Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 27, 2009

Top Tens 2009

Everybody’s doing it, and it’s been a tradition at ANZ LitLovers ever since we started the group back in 2002, so here’s my Top Ten for 2009, arranged in order of first publication, and with the nationality of the author in brackets. As you can see, my love of classics remains undimmed, and my bias towards Australian fiction is as marked as ever.  (Just what you’d expect, from an ANZ LitLover!)

  1. Cranford (1851) by Elizabeth Gaskell (UK)
  2. War and Peace (1869) by Leo Tolstoy (Russia)
  3. Voss (1957) by Patrick White (Australia)
  4. The Twyborn Affair (1979) by Patrick White (Australia)
  5. Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison (USA)
  6. The Remains of the Day (1989) by Kazuo Ishiguro (UK/Japan)
  7. Death of a River Guide (1994) by Richard Flanagan (Australia)
  8. Rules for Old Men Waiting (2005) by Peter Pouncey (UK)
  9. The Bath Fugues (2009) by Brian Castro (Australia)
  10. The World Beneath (2009) by Cate Kennedy (Australia)

I haven’t finished Ulysses by James Joyce yet; I’m only half way through because I’m reading it properly and at leisure for the first time in my life.  (This is my fourth reading of it, twice when I studied it at university back in 1983, and again some time in the 9os when my son was reading it). I won’t be able to include it in a Top Tens for the year list because this reading crosses two years – from Bloomsday 2009 to Bloomsday 2010, but it is without any doubt the most exhilarating book I’ve ever read, and I’m really enjoying reading it in company with Team Ulysses, Wandering Rocks and Ulysses ‘Seen‘.

I’ll be putting up the Top Tens for the rest of our group on the Top Tens page over the summer holdiays.


  1. Impressive list Lisa. I haven’t got to doing a top 10 yet, but it won’t be as high-powered as yours. I’ve only read one of your 10 (Death of a River Guide). I am hoping to get to The World Beneath in January, after everyone liked it in November. I’d like to read Cranford too (I liked the BBC series as well).


  2. I don’t know Lisa – can’t you put it in your Top Tens of 2010 if you finish it in 2010?

    Nice list – Beloved (which I’ve read twice) and The remains of the day were definitely top tens in the years I read them. Like Louise I have still to read The world beneath.

    I have drafted mine and will post in a couple of days …


  3. Hi Louise, I hope you had a good Xmas, and some rain as a present as well!
    I admit it, I do like big difficult books that tax the brain cells…sometimes I’m a bit hard on the books that come afterwards because they seem a little lame by comparison, which is really not fair of me.
    I bet you’ve read some of my 8s and 9s which would make it into a Top Twenty:
    The Child in Time by Ian Mcewan
    Trespass by Valerie Martin
    The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville
    Song for Night by Chris Abani
    Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
    Carry Me Across the Water by Ethan Canin
    Swords and Crowns and Rings by Ruth Park
    Landscape of Farewell by Alex Miller
    Life in Seven Mistakes by Susan Johnson

    I’ve read a lot less in non-fiction; I can only just rustle up 10 that I thought were really, really good)
    Piano Lessons by Anna Goldsworthy
    Stella Miles Franklin by Jill Roe
    After Such Knowledge by Eva Hoffman
    Time without Clocks by Joan Lindsay
    On Experience by David Malouf
    Creme de la Phlegm, Unforgettable Australian Reviews by Angela Bennie
    An Awkward Truth, the Bombing of Darwin by Peter Grose
    A Very Rude Awakening by Peter Grose (About the midget Japanese submarines in Sydney Harbour)
    Five Days in London by John Lukacs
    Flavours of Melbourne by Charmaine O’Brien

    I know I really should read more NF, but my heart belongs with the novel.


  4. Hi Sue,
    Beloved really is a very special book … of all those in my list it’s the one that actually changed the way I think and feel about some things, though Rules for Old Men Waiting did so too, to some extent.
    The others were more cerebral, except for The World Beneath which was a thumping good read and utterly unputdownable.


  5. Who said there are any shoulds. I reckon the only should is to read with your heart – which is what you are doing!


    • Well, yes, but sometimes I think I’m getting a bit out of touch. I am more and more fond of silence so I’m hearing less radio; the newspapers are too silly to read; and I forget to watch the news on TV.


  6. Ah, I think I’m too much of an extrovert to like too much silence though some is good… I guess only you can decide how out of or in touch you want to be. Right now, though, with work and your Vietnamese “charge” I wouldn’t think you were too out of touch!


  7. I suppose the thing is to know what you want to be in touch *with*, and if the news ain’t it then the news ain’t it, and there you are. “You will not easily find a man coming to grief through indifference to the workings of another’s soul, but for those who pay no heed to the motions of their own, unhappiness is their sure reward,” saith Marcus Aurelius, via Maxwell Stanforth, translator, so I suppose the thing is to be in touch with something that would help you heed your motioning soul. Hayao Miyazaki doesn’t pay attention to the news either (I think I saw somewhere) and his films are wise enough, so – I’m not sure exactly what that proves – but there it is.


    • Ah Deane, how did you know that Marcus Aurelius lives on my bedside table, to be dipped into whenever my soul needs wise words? Lisa


  8. Not sure what it proves either, but it’s very erudite. (Of course, I have Jane Austen next to me for my soul!!)


  9. It proves that you don’t have to watch the news to make a movie as smartly, gracefully ambiguous and enhanced with giant demon pigs as Mononoke Hime. That’s the moral there, I think.

    My Aurelius was a library copy. I’ve been thinking of buying one of my own. There was a nifty little hardcover Meditations in a secondhand shop a few days ago, in an old translation that made him say ‘thou’ and ‘hast’ – the library copy I’d read was a modern translation so it was unexpected, seeing him talk in hasts. What would I choose for a bedside wisdom-novel? I don’t know.


  10. I think ‘thou’ and ‘hast’ would be rather nice…


  11. […] ANZ LitLovers […]


  12. I’m back from my travels, so apologies this comment is a bit late!

    I love Flanagan, and Death of a River Guide is the only one I haven’t read, so I must bump it up the queue.

    Thanks to your glowing review of the Cate Kennedy book, I managed to buy a copy while in Oz, and am looking forward to reading it very much.


    • Hi, Kim and welcome back – and your travels were to here in Oz, I hadn’t realised! Christmas is a lovely time to be home again. Delighted to hear that you have a copy of The World Beneath – a review on *your* blog will bring it the wide readership it deserves. Lisa


  13. Death of a River Guide is indeed as wonderful as you have reported. I hope you have also found “The Sound of One Hand Clapping.”


    • Hi, Esta, thanks for joining in the conversation:)
      I read The Sound of One Hand Clapping a long time ago, but I plan to read it again one of these days – it was a marvellous book – and also a great movie.


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