Posted by: Lisa Hill | January 1, 2022

2021 ANZLitLovers Australian and New Zealand Best Books of the Year

As in previous years, these are the books I really liked and admired during 2021.  They are books that I read in 2021, not necessarily published in 2021.  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.

The Longlists

Fiction Longlist, in alphabetical order

I read 76 works of fiction from Australia and 6 from New Zealand this year. As in previous years, I’ve longlisted the books that I rated 4 stars, if I felt a felt a warm glow remembering them when I looked at their covers at Goodreads..  (NB I reserve five stars for exceptional books not just something I really liked.  The only book I read this year that I rated 5 was Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje, and he’s not Australian).  New Zealand books are in Italics.

  1. Now That I See You, by Emma Batchelor (2021 Vogel winner)
  2. Wearing Paper Dresses, by Anne Brinsden
  3. From Here On, Monsters, by Elizabeth Bryer
  4. Remote Sympathy, by Catherine Chidgey
  5. The Price of two Sparrows, by Christy Collins
  6. Death of a Coast Watcher, by Anthony English
  7. The Disinvent Movement, by Susanna Gendall
  8. Maestro, by Peter Goldsworthy
  9. The Dogs, by John Hughes
  10. Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray (River of Dreams), by Anita Heiss
  11. No One, by John Hughes
  12. Travelling Companions, by Antoni Jach
  13. From Where I fell, by Susan Johnson
  14. Our Shadows, by Gail Jones
  15. The Swimmers, by Chloe Lane
  16. A History of the Great War, a novel, by Peter McConnell
  17. Love Objects, by Emily Maguire
  18. Cold Coast, by Robyn Mundy
  19. Caravan Story, by Wayne Macauley
  20. Believe in Me, by Lucy Neave
  21. Night Blue, by Angela O’Keeffe
  22. Sincerely, Ethel Malley, by Stephen Orr
  23. Chasing the McCubbin, by Sandi Scaunich
  24. The Beach Caves, by Trevor Shearston
  25. Modern Marriage, by Filip Vukašin

Non Fiction Longlist including Life Stories in alphabetical order (I read 41 books of Australian NF, but none from New Zealand.)

  1. More Than Halfway to Somewhere, by John Burbidge
  2. My Forests: Travels with Trees, by Janine Burke
  3. Save Our Sons: Women, Dissent and Conscription during the Vietnam War, by Carolyn Collins
  4.  Signs and Wonders, by Delia Falconer
  5. Australian Native Cuisine, by Andrew Fielke 
  6. Growing Up Disabled in Australia, edited by Carly Findlay
  7. The One That Got Away, Travelling in the time of Covid, by Ken Haley
  8. Where the Water Ends, by Zoe Holman
  9. Aflame, by Subhash Jaireth
  10. Incantations, by Subhash Jaireth
  11. The Dancer, a biography for Philippa Cullen, by Evelyn Juers
  12. Vandemonians, the Repressed History of Colonial Victoria, by Janet McCalman
  13. Finding the Heart of the Nation, by Thomas Mayor
  14. Last Letter to a Reader, by Gerald Murnane
  15. Emile Zola, a Very Short Introduction, by Brian Nelson
  16. Judy Cassab, a portrait, by Brenda Niall
  17. Imaginative Possession by Belinda Probert
  18. ‘Pivot to India’ by Michael Wesley, in Australian Foreign Affairs #13: India Rising, Asia’s Huge Question, edited by Jonathan Pearlman 
  19. The Case for Courage, by Kevin Rudd
  20. Homecoming by Elfie Shiosaki

My favourites of 2021

I could never be a literary prize judge: I hate whittling lists down to some arbitrary number and I really don’t know why I do it.  I chose one of the two titles by John Hughes because it doesn’t seem fair to have two of his, but really I liked them both.

Most Memorable ANZ LitLovers Australian Fiction Books of 2021 in alphabetical order

  1. Now That I See You, by Emma Batchelor (2021 Vogel winner)
  2. Remote Sympathy, by Catherine Chidgey
  3. The Price of Two Sparrows, by Christy Collins
  4. Death of a Coast Watcher, by Anthony English
  5. The Disinvent Movement, by Susanna Gendall
  6. No One, by John Hughes
  7. Love Objects, by Emily Maguire
  8. Cold Coast, by Robyn Mundy
  9. Sincerely, Ethel Malley, by Stephen Orr
  10. The Beach Caves, by Trevor Shearston

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Most memorable ANZ LitLovers Non Fiction and Poetry Books of 2021 in alphabetical order

  1. My Forests: Travels with Trees, by Janine Burke
  2. Signs and Wonders, by Delia Falconer
  3. Australian Native Cuisine, by Andrew Fielke 
  4. Growing Up Disabled in Australia, edited by Carly Findlay
  5. The Dancer, a biography for Philippa Cullen, by Evelyn Juers
  6. Vandemonians, the Repressed History of Colonial Victoria, by Janet McCalman
  7. Finding the Heart of the Nation, by Thomas Mayor
  8. Last Letter to a Reader, by Gerald Murnane
  9. Emile Zola, a Very Short Introduction, by Brian Nelson
  10. Imaginative Possession by Belinda Probert

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The ANZ LitLovers Non-Fiction Book of the Year is.. 

The ANZ LitLovers Fiction Books of the Year are… 

*drum roll*

(One from Oz and one from NZ!)

Over to you

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


Responses

  1. Thanks for your list,Lisa. I always enjoy reading your posts and the lists like this give me suggestions for books that haven’t crossed my horizons.
    Of the Australian fiction I read this year, Larissa Behrendt’s ‘After Story’ stands out for me, followed by Amanda Lohrey’s much awarded ‘Labyrinth’, which I found pretty miserable.

    Like

    • Oh *gasp*, you didn’t like Labyrinth? Yes, it was melancholy, but so true about how the things other people do can have wider implications that hurt their families more than we can guess.
      But yes, After Story is a very powerful book too. I loved the characterisation of the mother:)

      Like

  2. Well, Lisa, I have read only TWO books on your fiction long list and none at all from your non-fiction long list. How have we managed to read in the same city in the same country?? LOL. You’ve certainly pointed me towards a few books that I’ve been meaning to read.

    Like

    • Ah.
      Then I must work harder at writing enticing reviews!

      Like

  3. Happy New Year, Lisa! 🥳

    Like

  4. I can never pick favourites, so I admire you doing this, and also the amount of ANZ lit you read – I must explore some of your favourites!!

    Like

    • It is hard. You know what it’s most like, for me? Choosing the students for the annual EOY prizes. All the kids were great, worked hard, did their best, produced wonderful things in different ways, were wonderful human beings with oodles of potential — and I had to choose between them…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I still haven’t read any Australian books and now I just want to read Coming Through Slaughter, oops! I would like to address this gap this year though, for real…

    Like

    • I’ve had that Coming Through Slaughter on the TBR for years, not realising what a treasure it was.
      Happy reading in 2022, Laura!

      Like

  6. Coming Through Slaughter is an amazing book… I knew nothing about Bolden before I read that, and it was SO evocative! But hey, Ondaatje is my favorite author so, of course I agree with 5/5 stars! (I just wish he was Australian for you)!

    Like

    • Ondaatje is just great, I have to find more of his books…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve read ALL his fiction, and one book of his poetry. Well, his Billy the Kid book is sometimes called poetry, but I think of it more like poetic fiction.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for posting this list Lisa. I rely on your reviews to always steer me in the right direction and I was just ready to start going back over some to decide on my next choices. This narrows it down a little for me. I have not read either of your winners for fiction book of the year so I will start with those two.

    Like

  8. Great lists and I’m looking forward to learning more about Australian and New Zealand lit through reading your blog. No overlap but I do now have a book edited by Anita Heiss, thanks to Bill from Australian Legend! I think my most memorable books read in 2021 were Alex Haley’s “Roots” and David Olusoga’s “Black and British” although they’re only two of what was eventually a Top 18 …

    Like

    • You know, I remember when Roots came out, and I wanted to read it but the library had a waitlist a mile long, so eventually I forgot about it. I should try to get hold of a copy now since you think so highly of it.

      Liked by 1 person


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