The downside of working in such an exciting place that is growing faster than rhubarb in the dark (look it up, it’s a thing) is that because you’re always on your toes, always being presented with new challenges…
…you’re always trying to find the precious time to read.
But never fear. I’ve managed to squeeze in some fantastic books this year, and I think I’d share my 10 favourite ones with you.
So here they are.
by Morris Gleitzman
I read Loyal Creatures the night before interviewing Morris Gleitzman for Booktopia TV. I was terrified at the prospect of grilling one of my childhood heroes. Within a few pages I completely lost myself in the book.
It’s a gorgeous read, another incredible effort from Gleitzman, and I genuinely had to hold back tears at the end of the book.
by Irvine Welsh
You really should find time to read this caustic gem from Irvine Welsh, although perhaps not at the gym, or an organic cafe, or while watching The Biggest Loser. I say that because Welsh shines his light on the world of militant self-improvement and you may not recover in time.
If you’ve read Welsh, you know what to expect and won’t be disappointed. The only surprise will be just how much he’s matured as a writer, how adept he’s become at taking on the voice of his characters. Sometimes it only takes a mirror to see just how bizarre the world is becoming.
by Dave Eggers
The full name of Dave Eggers’ work is Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? Such is his sense of humour I suspect he’s put together this ridiculously long title just to make end of year lists awkward. In fact I’m sure that’s why, and I love him all the more for it.
Made up entirely of dialogue, Your Fathers shines a light in uncomfortable corners while being raucously funny in many places. It’s an easy read in a sense, the real work comes from the time you have to yourself after reading it, reflecting on the world Eggers toys with. If you watch the news and don’t know whether to laugh or cry, this is the book for you.
by Bleddyn Butcher
If the inclusion of this in my ‘best of’ list wasn’t a big enough clue, I’m a pretty gigantic Nick Cave fan. A Little History is an intimate look at the career of Cave and his closest collaborators over the years.
It’s easy to forget how long Nick Cave has been on the scene, his music has always been so innovative and relevant throughout the years. This is a must have for all Birthday Party, Bad Seeds, and Grinderman fans. Cavesters will know what I’m talking about.
by Haruki Murakami
I include this in my list with a caveat. You see I was not, as so many others professed to being, disappointed by Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year of Pilgrimage. The reason is simple, if a little bit of a backhand to Murakami.
I don’t consider him to be a truly great writer.
I think he’s good, very good in fact. Norwegian Wood is one of my favourite books. I don’t, however, think he’s an immortal of the craft. If you are expecting Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki to be one of the one of the finest works of literature created, it’s not. That work only happens once in a generation.
Books are best enjoyed if you’re able to separate the work from the creator, unburden yourself from the shackles of expectation and enjoy the book purely for what is between the covers. If you do that, I’ve no doubt you’ll love Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year of Pilgrimage, the themes of loneliness and belonging that it ponders, and agree with me that it is comfortably one of the best books of 2014.
by Maxine Beneba Clarke
I was privileged to have had the opportunity to not just meet Maxine Beneba Clarke, but interview her for Booktopia TV. It was in the middle of a busy Sydney Writer’s Festival but her energy and enthusiasm for the craft of writing was amazing. I’ve read many short story collections this year, but Foreign Soil was my favourite.
Putting aside just how wonderful her prose is, how seamless her transition between characters and voices is, so much of Beneba Clarke’s stories are for the voiceless and the downtrodden. I’ve no doubt she will fast become one of Australia’s most influential and important writers. I can’t wait to read more from her.
by Shaun Usher
In case you forgot, what you are reading is a list. In all likelihood only my mother and my year 7 English teacher thinks it is of note.
I love lists, I adore High Fidelity almost entirely for the constant lists. I can’t get enough of them, and it seems some of history’s most important figures feel the same way. If there was a museum dedicated to lists (if there isn’t already) this book would be the guidebook. I lost myself for hours in this incredible collection, dedicated entirely to the list.
There’s a list of ‘available names’ Charles Dickens compiled for possible characters in his fiction, Galileo’s list of parts needed to build his telescope, a list of dream lovers a pre-fame Marilyn Monroe wrote with a friend. Quite literally, the lists go on. I absolutely adore this unique collection.
by Joanna Rakoff
For me, my love of books expands far beyond the reading and writing. I’m intrigued by every aspect of their creation. The life of a writer, the printing process, the cover design, the editing process, acquisition meetings…
…and of course, the literary agency responsible for making and breaking so many writers.
This is a beautiful, funny, and at times melancholy look into the world of a New York literary agency in the early 90s, desperately trying to hold onto the ideals of the past. There are long lunches, huge slush piles and not a computer in sight. Oh, and did I mention J.D. Salinger rings occasionally? One for the real booklovers.
by Lena Dunham
How did she do it? How can Lena Dunham have all those expectations and all that money thrown at her (a rumoured advance of over $4mil), and somehow manage to write a brilliantly raw and honest memoir before she’s even turned 30?
I loved Not That Kind of Girl. It reminded me of how important brutal honesty is in any kind of writing, let alone memoirs. It establishes a theme and, despite what seems like endless digressions, never loses its footing. It’s an amazing piece of work. Shockingly funny like few books I’ve read. Incredible stuff.
by Sonya Hartnett
Golden Boys is the best novel I’ve read in 2014. There, I said it. I admired Sonya Hartnett’s writing before, now I idolise it. A tender, and at times savage, exploration of lost innocence, told from the eyes of a small group of children in the suburbs of Australia.
Please, I’m begging you, grab a copy of this book and read it. It’s extraordinary. Don’t be put off by the tough subject matter, this is what fiction is for. Exploring worlds we dare not explore ourselves, hearing stories we’d usually shield our ears from. Last year I called The Narrow Road to the Deep North the best novel I’d read for the year, and I’m doing the same for Golden Boys in 2014. A remarkable book.