Here’s the thing: you can’t be a word nerd without being a total book worm. Both labels I wear with absolute pride. Since childhood, I’ve read voraciously, three to five books a week. Once, in Year 10 English, I was reading ‘on the sly’, a novel on my lap ‘out of sight of the teacher’ * when she paused her lecture to say ‘Holly Cardamone, put that book away. You can stay behind after the bell, please.’ The bell rang, I waited at my seat, and the teacher asked me what I was reading. I showed her, a book called ‘Tilly’s Fortune’ (which I really should reread as an adult).
‘Where are you up to?’ she asked me. I told her.
‘When you’re in my class, I expect you to show me the respect of listening to me. Is that clear?’ I answered in the affirmative.
‘Right, off you go,’ she said. ‘And come see me when you’ve finished, I really loved that book but it upset me, so we’ll have a chat about it.’
What a f*cking amazing teacher, am I right?
Books are my constant and whilst with parenthood my reading prolificness has diminished, however I still inhale about two books a week. This past year I kept a record of my reading (and my responses) and as of this morning, 23 December 2016, I’m at 76 books for the year. I’m a sucker for a top 10 list of anything, so thought it would be fun to share my top 10 reads for 2016- these are a mix of business books, and books for the sheer joy of language. Given my line of work is primarily the sprinkling of writerly glitter, I firmly believe that any well-written book is going to have a positive impact on my business. I also feel compelled to point out that not all of these books are new to 2016, or even new to me. Earlier this year, when news broke of Harper Lee’s passing, I pulled out my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird- originally my mother’s copy, to be exact- and reread it, and loved it just as much for the 27,000th time as my first reading of it over twenty-five years ago.
Compiling this list has been more fun than I expected, namely because it gave me that chance to look back over 12 months worth of reading and relive the feelings I had when reading ‘The End’ and writing my response in my reading log. There were some cracker responses to books this year, dear reader, from ‘Seriously, wtf?’ to ‘No words, too good’. Yes, I’m an eloquent little blossom at times. Compiling the list also made me think about the impact books have had on my business over the past twelve months and of course, my life beyond my business.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
1- Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
I’ve never actually seen the TV series that is based upon this memoir (it’s on my list) but this was a well-written, funny account of Piper’s time in a women’s prison and what it taught her about the justice system, and the women within.
2- On Life: My Mother’s Story by Kate Grenville
Disclaimer: I love Kate Grenville and everything she writes, and this book was no exception. It’s Kate’s homage to her mother, examining from a daughter’s perspective her mother’s life and its seasons. Love, love, loved it!
3- Wonder by RJ Pelacio
My older cherub was given this novel which is described as junior reader but has themes closer to young adult, so I read it along with her, chapter by chapter, and then it was so good I reread it again. Beautiful language, plotting and characters and not over-written.
4- Land’s Edge by Tim Winton
I’m a water baby, and I grew up on a farm on the coast, where I went to sleep to the sound of king tides. When I moved to the city at 18, I used to pretend that the traffic white noise was the surf. This beautiful memoir not only makes me want to walk on the beach after a storm, it is writing that is pure perfection that makes me adore language and simple, sparse prose. Bliss…
5- Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Gosh, my non-fiction writing lecturer in my Master of Arts and Literature suggested this book to me over a decade ago as an example of creative non-fiction- using the techniques of fiction and storytelling (pace, prose, character, setting, plot etc) to write a piece based on fact. I can’t believe it took me so long to get it off my ‘To Read’ list and onto my ‘OMFG That Was Good’ list. Far from giving my adventureous spirit the kick up the bum to go venturing in the wild, the sadness, the desolation, the isolation was so evocative I’m never likely to set foot solo in a Kathmandu store, let alone go off track in the bush.
Finally, a business-y book, I hear you cry! This was a funny read that gave me the feels, but also showed the power of PR, bloody well written descriptions and captions and a good news story. Journos would have been jumping out of their skins for this story, and it shows how a bit of creativity in pitching could have fantastic results.
7- Essentialism by Greg Mckeown
This book had a great impact on my business by highlighting the power that can be gained by saying ‘no’ and by refusing to allow others to hijack your workload. There’s not many feelings at work that are less desirable than feeling busy and yet unproductive, and more than anything else, this is a read that celebrates focus as a gift to productivity. Whilst not amazingly well-written, it’s a quick and easy read with clear take-aways.
8- Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
This book made me laugh so hard that my older cherub nearly called an ambulance when she saw me on all fours, choking with laughter and sucking in oxygen. It’s basically a hilarious account of the writer’s fight with depression. Read this for no other reason than for Jenny’s description of Japanese toilets.
9- Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner
Oh, Gawd, Helen Garner could write a shopping list and I’d be gushing over it. She’s my favourite writer, and if I ever met her I’d probably wet myself, forget my name or mutter incoherently, or all three. I love Helen’s non-fiction- it’s creative, literary and beyond all that her insights into the minutiae of day to day life- as well as her deconstructions of the big things in life- make my heart sing.
10- Bill Bryson– anything and everything
I read a Bill Bryson book in my late 20s, and now in my early 40s am making my way through his books. They’re funny, insightful and more than once I’ve startled a small child snuggled next to me by laugh-snorting.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this meander through my favourite reads of 2016- these are a but a blip in time of my reading this year, which gives me so much joy. Here’s to much more good reads in the next year and beyond. If you have something I HAVE to read, let me know!
*can’t you just see me in your mind’s eye using air quotes?