Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 26, 2018

Ho ho ho, another meme: EOY Memento Mori

Stuck in a Book is at it again, sharing another meme from Rick who keeps putting out memes/tags on a vlog somewhere.  Ignore this if you are still racing around doing Christmas, join in with your own suggestions if you are all organised already!

1) What’s the longest book I read this year and the book that took me the longest to finish?

I only read three chunksters (450+ pages) in 2018,  and the longest of those was The Brothers K by David James Duncan.  It was 645 pages long and it took eight days to read, from May 11 to May 19.

The Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy by Sigrid Undset is taking the longest to finish – I started The Wreath in early December and moved onto The Wife, and then I re-read them both because I was confused by the huge cast of characters.  But I have stalled on reading the next one – partly because I have a stack of library books that are all due back in January and partly because I am not really excited by the prospect of Book 3, The Cross…

2) What book did I read in 2018 that was outside of my comfort zone?

That has to be Dancing Home by Paul Collis.  It’s the story of an Indigenous man on his way home after a stint in prison, and I didn’t like the violence.  But it just won the ACT Book of the year, because it’s an important book which won the 2016 David Unaipon Award.

3) How many books did I re-read in 2018?

One, unless you count re-reading the Kristin Lavransdatter books in order to write my review, which would make it three.

4) What’s my favourite re-read of 2018?

Swann in Love, by Marcel Proust, in a new translation by Brian Nelson.  If you’ve never read Proust, this is the edition to start with.

5) What book did I read for the first time in 2018 that I look forward to re-reading in the future?

You know the answer to this one if you’ve checked out my 2018 Best Australian and New Zealand Books.  It’s Shell by Kristina Olsson.  I just loved it, and I know I will revisit it.

6) What’s my favourite short story or novella that I read in 2018?

The Bed-making Competition, which was joint winner of the Seizure Viva La Novella prize this year.  A light-hearted, tender and hilarious tale about two sisters, from debut Kiwi author Anna Jackson who shared the award with Avi Duckworth-Jones for Swim.  (This is the first time New Zealand authors have won this prize).

7) Mass appeal: which book would I recommend to a wide variety of readers?

The Arsonist, by Chloe Hooper.  Because everybody needs to know about the dangers of unsupervised arsonists.

8) Specialised appeal: which book did I like but would be hesitant to recommend to just anyone?

Border Districts by Gerald Murnane. Murnane is a conceptual writer, not a teller of tales.  I love his work, and if you are prepared to immerse yourself in a unique style of writing, you will too, but not everyone likes this kind of challenge, I know…



  1. Your memes are keeping me occupied over breakfast – xmas is never a good season for newspapers, though Trump home alone in the White House is equal parts terrifying and amusing. My longest was Tracker, 580 pp plus lists. I reread a number of books twice, mostly by accident, notably Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan which I may have borrowed and listened to 3 times in the past two years without ever remembering what it is about. My favourite reread was Persausion though I also re-listened to P&P and Silas Marner. 8. mmm.. you’re very polite to readers who don’t get Border Districts.


    • Shame on you, Bill, bringing me news of That Man in America at this supposed-to-be cheerful time of the year! I pay no attention to him or his critics, and recommend doing so to anyone who also wants to stay sane until they have another election and throw him out.
      Anyway, I know what you mean about re-reading audio books: I borrowed quite a few more than once because audio books don’t stay in my brain the way that print books do. But of course, for me on the daily commute, it was just a matter of returning them to the library the same day, whereas if you’re half way to Bundywallop West before you take it out of the box and realise, it’s too late, and you may as well listen to it anyway.
      I’m polite, as you put it, because I haven’t forgotten my complete bewilderment the first time I read Murnane. If it hadn’t been in my early days of reviewing a freebie from a publisher, and therefore not wanting to be judged wanting, I probably wouldn’t have pressed on. But I did, and it turned out to be wonderful, and I’ve been hooked ever since.


  2. Long book: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.


    • That is indeed a long book, I read it myself many years ago and I think it might be the longest book I’ve ever read.


  3. Your longest book was still read in about half the time it took my to read my longest – Line of Beauty. I could get through only about 20 pages at a time.


    • You know, I’ve read that, and I really can’t remember anything about it. Strange how some books wander in and out of life with no impact whatsoever, while others are life-changing…


  4. What an eclectic mix of books! Clearly I need to be warned about arsonists.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, I should have said… the book raises wider issues. Just yesterday someone identified as having ‘mental health problems’ went berserk in Sydney and killed a hapless bystander as well as himself. We also had a case in Melbourne that where someone drove a car into a busy pedestrian mall, killing six and seriously injuring 27 others. The Arsonist makes clear that whole communities can be at risk from people like that, and although it’s rare, in some cases where the potential for harm is extreme, we as a society need to confront this issue more honestly than we have done so far. In the case of the arsonist that she writes about, it’s a case of what if he had been properly diagnosed as a child and received appropriate intervention? In the two cases above, (both of whom were known to have mental health problems) it’s a matter of asking, have we as a society provided adequate and appropriate health care for people who are a grave risk to themselves and others.
      There’s going to be a Royal Commission into Mental Health Services this year which will hopefully provide some useful answers.


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