Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 24, 2019

2019 ANZLitLovers Australian and New Zealand Best Books of the Year

As in previous years, these are the books I really liked and admired during 2019.  They are books that I read this year, not necessarily published this year.  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, there are plenty of other sources singing the praises of books published elsewhere.  All links go to my reviews.

Fiction Longlist

I read 76 works of fiction from Australia and New Zealand this year. As in previous years, I’ve longlisted the books that I rated 4-stars at Goodreads, if I felt a surge of pleasure remembering them when I looked at their covers at Goodreads See What You Read in 2019.  (NB I reserve five stars for a work of genius such as James Joyce’s Ulysses).  Because I went to NZ for the Auckland Writers Festival this year, I read more Kiwi fiction than usual so I’ve made separate long and shortlists for them.

Australian Longlist

  1. Field of Poppies, by Carmel Bird
  2. The White Girl, by Tony Birch
  3. The Year of the Beast (Glenroy Series), by Steven Carroll
  4. The War Artist, by Simon Cleary
  5. Book Review: Rosa: Memories With Licence by Ros Collins
  6. Troppo, by Madelaine Dickie
  7. Blood Kin, by Ceridwen Dovey
  8. In the Garden of the Fugitives, by Ceridwen Dovey
  9. Water Under the Bridge, by Sumner Locke Elliott
  10. Bodies of Men, by Nigel Featherstone
  11. Invented Lives, by Andrea Goldsmith
  12. Modern Interiors, by Andrea Goldsmith
  13. Minotaur, by Peter Goldsworthy
  14. Stone Girl, by Eleni Hale
  15. The Valley, by Steve Hawke
  16. Paris Savages, by Katherine Johnson
  17. Avenue of Eternal Peace, by Nicholas Jose
  18. Little Stones, by Elizabeth Kuiper
  19. Coach Fitz, by Tom Lee
  20. The Flight of Birds, by Joshua Lobb
  21. Black is the New White, by Nakkiah Lui
  22. The Trespassers, by Meg Mundell
  23. A Season on Earth, by Gerald Murnane
  24. Into the Fire, by Sonia Orchard
  25. There Was Still Love, by Favel Parrett
  26. Maybe the Horse Will Talk, by Elliot Perlman
  27. The Drover’s Wife, the legend of Molly Johnson, by Leah Purcell
  28. The Glad Shout, by Alice Robinson
  29. The Returns, by Philip Salom
  30. Hare’s Fur, by Trevor Shearston
  31. Dinner with the Dissidents, by John Tesarsch
  32. Wolfe Island, by Lucy Treloar
  33. The Yield, by Tara June Winch
  34. Daughter of Bad Times, by Rohan Wilson
  35. The Weekend, by Charlotte Wood

New Zealand longlist

  1. The New Animals, by Pip Adam
  2. The Naturalist, by Thom Conroy
  3. Beneath Pale Water, by Thalia Henry
  4. The Cage, by Lloyd Jones
  5. This Mortal Boy, by Fiona Kidman
  6. The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke, by Tina Makereti
  7. Pearly Gates, by Owen Marshall
  8. A Sister in My House, by Linda Olsson
  9. All This by Chance, by Vincent O’Sullivan
  10. A Mistake, by Carl Shuker

Non Fiction Longlist including Life Stories (I’ve read a lot more NF this year, but only two of those were from NZ and neither made the longlist, so these are all Australian.)

  1. Nothing New, A History of Second-Hand, by Robyn Annear
  2. Bright Swallow, by Vivian Bi
  3. From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia Got Compulsory Voting, by Judith Brett
  4. The Grass Library, by David Brooks
  5. Our Mob Served, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories of war and defending Australia, edited by Allison Cadzow and Mary Anne Jebb
  6. Accidental Feminists, by Jane Caro
  7. Growing Up African in Australia, edited by Maxine Beneba Clarke, Ahmed Yussuf and Magan Magan
  8. Blooms and Brushstrokes, A Floral History of Australian Art, by Penelope Curtin and Tansy Curtin 
  9. The Dismissal Dossier, by Jenny Hocking
  10. Beyond Words, a Year with Kenneth Cook, by Jacqueline Kent
  11. Through Ice and Fire, by Sarah Laverick
  12. The Dead Still Cry Out, the Story of a Combat Cameraman, by Helen Lewis
  13. Bigger or Better? Australia’s Population Debate, by Ian Lowe
  14. On Fairness, by Sally McManus (Little Books on Big Ideas)
  15. The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela, by Sisonke Msimang
  16. We Are Here, Stories of Home, Place and Belonging, edited by Meg Mundell
  17. Penny Wong, Passion and Principle, by Margaret Simons
  18. Trigger Warnings, Political Correctness and the Rise of the Right, by Jeff Sparrow
  19. Storytime, Growing Up with Books, by Jane Sullivan
  20. Hearing Maud, by Jessica White

The shortlists

I could never be a literary prize judge: I hate whittling lists down to some manageable number and casting out some really beaut books in the process.  And what does it really mean to be ‘in’ at number 10 and ‘out’ at number 11?  All it means in some cases is that I prefer novels to short stories…or that I’d rather read about history and politics than memoir and travel.

Best ANZ LitLovers Australian Fiction Books of 2019 

  1. Field of Poppies, by Carmel Bird
  2. The War Artist, by Simon Cleary
  3. Book Review: Rosa: Memories With Licence by Ros Collins
  4. In the Garden of the Fugitives, by Ceridwen Dovey
  5. Invented Lives, by Andrea Goldsmith
  6. Stone Girl, by Eleni Hale
  7. Paris Savages, by Katherine Johnson
  8. The Trespassers, by Meg Mundell
  9. A Season on Earth, by Gerald Murnane
  10. Maybe the Horse Will Talk, by Elliot Perlman
  11. The Returns, by Philip Salom
  12. Hare’s Fur, by Trevor Shearston
  13. Dinner with the Dissidents, by John Tesarsch
  14. Wolfe Island, by Lucy Treloar
  15. The Weekend, by Charlotte Wood

Best ANZ LitLovers New Zealand Fiction Books of 2019

  1. The New Animals, by Pip Adam
  2. The Naturalist, by Thom Conroy
  3. The Cage, by Lloyd Jones
  4. This Mortal Boy, by Fiona Kidman
  5. All This by Chance, by Vincent O’Sullivan

Best ANZ LitLovers Non Fiction Books of 2019 

  1. From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia Got Compulsory Voting, by Judith Brett
  2. The Grass Library, by David Brooks
  3. Our Mob Served, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories of war and defending Australia, edited by Allison Cadzow and Mary Anne Jebb
  4. Accidental Feminists, by Jane Caro
  5. Growing Up African in Australia, edited by Maxine Beneba Clarke, Ahmed Yussuf and Magan Magan
  6. The Dead Still Cry Out, the Story of a Combat Cameraman, by Helen Lewis
  7. The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela, by Sisonke Msimang
  8. Penny Wong, Passion and Principle, by Margaret Simons
  9. Trigger Warnings, Political Correctness and the Rise of the Right, by Jeff Sparrow
  10. Storytime, Growing Up with Books, by Jane Sullivan

And finally…

The ANZ LitLovers Book of the Year is… 

*drum roll*

A beautiful, gentle book that — without a trace of sentimentality — reminds us that contrary to everything we read and hear in the media, there are good and kindly people in the world.

As the blurb so rightly says: Hare’s Fur offers an exquisite story of grief, kindness, art, and the transformation that can grow from the seeds of trust.

This novel deserves more attention than it’s had: don’t let it slip under your radar.  My review is here.

Hare’s Fur by Trevor Shearston.

Over to you

Your thoughts on my choices?  What was your best book of the year?


Responses

  1. I don’t know how you do it! Have a happy Christmas and a happy reading year ahead. All the best. Jan

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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    • Thank you, Jan:)
      (You know it’s because I don’t do anything else except read, don’t you?!)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow… so many intriguing books named here that I haven’t read. I’ll be saving these lists to my phone and using them as reference points for inspiration when I’m perusing the shelves of my local library and/or local indie bookshop over the next year. Thanks for all you do in promoting and championing ANZ lit, Lisa, and hope you have a fab Christmas and New Year. If you’re around next week, perhaps we could meet up for a coffee in your neck of the woods…

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    • Oh, that would be lovely:) if the weather is nice, we could have lunch in The Lower Belvedere:)

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      • I’ll drop you an email after xmas.

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        • And you’ve got my phone number?

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  3. Enticing lists! I have only read some of your Australian fiction titles, none of the non-fiction or New Zealand ones. I’ve been meaning to read Hare’s Fur ever since I read your review.
    I love how you long listed and then short listed!

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    • LOL It’s the only way I can whittle them down, I have to be ruthless with myself.
      Which just goes to show you could read nothing but OzLit, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

      • You certainly could!
        I suppose I did a similar thing when choosing my lists, I just whittled down in a word document before posting the final lists.

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  4. Lisa – I am so honoured to be listed here. Thank you for reading my book – and naturally it pleases me very much that you really enjoyed it. It takes me breath away that you read so many books AND then you have the energy and skill to comment on them in such a frank and lively manner. Do you have servants to do the dishes and feed the dog? Have a splendid holiday, and a joyful and productive year in 2020.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Carmel, I don’t think that anything I do could be as demanding as actually writing a novel, and I don’t know how you do that, time after time producing such original and inspiring books!

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  5. A wonderful list, Lisa … well done. I’ve read none, I think, of your Aussie fiction shortlist, though I will be reading Carmel Bird’s and Charlotte Wood’s in the first couple of months of next year.

    I’ve read a couple of the non-fiction ones.

    My reports will be coming in a week!

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    • LOL That way all the lucky people who get book vouchers will have a great time choosing from all our respective lists:)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Our reading lists – or my reading and your longlist – have crossed over by just three books – The Weekend, Hearing Maud, and A Season on Earth. It’s a good thing I enjoy reading your reviews whether or not I’ve read the book. All the best for 2020!

    Like

    • BTW Just re-checking your post so that I can add the URL here https://theaustralianlegend.wordpress.com/2019/12/19/seasons-greetings-2019/, I saw your reminder about AWW… I got myself all excited today when I found a Ruth Park novel called Missus in the Sandringham Street Library (which is usually full of dross). But alas it’s well outside AWW Gen 3. It’s from 1985.
      Will you be doing a Gen 4?

      Like

      • I’ll probably do Gen 4, but not next year (2021), which will be Gen3, part 2 1939-1960 ish, which is definitely Ruth Park’s era. I have one too Cusack’s Say no to Death, which I think is about returned soldiers.

        I’m treating Gen 3 in 2 parts because it lasted so long, from 1919 into the 1960s. All that brown cardigan, white picket fence stuff that we were so glad to see the end of.

        Gen 4 is the baby boomers, and some slightly older writers like Astley, Keneally, Ireland and I guess, Murnane. The sexual revolution, women’s lib, european migrants, and so on.

        Like

      • I have read and reviewed Missus on my blog. As you probably know it’s the last of the Harp in the South trilogy – last written but first chronologically in terms of the story.

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        • Yes, it’s a prequel, the love story of Hughie and Mumma, so I’ll be interested to see how Park writes what was for her, then (born in 1917), historical fiction, whereas the other two were within living memory.

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          • Not to mention growing up in NZ. She only came to Oz when she married Niland during the War (I think)

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            • Yes, I will need to refresh my memory of her bio!

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          • I’m sure You’ll like it.

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Lisa, so many more books to read! I don’t know if I should be thankful, my TBR list continues to grow. All the best for Christmas and the New year. Looking forward to reading your reviews next year.

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    • Thanks, Meg, I hope you have a great festive season, and thank you for all the times you’ve commented here, it really is appreciated:)

      Like

  8. You are a legend Lisa. I so enjoy reading your reviews and have a similar passion for Australian Literature which has been a bonus these last couple of years since discovering your blog. I too am in awe at your commitment and the books you give your attention are always worthy of exploring. Many good wishes for 2020.f

    Like

    • Thank you Fay, it’s a great pleasure to do what I do when I get to chat with other booklovers like you. I hope you enjoy the festive season!

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  9. Thanks for the lists, Lisa. What a fascinating bunch of books, though I’ve only read a few of them. I’ll definitely check out Hare’s Fur — I hadn’t even heard of it!! I hope you have a wonderful and restful break. See you on the other side of new year.

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    • Best wishes for the festive season to you too, Robyn, enjoy the break!

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  10. I have only read one book on your list – Wolfe Island, which I also loved. I’ve spent most of the year reading from my shelves so no new fiction apart from audiobooks. I’m going to save your list to my phone so I can reference it like Kim mentioned

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    • Ha, tackling the TBR! #Musing Shall I make that one of my NY Resolutions? (You know, the kind you break by the end of the first week of the new year…)

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      • Nothing like starting off the Year with good intentions even if you don’t intend to keep them 😏. Merry Christmas to you and yours Lisa

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  11. Thanks for all the inspiring posts, Lisa. Have a great Christmas and a happy 2020

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    • Thanks to you too, Simon, I have learned so many interesting things about books and history from your blog, it’s one of my favourites:) Best wishes to you and all the family!

      Like

  12. Some of these books I’ve read, some are already on my list, and a couple more will be added. Thank you.

    Like

  13. […] 2019 ANZLitLovers Australian and New Zealand Best Books of the Year – Over at ANZ LitLovers LitBlog, Lisa Hill shares “the books [she] really liked and admired during 2019” but “not necessarily published this year.” All “contenders are ANZ authors only.” […]

    Like

  14. Beautiful post, Lisa! I was looking forward to it! I’m so happy that Eliot Perlman’s book made it into the shortlist! I want to read that! I want to read Hare’s Fur too! Thanks so much for sharing your favourites list!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Lots to look for, thanks! I will say, blogs where most of the reviews are c.2019 books definitely get very beautiful photos. Cover designers are killing it nowadays!

    Like


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