Another year, another failed Goodreads challenge. Barely scraped a book a week and missed my target of 60 by a long way. Seem to be slowing down as I age, I guess! Quite a lot of them were re-reads as well, so it feels like this year’s highlights are slim pickings. Still, away we go…
Damon Galgut – The Quarry Discovering Galgut has been a massive plus this year. I read a second book of his recently, which was superb, but I prefer this short, sharp, stripped-down tale of murder, which is utterly gripping. Going to hunt down as much of his work as I can find.
Robert Hughes – The Fatal Shore Quite unusual for me to pick non-fiction, but this account of the brutal transportation policy from Britain to Australia was a great read. Comprehensive and incredibly easy to read for a scholarly work. The definitive account, I’d have thought.
Tim Winton – In The Winter Dark Much like the Galgut, this early novella from Winton is bleak and sparse and pulsating. which is right up my street. Compelling.
Gavin Extence – The Universe Versus Alex Woods I picked this novel up on a whim at a library sale, and very glad I did. It’s an unusual tale in many ways, very quirky, but it makes you laugh and the core relationship at its heart is empathetic and poignant. Very much a slow-burner.
Michael Finkel – The Stranger in the Woods Another non-fiction, this one a bizarre tale of a man who upped sticks one day and went to live in the woods. For 27 years. The relationship between author and subject is a little objectionable, but I find I think of this book often since I read it, so it must have done its job.
Michael Sala – The Restorer Did this for Australian book club earlier on in the year. It’s a tense, perfectly paced thriller. The sense of impending tragedy is almost overwhelming, but keeps you turning the pages as if your life depended on it.
Patrick Hamilton – The Slaves Of Solitude Hangover Square is one of my all-time favourite books, so reading another Hamilton was high on my wish list. This proves he’s no one-hit wonder. Contains all the melancholy you expect from Hamilton, but moments of charm and lightheartedness as well.
Lawrence Block – Dead Girl Blues I am one of the world’s biggest Block fans, so I snapped up his new novel immediately (possibly his last considering his age). A brutal and disturbing opening which turns into a really interesting character study of a sociopath. An author in his 80s knocking spots off writers half his age and still capable of shock and awe? What a man.
Ta-Nehisi Coates – Between The World And Me Part memoir, part polemic, written in the form of a letter to his teenage son. I didn’t agree with all of it, but Coates writes with fire in his belly and hope in his heart.
Sally Rooney – Normal People This has been everywhere this year, the TV adaptation was a huge success, so I thought I’d see what the fuss was about and read it. I think the novel is flawed, the secondary characters aren’t that well developed, but the central romance is brilliantly drawn and Rooney clearly has a great ear and eye for teenage life.
OK, so maybe I did read some decent stuff after all. Trying to get anything done during the year we’ve had has been a struggle, but reading has been a great escape from the turmoil of the daily news, and for that I’m grateful. Going to downgrade my challenge next year to a book a week and see how we go. Happy New Year!