five favourites for 2013

Okay. Look. Yes, I know I said in my previous post that I wasn’t going to do this…but I couldn’t help myself.

I might not have read or written much this year – but that doesn’t alter the fact that some great books came my way in 2013. So, with nothing to do on New Year’s Eve other than ordering takeaway and watching Sherlock on DVD, I thought I’d put together a last-minute post and ramble a little about five of my favourite books for the year. Grab a seat!

(Due to my…ahem…near complete lack of reviews for the books I’m about to mention, I’ll post a link with each book where you can find out more. Then, ideally, purchase a copy to add to your 2014 reading list!)

Ready? Let’s get started.

seaheartsSea Hearts ~ Margo Lanagan

This book. It’s a bad influence. It made me want to run to the ocean and throw myself into the waves; feel the squelch of sand between my toes and take sanctuary from the biting cold of the wind in the warm, salty water – but all that would have meant I’d have had to stop reading Sea Hearts. And there was absolutely no chance of that happening. I wasn’t putting this book down for anyone.

Sea Hearts enchanted me completely. And I’m not the only one. Take a look at this year’s Meanjin Tournament of Books!

Click here to find out more about Sea Hearts

if_nobody_speaks_of_remarkable_things If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things ~ Jon McGregor

Completely irresistible. From the first sentence to the last, I was utterly hooked. Reading this book is the literary equivalent of stuffing your face with chocolate mud cake. It’s dense and lavish and delicious. But at the same time, there’s a rawness about Remarkable Things that will catch you unaware; it will overwhelm you. It’s sad and sweet and almost impossibly intricate. It burns with an intensity that hurts – but in the best possible way.

Click here to find out more about If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

rosieThe Rosie Project ~ Graeme Simsion

Yes, The Rosie Project. I know – it was everywhere this year.

You know what? This book is everywhere because it’s actually really good. Popularity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Rosie Project is simply delightful. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to love Don.

Sequel, please.

Click here to find out more about The Rosie Project

darknessDarkness on the Edge of Town ~ Jessie Cole

From a book that was everywhere, to a book that’s slipped by with little fanfare (as Elizabeth Lhuede has already pointed out). Which is a shame, because it’s such a tense, thrilling read. And that ending! I still haven’t recovered.

My first New Year’s Resolution is to review this book. I will I will I will. But the thing with writing reviews is that sometimes, the books you desperately want to tell the world about aren’t always the books that are easy to write about, for whatever reason.

Click here to find out more about Darkness on the Edge of Town

girl just_a_girl ~ Kirsten Krauth – reviewed here

I was nothing like Krauth’s Layla when I was fourteen. I read lots of books – usually ones about dragons and wizards and spent most of my time listening to unbelievably awful pop music. I was still a child. Layla and I have nothing in common. But still, there’s a connection. Or is it just that I’ve become one of those sad thirty-somethings who thinks they still have what it takes to get Kids These Days? Who knows.

After reading just_a_girl, I’m unable to forget Layla. She’s left a piece of herself behind. I commute from Western Sydney to the city every day and I see echoes of her. The closing image of just_a_girl left me with a chill that’s settled into my bones. I find myself wondering about Layla all the time – and wishing her a little warmth.

Click here to find out more about just_a_girl

Honourable mentions? Don’t mind if I do! I loved all the short story collections I’ve read this year. Ryan O’Neill’s Weight of a Human Heart, Cate Kennedy’s Like a House on Fire, White Light by Mark O’Flynn (reviewed here!) – all brilliant.

Another exciting collection of short stories – The Great Unknown – is next on my reading list, and I’m really looking forward to getting into it.

In fact, my To Read pile is getting seriously out of control. I’d better get on to that tomorrow.

That’s it for me for this year. Another year of literary adventure beckons.

Happy new year – and even happier reading!

Michelle

comfort (and joy) – notes from a year of comfort reading

From December 2011.
My Bookmas tree from December 2011.

The thing with writing about books is the difficulty of taking your initial reaction to a book (“I liked it”) and spinning it like wool; turning it, teasing it and twisting it around and around upon itself until it’s something more refined.

You can consider this post unspun, still warm from the shearing shed. Which allows me to say – it’s been an absolute shit of a year. well, for me, at least. It’s not that I’m being overly dramatic, or too harsh on myself. 2013 has been something else entirely. Quite simply, a shit of a year.

I really wanted to write one of those Best Of 2013 lists that everyone else is doing, but I’m not sure I’ve read enough. According to Goodreads, I’ve read a miserable total of twenty-two books in 2013. And that figure includes at least five novellas. Oh dear.

What’s missing from Goodreads, however, is the number of books I’ve re-read this year.

So much of this year’s reading has been comfort reading.

Earlier this month (but already, it feels like such a long time ago) on a Sunday afternoon, I found myself packing my bag for a trip to my hometown in Victoria. Not to go home for Christmas, but for a much sadder occasion – my lovely grandmother’s funeral.

After I took my black d9781444720747ress from the wardrobe, I went straight to my bookshelf to select a few books to take with me. Books that might provide some kind of solace, or even just distract me for a few hours. My choices were almost entirely books I’ve already read.

I’ve been back in Sydney for just over a week now. I’m still, slowly, thinking things through, trying to prevent falling back into the rhythm of work and Christmas and expectations. To that effect, I’ve just finished re-reading Howards End, and it really is absolute perfection. It’s every bit the book I remember: not only a cracker of a novel but a guidebook to life and how to live it properly.

The thing with comfort reading when you’re vulnerable is that you know exactly what you’re going to get. There’s less chance of something unexpected sneaking up on you and breaking your heart into pieces. So often this year, the book that’s found its way onto my bedside table has been one with an already-creased spine and dog-eared pages. A trusted old friend.

It’s nice having old friends to turn to when I need them. But it’s about time I pushed my shyness aside and made some new friends, too.

anotherpileofbooksThis poor blog has been floundering for far too long. In 2014, I’ll be getting right to the heart of what Book to the Future is about. Or rather, what it’s meant to be about.

Next year, I’m going back to where I left off and reviewing books from the twentieth century again. I’m not quite sure how I’ll manage juggling reviews of recently-published books with reviews of books published in the sixties and seventies…but it’ll be fun finding out.

2014 will be a year of trying new things. New approaches to writing, new ideas, new places, new people…and new books.

A new year. I’m looking forward to it. Are you?

To everyone who’s read one of my reviews, posted a comment, emailed, Twittered, Facebooked – anything! – a great big, heartfelt thank you to you all.

Here’s wishing you the happiest of happy new years.

Michelle