Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 15, 2015

2015 ANZ LitLovers Best Books of the Year

Update 30/12/15: I have a late addition to this list.  It’s The Back of His Head by Kiwi author Patrick Evans, and it makes my final five into a final six.

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Ok, I am submitting to exhortations from @frippet and @JennyAckland and sharing my thoughts on the books I really liked and admired during 2015.  Remember, these are books that I read this year, not necessarily published this year.

(But bear in mind that there’s 16 days reading left for this year, so things might change).

Let’s do the whittling process together, here are the contenders.  These are ANZ authors only, if I included international authors and translations the list would be a mile long.  All links go to my reviews.

Fiction

I rated all of these 4 stars on Goodreads, and they gave me a warm glow when I looked at their covers collected there at See What You Read in 2015.  (I didn’t rate anything 5 stars, these days it has to be as special as James Joyce’s Ulysses or Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance or Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria or anything by Gerald Murnane or Patrick White to get 5 stars from me).  Here they are in reverse order that I read them.

  1. The Back of His Head by Patrick Evans
  2. Child of the Twilight by Carmel Bird
  3. The Waiting Room by Leah Kaminsky
  4. The Hands by Stephen Orr
  5. Navigatio by Alison Croggon
  6. Locust Girl by Merlinda Bobis
  7. Coal Creek by Alex Miller
  8. The Life of Houses by Lisa Gorton
  9. Three Cheers for the Paraclete by Thomas Keneally
  10. The Slow Natives by Thea Astley
  11. The Landing by Susan Johnson
  12. Earth by Bruce Pascoe (this is my Indigenous Book of the Year)
  13. The Secret Son by Jenny Ackland
  14. Cousins by Patricia Grace (NZ)
  15. The Mothers by Rod Jones
  16. Quicksand by Steve Toltz
  17. Shearer’s Motel by Roger McDonald
  18. Coming Rain by Stephen Daisley
  19. The Strays by Emily Bitto
  20. A Descant for Gossips by Thea Astley
  21. Hunger Town by Wendy Scarfe
  22. Anchor Point by Alice Robinson
  23. The Well-dressed Explorer by Thea Astley
  24. Black Rock White City by A.S. (Alec) Patric
  25. Loving Daughters by Olga Masters
  26. Isabelle of the Moon and Stars by S.A. Jones

Non Fiction (BTW I am really mean with 4 star ratings for non-fiction)

  1. Two Futures, by Clare O’Neil and Tim Watts
  2. Interestingly Enough, the Life of Tom Keneally by Stephany Evans Steggall
  3. The Handbook: Surviving and Living with Climate Change by Jane Rawson and James Whitmore
  4. Thea Astley, Inventing Her Own Weather by Karen Lamb
  5. Solly’s Girl by Ros Collins
  6. Awakening, Four Lives in Art by Eileen Chanin
  7. Warrior by Libby Collins
  8. Mannix by Brenda Niall
  9. The Most Good You Can Do by Peter Singer
  10. Battarbee and Namatjira by Martin Edmond

Now, some of those are flawed in one way or another (and I said so in my reviews) so although they were interesting, memorable or beautifully written, out they go.  Then I’m going to use a highly sophisticated criteria: which books have I banged on about most and nagged everyone in my f2f life to read?

That leaves my co-winners of the ANZ LitLovers Fiction Book of the Year Award and my co-winners of the ANZ LitLovers Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award:.  No money, alas, but kudos aplenty because I read a lot of books (155 so far this year) and these books really are great reads.

*drum roll*

(in reverse alphabetical order for fiction, then N/F))

Your thoughts?

Seriously, does a list like this influence you?

I’m off to do my Christmas shopping, but will be back in a couple of hours to discuss the value of lists like this…

 


Responses

  1. Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

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  2. Delighted to have made the list. Thank you.

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    • Isabelle of the Moon and Stars is the first book I’ve ever read that depicted a character with a mental illness as a lovely, interesting, clever person rather than as a disability/problem. I recommend it every time the subject comes up. Are you writing something new now?

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      • Hi Lisa, thanks for the mention. SA Jones is writing something new, or has written, and I took delivery of her third novel manuscript this evening, over a couple of vinos, to read and give my notes. And that’s all I’m saying, other than: I am VERY excited to read it. Merry and Happy and everything else to you, and all the best for 2016 Lisa!

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        • I *am* pleased to hear that:) Happy Christmas to you too!

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    • I really liked your book too.

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  3. Love seeing my favourite bloggers’ lists so thanks for this, Lisa – though you’ll be waiting for mine until the end of the year!

    I do think there’s value in lists: when they mention books that you hadn’t heard of and you respect the list maker, when they mention a book you may not have liked as much as the list maker and it makes you think again (because sometimes time can make some books fade and others, surprisingly sometimes, vice versa) , and simply because they give a bit of a push to all the books listed and that’s always a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a lot of Thea Astley there. I want to read The Strays and also The Mothers. I read Olga Masters’ Amy’s Children which I found excellent so I’ll have to read Loving Daughters too.
    Still thinking about my end-of-year list.

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    • Yes, I had a bit of a binge on Thea Astley:)
      The Strays is an impressive debut novel, and The Mothers is splendid because it tackles relinquishing mothers, which I don’t think I’ve seen in fiction before. It was Sue from Whispering Gums who put me onto Olga Masters, see how we all influence each other in blogdom?!

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  5. Does your list influence me? Yes it does. I buy lots of books for gifts and for myself and your list reminds me of good intentions I formed on reading reviews and now must really carry out.

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    • #XmasShopping: Don’t leave it too late. I’ve bought Jane Rawson’s The Handbook for a couple of friends (it’s very good gift for hard-to-please-men) and there were only a couple left on the shelf at Dymocks in Southland once I’d got mine. They may have had more out the back of course.

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      • I”ve been trying to flog it as a Christmas gift for people who hate gifts and Christmas…

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        • I was going to write, ‘this book might save your life’ on the gift tag, but then I thought that was a rather un-festive thought and didn’t.

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  6. Yes, your list does influence me. I have just emerged from a few years of reading nothing outside my research area. Suddenly I can read anything I like. So a list like this is very useful, as are the reviews. Thank you.

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    • Hello Lynne, I remember emerging from the ten years of part-time academic reading and feeling liberated. Some of it was English Lit, so of course I got to read interesting things for that, but when I was doing law and learning Indonesian it was hard to find the time to read and I mostly only read light stuff because *chuckle* it was all I could fit into my head.

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  7. Yes, these lists are very useful. I’m going to buy a copy of The Handbook: Surviving and living with climate change right now! It is a topic that interests me a lot and seeing it on your list persuades me to give it a go. Thanks for drawing my attention to it!

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    • Well that makes me feel very good indeed!

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  8. The selection of literature seems very interesting. A few questions that come to mind with regard to Australian Literature. 1) What are some common issues that are explored in the fiction featured in the list? 2) Has life writing (biography, autobiography, memoir) been a widely read subgenre in Australia? 3) Will Anzlitlovers website consider creating an annual international reading in the near future?

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    • Oh dear, Sonia, I’m sorry, this is the wrong time to the year for anything that takes a bit of time to do, and I haven’t even thought about whether there are common themes in my reading.
      But I can answer your second question easily. Life writing is big in Australia, there’s lots of it and it’s often on the bestseller lists too. But it’s not my favourite genre. I am devoted to the novel and I read literary fiction every day, whereas non-fiction of all kinds only gets a scant half hour over breakfast, if that, and what life writing I do read tends to be (as you see in this list) literary biographies.
      I don’t have any new plans for this blog at this stage, but I’ll be running Indigenous Literature Week as usual and people can join in that from around the world.

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  9. Great list lisa I’m working on mine for end of year

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    • I’m looking forward to seeing that… no doubt *smile* you’ll choose heaps of titles to torture my poor credit card with!

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  10. A very interesting post Lisa -= I am only sorry that I know so few of these books. You are a credit to ANZ literature!

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    • For you, Tom, because I think I know your taste, I would recommend you try The Hands or Coming Rain; they will make you feel grateful for the bleak weather you’re having over your winter!

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  11. I love lists like these, and they really do prompt me to read books that have otherwise slipped through the cracks. I’ve been piecing together my favourite books for the year and from the Australian pile, it’s hard to go past Stephanie Bishop’s ‘The Other Side of the World’ and Lisa Gorton’s ‘The Life of Houses’ for fiction, while Fiona Wright’s ‘Small Acts of Disappearance’ and Kate Grenville’s ‘One Life’ were probably my favourite non-fiction. Such a good year for Aussie writing though – Charlotte Wood, A. S. Patric, Tegan Bennett-Daylight, Sonja Dechian and Peggy Frew and Miles Allinson all knocked me out as well.

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    • Hello Michael, thanks for joining the conversation. I agree about books that slip through the cracks, but as you say it’s been a good year so it’s hard to keep up with everything.
      I have yet to read anything by Tegan Bennett-Daylight, Sonja Dechian and Peggy Frew – oh, so much to read and not enough time to read it in!

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  12. Somewhat overwhelmed to be on your list and I’m honoured my memoir ‘Solly’s Girl’ is included. Your opinions matters a great deal, not just to me, but to the future well-being of Oz Lit and you should be very proud of your achievements.. Don’t know how I feel about the value of lists in general – have an irreverent tendency to think of W. S. Gilbert’s ‘little list’ in ‘The Mikado’ and his rude comment about the ‘lady novelist’ … oops! I write lists, lose lists, draft lists, revise lists … Reading habits are changing, evolving. The way we choose our reading is different nowadays maybe a little more impulsive, not quite so considered? I think a review is more important than a list because even if it isn’t particularly favorable, there may be some aspect of the work that has significance for certain readers. Dunno really. Very happy to be there though! Cheers!

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    • *chuckle* Oh yes, the Mikado!
      But I agree about the reviews: I find the lists in the print media useless because there’s not enough print space to explain why the book was chosen.

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  13. I totally endorse the thoughts of Sue, whisperinggums, Lisa. Respect for the reviewer is paramount to me; hence, your influence. Lists help me to crystallise my intentions, or/and to follow up the titles that I’ve made a ‘list’ of!
    Thank you so much for another year’s brilliant critiques.

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    • Thanks, Heather, that’s very nice of you:)

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  14. Honoured to be in such fine company and so appreciative of the time and effort you take to curate these pages.

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    • Hello Leah, and thank you for your comment:) Yours is indeed a very fine book and I found it totally absorbing. I do hope you have plans to write another novel!

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      • Thanks so much, Lisa. I have a nonfiction book coming out next year, but I’ve also started work on another novel – very different to The Waiting Room :)

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        • I’ll look forward to that!

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  15. Thanks for this list. Looked up some of them on Goodreads and they sound interesting. Will definitely put them on my to-read list…

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    • Hello, and thank you for taking the time to comment. I hope you find the perfect book:)

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  16. […] for introducing me to this space, she probably regrets it! and Sue (Whispering Gums), Lisa (ANZ Lit Lovers) and Nathan (A Biographer in Perth) as well for their ongoing support and comments. And of course […]

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  17. I keep the emails with the Best of Year lists, it’s helpful.
    I’ll probably read The Hands by S. Orr.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. […] Best-of-2015It’s an ambitious quest, to write the story of an Aboriginal hero of colonial times.  Reading Libby Connors’ account of the life and violent death of the warrior Dundalli and how she untangles events from sources that are inevitably Eurocentric makes for fascinating reading.  Warrior is an important contribution to the debate around the exclusion of the colonial frontier wars from the national military narrative and its associated memorialising. […]

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  19. In your Best of 2015 fiction list, you mention Coal Creek, a book on my to-read list over on Goodreads. As a 71-year-old with physical maladies, reading is one of the most enjoyable pleasures I have left, and so I have made a science out of picking my next read, esp. with the help of Goodreads. When I saw Coal Creek on your, I immediately read your review of it. So, I hopped over to Goodreads and added the shelf “anz litlovers” to my Coal Creek data, and thought to myself, “hmm, maybe I should move that up to my “yes” shelf, meaning–read soon, order from Amazon. So, I am very grateful for your book blog, and for your Best of 2015 list. Look at all the excitement you gave an old lady!

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    • Hello Mij, how nice to meet you:)
      I can’t tell you how pleased it makes me feel to know that this little blog is useful to you. I know that reading is a great pleasure at any time in our lives, but especially as we get older it becomes even more important for lots of reasons.
      However, I’m not so sure that I agree that 71 is old: most of my few friends are around that age and older and *smile* they would agree with me that you can start calling yourself old when you get to your late eighties.
      Happy reading! Lisa

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      • Haha, Lisa, I agree given all the 75 year olds in my patchwork group. Old is around 85 I’d say! Certainly NOT 71 anyhow.

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  20. I do get influenced my lists like yours. It is good to keep up with books that I have not read or get introduced to new authors. I will check out the books on your list and see if they are available at my library. If they appeal I will reserve them. I might even might buy one or two, which is not such a good idea, because where will I put them?

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    • Well, you could always rehome them with a friend, or send them to the Op Shop to support a favourite cause. Many of the books in my home library are thanks to the generosity of readers who donated them… I often used to wonder about the person who donated so many books by Anita Brookner, Mary Wesley, Fay Weldon, Alison Lurie and many other feminist authors. I used to wish I knew her, she would have been a soul mate.

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  21. I find it difficult to give away my books. I do give some to the op shop where I volunteer. However, here is also a problem of space. We do have a free book box for people to take from, and I do take some of these for the housebound lady that I also deliver library books to. I think you would find quite a few reading soul mates out there.

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    • I can’t make myself give away the ones I love, but I still feel guilty about giving away the ones that I didn’t enjoy so much. I keep telling The Spouse that we need to build an extension on the roof so that we can have a ‘branch’ library….

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  22. […] My first book, ‘Solly’s Girl’ was a very different production. It was self-published through the ‘Write Your Story’ program at what is now the Lamm Jewish Library of Australia.  The editing was meticulous and kind.  However, commercial considerations were not really an issue for anyone involved:  as it has always been, since I set it up back in the 1990s, the program is designed for the Jewish community ‘to tell its own story’.  And so I did;  ‘Solly’s Girl’ complements ‘Alva’s Boy’ and, although the writing style is completely different, our family stories are now done.  Lisa Hill of ANZ LitLovers was sufficiently impressed to include it in her non-fiction Best Books of…. […]

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