I’m not really keen on doing these Best Books lists because it’s always a struggle to choose when there are so many good books I’ve read, but here goes anyway…
These are the books I really liked and admired during 2016. They are books that I read this year, not necessarily published this year.
(At the time of writing there are 9 days reading left for this year, so who knows what other treasure I might find…)
The contenders are ANZ authors only. If you read this blog regularly you know that I also read international authors and translations too, but for this list, well, it’s summertime here so let the sun shine on antipodean authors. All links go to my reviews.
I rated all of these 4 stars on Goodreads, and I felt a surge of pleasure remembering them when I looked at their covers at See What You Read in 2016. (I didn’t rate anything 5 stars, as I’ve said before, I reserve five stars for a work of genius such 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). Here are my 4-star books in the order that I read them, culled from an original list of 48 4-star fiction reads.
- Hill of Grace by Stephen Orr, Wakefield Press, 2004
- Chappy by Patricia Grace, Penguin, 2015
- The End of Seeing by Christy Collins, Seizure, 2015
- A Loving Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe, UQP, 2016
- The Queen’s Play by Aashish Kaul, Roundfire Books, 2014
- Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar, Picador (Pan Macmillan), 2015
- One by Patrick Holland, Transit Lounge, 2016
- Seeing the Elephant by Portland Jones, Margaret River Press, 2016
- The Book of Fame by Lloyd Jones, The Text Publishing Company, 2010
- Ruins by Rajith Savanadasa, Hachette, 2016
- Tu by Patricia Grace, Penguin, 2004
- A Most Peculiar Act by Marie Munkara, Magabala Books, 2014
- The Fringe Dwellers by Nene Gare, Bolinda Audio, 2013
- My Sister Chaos by Lara Fergus, Spinifex Press, 2014
- Out of Ireland by Christopher Koch, Vintage, (Random House) 2000, first published 1999.
- Wood Green by Sean Rabin, Giramondo, 2016
- Where the Rekohu Bone Sings by Tina Makereti, Random House New Zealand, 2014
- Music and Freedom by Zoe Morrison, Vintage (Penguin Random House) 2016
- An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire, Picador (Pan Macmillan), 2016
- Seven Poor Men of Sydney by Christina Stead, Sirius Quality Paperbacks, (an imprint of Angus and Robertson), 1981
- The Beauties and Furies by Christina Stead, Virago Modern Classics, 1982 (now available as a Text Classic)
- Family Skeleton by Carmel Bird, UWAP (University of Western Australia Press), 2016
- The Floating Garden by Emma Ashmere, Spinifex Press, 2015
- The World Repair Video Game by David Ireland, Island Magazine, 2015
- Extinctions by Josephine Wilson, UWAP (University of Western Australia Press), 2016
- The Historian’s Daughter by Rashida Murphy, UWAP (University of Western Australian), 2016
BTW Note that all but seven of these 26 books are published by small indie publishers!
Non Fiction (BTW I am usually really mean with 4 star ratings for non-fiction so this was a very good year!)
- Real Modern, Everyday New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s, by Bronwyn Labrum, Te Papa Press, 2015
- Sister, Sister by Anna Blay, Port Campbell Press, 2012 (first published by Hale & Ironmonger 1998)
- Doing Life, A Biography of Elizabeth Jolley by Brian Dibble, UWAP (University of Western Australian Press, 2008
- On Radji Beach, the Story of Australian Nurses after the Fall of Singapore, by Ian W Shaw, Pan Macmillan, 2010
- Talking to My Country by Stan Grant, Harper Collins, 2016
- Journey to Horseshoe Bend by T.G.H. Strehlow, Giramondo Publishing, 2015
- Georgiana Molloy, the Mind That Shines by Bernice Barry, Picador, 2016
- Journalism at the Crossroads by Margaret Simons, Scribe Publications, 2012
- The Art of Reading by Damon Young, Melbourne University Press, 2016
- The Media and the Massacre by Sonya Voumard, Transit Lounge, 2016
- Dogs in Australian Art (expanded edition) by Steven Miller, Wakefield, 2016. (Actually, I gave this 5 stars, but that was because of the dogs so I admit my bias and confess that it’s really only a 4-star book, not quite in the realm of James Joyce and Patrick White).
- Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea by Marie Munkara, Vintage (Penguin-Random House), 2016
- Gurrumul, His Life and Music by Robert Hillman, Harper Collins 2013
- How to Vote Progressive in Australia, Labor or Green, by Dennis Altman, Monash University Publishing, 2016
- Balancing Act: Australia Between Recession and Renewal (Quarterly Essay #61) by George Megalogenis, Black Inc, 2016
- Firing Line: Australia’s Path to War (Quarterly Essay #62) by James Brown, Black Inc, 2016
- Two Sisters, a True Story by Ngarta and Jukuna, Magabala Books, 2016
- Henry Handel Richardson, a study, by Nettie Palmer, Angus and Robertson, 1950
- Finding Eliza, Power and Colonial Storytelling by Larissa Behrendt, UQP, 2016
- Living with the Locals, Early Europeans Experience of Indigenous Life by John Maynard and Victoria Haskins, NLA (National Library of Australia) Publishing, 2016
- The Australian Dream: Blood, History and Becoming (Quarterly Essay #64) by Stan Grant, Black Inc, 2016
Note that only five of these weren’t published by small indie publishers.
Now, some of those are flawed in one way or another (and I said so in my reviews) so although they were interesting, memorable and/or beautifully written, if I have to whittle this down, out they go. Then as in 2015 I’m using a highly sophisticated criteria: which books have I banged on about most to people in my f2f life? This is not as silly as it sounds … I have read 200+ books this year and I am always talking about books online. But the books that made their way into everyday conversation with family and friends did so because they have something important to contribute to our understanding of life These books weren’t just good to read, pleasurable, entertaining, or absorbing. I rabbited on about the themes and issues and insights in these books because they matter.
Best ANZ LitLovers Fiction Books of 2016
- Hill of Grace by Stephen Orr
- Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar
- One by Patrick Holland
- The Book of Fame by Lloyd Jones
- A Most Peculiar Act by Marie Munkara
- An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire
- The Floating Garden by Emma Ashmere
- The World Repair Video Game by David Ireland
Best ANZ LitLovers Non Fiction Books of 2016 (You can see that books about journalism and politics mattered in a Federal Election year).
- Real Modern, Everyday New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s, by Bronwyn Labrum
- Sister, Sister by Anna Blay
- Talking to My Country by Stan Grant
- Journey to Horseshoe Bend by T.G.H. Strehlow
- Journalism at the Crossroads by Margaret Simons
- The Art of Reading by Damon Young
- The Media and the Massacre by Sonya Voumard
- How to Vote Progressive in Australia, Labor or Green, by Dennis Altman
- Firing Line: Australia’s Path to War (Quarterly Essay #62) by James Brown
- Finding Eliza, Power and Colonial Storytelling by Larissa Behrendt
- Living with the Locals, Early Europeans Experience of Indigenous Life by John Maynard and Victoria Haskins
- The Australian Dream: Blood, History and Becoming (Quarterly Essay #64) by Stan Grant
The ANZ LitLovers Book of the Year is
Just nudging out The World Repair Video Game and Stan Grant’s books, the ANZ LitLovers Best Book of the Year is Emily Maguire’s An Isolated Incident. Next time you see the media interviewing locals after yet another woman has been murdered by someone who’s supposed to love her, and you hear the words I never thought that something like this could happen here [in my quiet safe community] just remember the ironic title of this book. Murder of women is not an isolated incident, it happens every day in Australia in a suburb or town near you. In this powerful novel, the cops know exactly who has murdered a local woman because they know her murder was inevitable because they know her violent husband. And still it happened.
If you haven’t read it, go get a copy!
Over to you
Your thoughts on my choices? What was your best book of the year?