The Booktopia team nominates their favourite titles from a great year of books.
Caroline Baum’s Picks
From Caroline’s Book of the Year Review: I’ve said it more than once, and I will say it again, loudly. I ADORE this book. I don’t think it has found the readership it deserves because some people think ‘Oh, she wrote Eat Pray Love, I didn’t like that or want to read that kind of thing so I won’t buy this’ and others think ‘Oh, if it’s not like Eat Pray Love I won’t like it.’ Put your prejudices aside, people!
Treat yourself to the most intriguing, refreshing and original female character of the year…
From Caroline’s review: You only have to watch the news to see that it does not get more topical than Drive By.
This gritty, complex, multi-layered novel is based on the spate of shootings between rival drug gangs that have riddled the streets of south Sydney in the past couple of years.
Duffy, a seasoned regular observer of the courts, has created two memorable characters: Bec, a part-Aboriginal detective, who has a distinctive vocabulary that wrong-foots her colleagues: and Honest John, a keen Toyota mechanic and member of the Habib family who would really rather not have to think too hard about what his brothers have been up to and just wants to marry his Aussie girlfriend.
From Caroline’s review: Anyone who loved Rose Petal Jam is going to adore this chilly sister volume about the winter foods of Poland. Sydney GP Beata Zatorska is back with more family and carefully chosen classic recipes from around her native country, lovingly collected on journeys through snow and ice.
It takes a lot of love to publish a book that puts so much effort into photography (magical snowscapes by Beata’s documentary maker husband Simon Target) and superb design, creating the effect of a cherished family album.
From Caroline’s review: Why she didn’t get the Nobel Peace Prize is beyond me. Malala’s story, told in the same unwaveringly forthright voice we have become used to hearing her speak in at her many public appearances is a tribute not only to her personal convictions and courage but to those of her remarkable father.
It also offers an insight into what daily life under the threat of the Taliban really means and how petty their brutality can be. And still, despite the horror of it all, Malala expresses an acute homesickness for her beloved Swat Valley.
Well, that’s how I felt about this book. Having known several Soviet citizens at very close quarters, I understand how central food and the lack of it is to the national psyche. And I once celebrated the fall of the Berlin wall with a themed New Year’s Eve dinner of which the centrepiece was a fiendishly difficult dish: Coulibiac, a traditional Russian fish pie with a yeast dough casing that took two days to make and which my friend and I baked in the shape of a hammer and sickle for extra effect. (It was spectacular, I have to say, but never to be repeated.)
So this book had me at hello, comrade.
From Caroline’s review: When rights to a debut novel are sold in more than thirty countries, you know a book is generating serious buzz. I am glad to say that this feel-good debut delivers what the hype promises.
It’s as light as perfectly baked scone, narrowly avoiding saccharine pitfalls, achieving just the right combo of airiness and substance for the perfect rom-com recipe.
Irresistibly charming, genuinely funny and cleverly plotted this is intelligent romance for grown ups whose arteries have not hardened with cynicism.
From Caroline’s review: This book stinks, in a good way. Of fish and blood and guts and unwashed bodies and earth and death.
In fact, it reeks of those things and more. This austere love letter to Iceland takes a true story of murder as its foundation. Based on records from the trial of the two women and one man convicted of killing and burning two men on a remote farm this is richly and darkly imagined in prose thick with atmospherics.
Kent is a precocious talent who understands how to animate research and transform it into compelling narrative.
Andrew Cattanach’s Picks
The book Richard Flanagan had to write. A deeply personal novel that made me drew me in and never let me go. Sure to earn a place as one of the finest Australian novels of our time.
From Caroline’s review: When Richard Flanagan produces a new book, you know it will come freighted with Big Themes. As an essayist, Flanagan is political, provocative, passionate. As a novelist, he is capable of shape-shifting across genres, from high literary gothic to popular psychological thriller.
His latest novel is as eloquent and powerful an affirmation of his empathy and understanding of humanity as anything he’s ever written.
One of my favourite short story collections of recent times, mixing the absurd with the sweet, I can’t get enough of Saunders’ writing. Read it story by story, or in one big gulp, it won’t disappoint.
From the undisputed master of the short story, George Saunders, comes a dazzling and disturbing new collection. His most wryly hilarious work to date, Tenth of December illuminates human experience and explores figures lost in a labyrinth of troubling preoccupations.
A difficult, emotional read, but on reflection an incredible novel, a brave novel. A wonderful writer that pulls the reader’s strings with extraordinary ease.
From Caroline’s review: Writing a novel is like walking a highwire. So when a new artiste makes her debut, you expect a wobble or two. But not in this case. I don’t know where she’s been hiding up to now, but Fiona McFarlane is a bright new star in Australian fiction. She’s got all the assurance and the confidence of a seasoned performer. Here she enters the ring with a story about fear, trust, ageing and death; to borrow from another profession where skill is paramount, she handles her themes with a light deft touch, like an expert pastry chef blessed with cool fingers.
My favourite cookbook of 2013. Simple, fun, and gorgeous to look at. Whenever a friend checks out my cookbook collection, this is the book they talk about.
Sharing good food with family and friends is one of life’s great pleasures, but it’s easy to become stuck in the daily routine and lose your passion.
Love To Cook is designed to help you discover (or rediscover) the joy of spending time in the kitchen and at the table. Inside, you’ll find more than 140 recipes – themed by ingredient for easy reference – that will take you from quick weekday dinners with a clever twist to impressive ideas for entertaining.
I just hope John Safran keeps writing, he’s a natural. I lost myself in this amazing story and the calm, confident writing of the first time true crime writer.
When filming his TV series Race Relations, John Safran spent an uneasy couple of days with one of Mississippi’s most notorious white supremacists. A year later, he heard that the man had been murdered – and what was more, the killer was black.
Steven Patrick Morrissey was born in Manchester on May 22nd 1959. Singer-songwriter and co-founder of the Smiths (1982-1987), Morrissey has been a solo artist for twenty-six years, during which time he has had three number 1 albums in England in three different decades.
John Purcell’s Picks
The book I wish I had written.
From John’s review: A Meal in Winter is a novella. You can read it in a night. But it punches well above its weight.
I am told A Meal in Winter will be published as a gorgeous little hardcover but I read the proof, a very drab looking proof is was too, and for some reason, even before I read a page, I had the notion that this was a rediscovered work, much like the work of Irène Némirovsky. To further compound my assumption, as I read, I was reminded of Primo Levi, of Beckett, of Camus… read more
This is the book I gave to friends to read. An unexpected delight.
From John’s review: A novel that celebrates the small things in life by a fresh Australian voice.
It s the summer of 1971, not far from the stone-fruit capital of New South Wales, where Mr Wigg lives on what is left of his family farm. Mrs Wigg has been gone a few years now and he thinks about her every day. He misses his daughter, too, and wonders when he’ll see her again… read more
Read this in a couple of sittings. Ladd’s sharp psychological insights bring a depth to her fast paced narrative. If you want a book for the beach which will give you a shock or three, Into My Arms is hard to beat.
When Skye meets Ben their attraction is instantaneous and intense. Neither of them has ever felt more in synch – or in love – with anyone in their lives. What happens next will tear them both apart.
Into My Arms is a searing love story and a gripping family drama – a shocking, haunting novel in the tradition of Jodi Picoult and Caroline Overington.
One of those books which wrap themselves around you like a warm blanket on a cold night. Deserves to be read by anyone who re-reads their Austen once a year.
One of the great untold love stories – how the Grimm brothers discovered their famous fairy tales – filled with drama and passion, and taking place during the Napoleonic Wars.
The Wild Girl tells the story of Dortchen Wild. Growing up next door to the Grimm brothers in Hesse-Cassel, a small German kingdom, Dortchen told Wilhelm some of the most powerful and compelling stories in the famous fairytale collection.
Relive the wonder of first love. No, really.
From John’s review: There is nothing so seductive and yet elusive as the memories of our first experiences in love. We can recall the actions – shared glances, a sweet paralysis, then the first touch, perhaps a chaste kiss – but this is not what we desire. We want to feel again the fear, the pleasure, the tremors and the foreign breath. But it is this that eludes us.
Unless we stumble across an artist who can recreate these feelings for us… read more
Also loved: Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan, The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism by A. C. Grayling, Slow Reading in a Hurried Age by David Mikics
Shoshana Booth’s Picks
Great read and the perfect gift for any soccer fan. Ferguson’s sheer determination is gripping.
Sir Alex announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United after 27 years in the role. He has gone out in a blaze of glory, with United winning the Premier League for the 13th time, and he is widely considered to be the greatest manager in the history of British football.
Over the last quarter of a century there have been seismic changes at Manchester United. The only constant element has been the quality of the manager’s league-winning squad and United’s run of success, which included winning the Champions League for a second time in 2008. Sir Alex created a purposeful, but welcoming, and much envied culture at the club which has lasted the test of time.
This book really, really disturbed me. I had to remind myself to unclench my toes and keep breathing.
A soldier’s broken promise … a mother’s loss … an agonizing truth.
The Yellow Birds gives a powerful, emotional insight into the human cost of war – its impact on soldiers, their families, and most of all what it is like to return home, but never be able to leave the memories behind. Kevin Powers served two terms as a machine gunner with the US army in Iraq. On his return, he was asked one question more than any other: “What was it like over there?”
A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events.
Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories – from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.
Seventeen-year-old Friday Brown is on the run – running to escape memories of her mother and of the family curse. And of a grandfather who’d like her to stay. She’s lost, alone and afraid.
Silence, a street kid, finds Friday and she joins him in a gang led by beautiful, charismatic Arden. When Silence is involved in a crime, the gang escapes to a ghost town in the outback. In Murungal Creek, the town of never leaving, Friday must face the ghosts of her past.
Delicious recipes in Donna Hay’s simple, clean style. Do not make the mistake of reading this while you are hungry.
For Isabella Beeton in 1861 it was Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, for Stephanie Alexander in 1996 it was The Cook’s Companion and for Maggie Beer in 2007 it was Maggie’s Harvest. These books went onto become bestsellers, staples in every home; they were the one-stop recipe books that defined these authors’ work and became essential everyday reference books for their time.
Now in 2013, Australia’s leading cookbook author Donna Hay reveals her landmark book, The New Classics, a definitive collection of classic recipes for every modern cook.
Christopher Cahill’s Picks
From John’s review: Bestselling author Matthew Reilly is one of Australia’s most reliable writers.
Every couple of years he delivers his fans quality popular fiction and every couple of years he can be counted on to break Australian sales records. But till now, all of his successes, Ice Station, Seven Ancient Wonders, Temple, The Five Greatest Warriors, Scarecrow, to name just a few, have one thing in common, the breakneck speed of their narrative.
The Tournament is a departure for Reilly, gone is his trademark breakneck speed. Instead we find a narrative with gravitational pull. Enter The Tournament’s orbit and you cannot escape, you must read on to the final page… read more
To download a FREE prequel to The Tournament, click here
“… you will surrender to the greatest voice this continent has ever recorded” – Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald
On a November afternoon in 2010, Gurrumul sat in a studio in Sydney to be photographed for the cover of Rolling Stone. The studio was 3000 kilometres from where he was born on Elcho Island off the coast of East Arnhem Land.
A bare three years had passed since the release of Gurrumul, his critically acclaimed debut solo album. Those years of critical acclaim, all the years before them, and the illness that threatened to end it all, combine in one of the most inspiring music stories of our generation.
40 years of passion and experience has been poured into Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World.
We witness fiery volcanic eruptions; wind-sculpted icebergs in the Antarctic; mind-blowing migrations of wildlife large and small; natural wonders from Belize’s Great Blue Hole to Yellowstone in Wyoming; also the imprint that humanity has made on the planet.
The new cookbook from Serge Dansereau of Australia’s iconic Bathers’ Pavilion.
Seasonal Kitchen gives you 220 new recipes that celebrate Australian produce. In this eclectic collection of recipes, which draws its inspiration from the Mediterranean, as well as India and China, Serge continues to use his chef know-how to demonstrate how to turn modern-day classics from good dishes into great ones. Capitalising on his reputation as the ‘father of the fresh food movement’, Serge moves us through the year, listing in-season produce and offering us recipes that will show them at their best.
Elizabeth Earl’s Picks
Hyperbole and A Half is a blog written by a 20-something American girl called Allie Brosh. She tells fantastically funny, wise stories about the mishaps of her everyday life, with titles like ‘Why Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving’ and ‘The Go of Cake’. She accompanies these with naive drawings using Paint on her PC.
Brosh’s website receives millions of visitors a month and hundreds of thousands of per day.
Now her full-colour debut book chronicles the many “learning experiences” Brosh has endured as a result of her own character flaws. It includes stories about her rambunctious childhood; the highs and mostly lows of owning a mentally challenged dog; and a moving and darkly comic account of her struggles with depression.
An epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted readers of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.
King says he wanted to know what happened to Danny Torrance, the boy at the heart of The Shining, after his terrible experience in the Overlook Hotel. The instantly riveting Doctor Sleep picks up the story of the now middle-aged Dan, working at a hospice in rural New Hampshire, and the very special twelve-year old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.
It’s 19 September 2010, and 21-year-old Rachel Lee has emerged from Los Angeles Superior Court, having just been sentenced to four years behind bars.
A few months earlier, she had been running the Bling Ring: a gang of rich, beautiful, wild-living Valley teens who idolised celebrity, designer labels and luxury brands. Who, in 2009, became the most audacious thieves in recent Hollywood history.
But what made these kids–all of whom already enjoyed designer clothes, money, cars and social status–gamble with their lives at such high stakes?
An inspiring book featuring 75 unique and captivating paper flowers.
Filled with beautiful photography, this book will feature simple accessible ideas, over-the-top aspirational ideas, and everything in between. The book begins with a lush gallery of images of the flowers, including a flower inspired by a Dr. Seuss book, an oversized holiday wreath, beautiful floral table decorations, and easy-to-make flowers for embellishing gift packages.
The gallery will be followed by a techniques section and thorough step-by-step instructions for all flowers and projects with accompanying templates.
It began with rumours from China about another pandemic. Then the cases started to multiply and what had looked like the stirrings of a criminal underclass, even the beginnings of a revolution, soon revealed itself to be much, much worse.
Faced with a future of mindless, man-eating horror, humanity was forced to accept the logic of world government and face events that tested our sanity and our sense of reality. Based on extensive interviews with survivors and key players in the 10-year fight-back against the horde, World War Z brings the very finest traditions of American journalism to bear on what is surely the most incredible story in the history of civilisation.
Hayley Shephard’s Picks
From Hayley’s review: From the outset I want to say I’m a HUGE J.K. Rowling fan, but I’ve never really been a fan of crime fiction, and as I started reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, I wondered if Rowling would win me over. With the words over-flowing I asked myself whether I would be able to keep track or even remember the many characters who could possibly be attached to the apparent suicide of one model named Lula Landry.
But as I kept reading I found myself more interested in the story and more eager to follow Detective Cormoran Strike in his quest to find the killer, which at first even he is sceptical exists.
Sequel to the side-splitting, bestselling My Dad Thinks He’s Funny.
My dad says, ‘I’ve told you fifty million times, don’t exaggerate.’
Dad is back by popular demand with more hilarious material. And yes, my dad STILL thinks he’s funny.
This classic collection of Enid Blyton’s Noddy stories features the much loved original artwork. The books in this collection are perfect for young readers or young children who love story time – and are stored safely in the stunning flip-top box!
Packed in a very special flip-top slipcase, this Noddy collection is a perfect gift.
Enid Blyton’s master storytelling and the adorable artwork have made the Noddy series an enduring children’s classic.
Original, amusing, and brilliantly documented, Shake is a heartwarming collection of sixty-one beguiling dogs caught in the most candid of moments: mid-shake. This glorious, graphic volume will stop you dead in your tracks as you are presented with images of man’s best friend caught in contortion: hair wild, eyes darting, ears and jowls flopping every which way.
The war for Scotlands freedom continues as King Robert the Bruce battles on. At his command is an elite army of trained warriors, soldiers dedicated to their king, their country and to the remarkable women they love.
Prized for his unbeatable tracking skills, Ewen “Hunter” Lamont accepts a dangerous assignment: locate a missing undercover courier. By this is no ordinary target. Ewen has met his prey before as Sister Genna, a fiery, forbidden woman forever etched in his memory after one stolen, sinful kiss.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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