My Favourite Books of 2017

Every year I challenge myself to read 50 books. In 2017 I moved four times, changed jobs 3 times and, as ridiculous as it sounds, lived my most stable 365 days in 5 years. I didn't manage to hit 50. 

In 2017 I read 41 books which, according to Goodreads, totalled to over 11, 794 pages. I read so many incredible books that I'm genuinely struggling to list my favourites. Anything by Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig and Australian writer Tim Winton is amazing, so I won't bother going into detail there. Purchase and consume literally any of their works. You'll thank me later.

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Favourite Fiction:

Let The Great World Spin - Colum McCann
A boy on Instagram recommended this book to me and I adored it. I posted it to another friend immediately after finishing it.

It's one of those books that follows multiple storylines centred around an event in history: a man walking a tight rope between the Twin Towers. This actually happened, and there's a really awesome documentary about it called Man On Wire. The book is incredibly poetic, with some strong social commentary about religion and class. For my post-Christian-still-spiritual readers, you'll love one character in particular, Corrigan. 

“Corrigan told me once that Christ was quite easy to understand. He went where He was supposed to go. He stayed where He was needed. He took little or nothing along, a pair of sandals, a bit of a shirt, a few odds and ends to stave off the loneliness. He never rejected the world. If He had rejected it, He would have been rejecting mystery. And if He rejected mystery, He would have been rejecting faith.” 

“What Corrigan wanted was a fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of the everyday...he consoled himself with the fact that, in the real world, when he looked closely into the darkness he might find the presence of a light, damaged and bruised, but a little light all the same. He wanted, quite simply, for the world to be a better place, and he was in the habit of hoping for it.” 

We Need To Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
This was a heavy read about a fictional kid who committed a fictional mass shooting in America. It addresses the blame we place on parents, and how a young person may reach the point where they commit such an atrocity. I inhaled this book and the ending shook me.

My Name is Leon - Kit de Waal
If you're after a consumable read, this should be next on your list. I didn't leave the couch until the final page had been devoured. A beautiful story documenting two brothers who are separated as children and put into foster care. It vividly portrays all of the pain and anger that comes with. 

The Atomic Weight of Love - Elizabeth J. Church
Set in the 1940s, this novel is about one woman's quest to be recognised as an intellectual in her own right. Exploring many of the challenges that women faced in this period and woven with romance and bird watching, this book left me feeling grateful for the sacrifices women have made in the name of feminism. 

“Take one Naive Girl. Bring to room temperature in the Big City. Add three cups Academia. If in one cup Encouragement. Fold in two drop Love. Sprinkle with one teaspoon Adoration. Mix thoroughly. Spoon carefully into greased Pan of Matrimony. Bake in Desert Heat for 25. Test doneness with Careless Toothpick. Let cool on Wire Rack of Inertia. Serve with generous dollops of Benign Neglect.” 

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
Ah, my favourite genre, Speculative Fiction. Anyone who loves reading loves reading books about books. This is such a fun and beautiful 1-day read about what the world would be like without books. Spoiler alert: it sucks. 

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” 

Favourite Non-Fiction:

Without You There Is No Us - Suki Kim
A journalist goes undercover as a missionary who goes undercover as a university tutor in a North Korean university for elite young men. What an incredible insight into a world I had no understanding of. I told a very hungover young man all about it in Margaret River, WA on New Years Day I was so excited about it. It's one of those non-fiction reads that flows more like a story than an academic piece of literature. I promise you will be shocked by the contents.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari
This is a big fella and has been held in high acclaim largely due to its accessibility. The first half of this book was addictive as I followed the evolution of mankind across the continents. Growing up in the church and in a school with limited teaching on history, I had no idea how much science had discovered about the origin of our species (screw you, Creationists). I was absolutely shocked by my own ignorance, and it was a joy to be enlightened. I slowed down in the final quarter, but there was a lot of meaty bits and I'd encourage you to give it a read. 

2018 Goal

Yup, another 50. I want to dive into more non-fiction this year, so feel free to shoot through your recommendations! What did you love in 2017? What are you looking forward to reading this year? I have just started The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf and I'm being hit with some crazy revelations. My pen is permanently tucked behind my ear or in my messy bun. 

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"By the 1980s beauty had come to play in women's status-seeking the same role as money plays in that of men: a defensive proof to aggressive competitors of womanhood or manhood. Since both value systems are reductive, neither reward is ever enough, and each quickly loses any relationship to real-life values. Throughout the decade, as money's ability to buy time for comfort and leisure was abandoned in the stratospheric pursuit of wealth for wealth's sale, the competition for "beauty" saw a parallel inflation: The material pleasures once presented as its goals- sex, love, intimacy, self-expression- were lost in a desperate struggle within a sealed economy, becoming distant and quaint memories." 

2016 Reads | 3 Books That Changed Me

A book is just a fictionalised world imagined by a stranger and then regurgitated into letters and spaces and paragraphs. Through the anxieties, stresses and daydreams that no doubt consume every writer, they somehow manage to empty suitcases of feeling and personal anecdotes into each character and every storyline. Sometimes it resonates with the reader on an indescribable level and sometimes it passes them by. It's why I love to read.

According to Goodreads I read 27 books this year, 8934 pages. I was aiming for 50 books (I managed over 40 last year), but life got in the way. I travelled for two months, I worked full time, I moved to the city, I travelled interstate, I worked weekends, I studied my Masters, I got a boyfriend. You know, life. 

But there are three standout books of my 2016, three books that affected both the way that I saw and understood the world, and in the way that I now see and understand people. 

 

1.     A Little Life - Hanya Yanagihara (published: 2015)

It is not often that literature paints the intimacies and struggles between a group of men so magnificently, if at all. A Little Life buried its way into my heart and I followed the story with more determination than I have with any other novel. 

The abuse and physical suffering that one character experiences is graphic and relentless. His pain is believable, and it seems as though you're right there beside him, except you're entirely ill-equipped to help him. This book will break you, and it won't do the honour of stitching you back up again. 

A Little Life painfully reminds you that people all over the world are experiencing horrific things and, unlike most narratives, it won't always be okay in the end. 

"You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.” 

2.     The Riders - Tim Winton (published: 1994)

This has quickly become my favourite Tim Winton novel (move over, Cloudstreet). I think it’s because the protagonist traverses the European landscape in cities that I am familiar with, all the while longing for the sandy shores and deep blue seas of Australia that only Winton can articulate with such dignity. 

I read this book in a day because the storyline was addictive and Winton's descriptions vivid. His writing is an excellent reminder of the sheer beauty of the natural world that surrounds us, no matter where we are. 

“She wondered if you could love someone too much. If you could it wasn't fair. People didn't have a chance. Love was all you had in the end. It was like sleep, like clean water. When you fell off the world there was still love because love made the world. That's what she believed. That's how it was.” 

3.     The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Murakami (published: 1994)

This may not be my favourite Murakami, but it was the first of his I read this year. I didn’t know much about this Japanese author or his style, I just knew that he was someone I should read. To say it surprised me is an understatement. I read so much fiction (set in real, existing places and experienced by real and believable people) that I forget that as a writer, you have the power to fabricate completely impossible phenomena in a world that is also, equally impossible. Your characters can fly, they can interact with other dimensions, they can control their dreams and speak to animals. I had forgotten the joy in reading literature that is quirky and obscure. Salvador Dali-esque if I may.

If you're going to attempt to read this book, let me warn you that nothing will make sense and nothing is linear. Relax and enjoy it for all its obscurities. 

“I'd be smiling and chatting away, and my mind would be floating around somewhere else, like a balloon with a broken string.” 

Other books I read this year and would recommend are: The Boat by Nam Le, Kakfa on the Shore by Murakami and Cannery Row by John Steinbeck.