaelides with a great twist. Not my usual book, but I couldn’t put it down.
Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight. Most people recognise Ondaatje for his The English Patient, for me he was also one of the five authors I chose to research for my PhD thesis Writing From the Shadowlands. I love Ondaatje’s writing for its humanity, for the way he writes about life and death, the magic in his inimitable prose. Somehow it centres me in a way faster-paced books fail.
Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend but the Mountains. This necessarily intense call for attention to one of the most significant crises of the 21st century is one of the most important books listed here. We were threatened with detention at school when we did something naughty like not paying enough attention to something boring. But these days detention has come to mean something else. Run, row or swim for your life and you can end up in a holding pen for days, months, years while your case for asylum is ‘considered’. I’m surprised this hasn’t proved more of an election issue in the current climate (pun intended).
Amos Oz — prolific author of around two dozen books. Currently reading his memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness. Stay posted.
Love to get your feedback and recommendations on your own recent favourites.