Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Lists make me feel better: Best Books of 2013

Do they work for you? Lists? Do they make the chaos seem more bearable? Make the blur seem more in focus? I'm going to give it a burl!

Here is the first of my "best of 2013" lists: BOOKS!

I made a conscious effort to read better in 2013 and I must say that joining goodreads and keeping track of what books I have read and what books I want to read helped me to choose better books.

I read so many good books! Highlights included reading the latest release from Kate Atkinson "Life After Life" - (which I see has just won The Costa Book Award!) a favourite author of mine. The excitement of reading her new book was heightened for me after I went to see her speak in Melbourne and got her to sign it and had such a buzz from meeting her that I could barely sleep that night. Really! Like a silly teenage girl and a pop star. What I love about Kate Atkinson's writing is her wry humour, her asides and the way she writes family dynamics. Her first novel, winner of the Whitbread award, was "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" which had one of the most memorable mother characters since Mrs Bennett in "Pride and Prejudice"! "Life After Life" has a hypnotic effect, a life lived over and over with a sense of endless chances in a time fraught with chaos - the Second World War. The chapters set in the London bombings is incredibly visceral. I almost felt this book could never end with it's fractal divisions opening exponential possibilities.

But it wasn't all new releases for me: Two favourites were  "Careful He Might Hear You" by Sumner Locke Elliot, published in 1963 and "Heartbreak Tango" by Manuel Puig, published in 1968. The former such a slice of Australian life from the past and so beautifully written and the latter a wonderful book from Argentina set in the 1930's and comprising of various angles, perspectives and documents that, as a reader, you felt as though you participated in creating the story from the gaps in between what was written.

I read three Margaret Atwood books this year: "The Handmaid's Tale", "Maddaddam" and re-read "The Blind Assassin". All three left me gasping at the vastness of Atwood's imagination and depth of her insight and warmth of her humour. Sometimes I almost wish to get dementia just so I can re-read Atwood as if for the first time.

Another high point in my bookish-ness last year came from another female author I admire, Rose Tremain. I read her 1989 novel "Restoration" followed by her 2013 released sequel, "Merivel". It was fantastic to read these two books together. The character of Merivel will stay warmly in my heart.

Other favourites include "The Sisters Brothers" by Patrick De Witt a western of sorts with a wonderful "voice", and "The Forgotten Waltz" by Anne Enright. 

What did you read last year? What do you plan to read this year? I'm taking part in the Australian Women's Writer's challenge, an initiative created to redress the imbalance in books written by women that are reviewed in mainstream media.Other than that, I'm not sure what the year of reading has in store - except that I hope to read even more in 2014.

1 comment:

  1. I loved Life After Life, too. I read heaps of non-fiction this year. Just finished Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - I loved it and I don't even run!