My top 10 reads of 2020
Here we go, it’s that magical time of year when I share my favourite reads for the year that’s passed. Before we get stuck in however, I have to make mention of this year, 2020, one we’ll never forget.
I know, I know, you’re sick to the back teeth of ‘what a year’ messages, but FFS, what a year! The pandemic and Melbourne’s repeating lockdowns had an effect on us all- for me, quite notably was my reading. As of today, 11 December 2020, the number of books I have read since 1 January stands at 84- holy shizballs! I think this must be a record, after 2016’s 75 number. I attribute this to a couple of things- clearly a ton of semi-down time without the school run and commute, but also my forced transition to reading via my iPad. You see, while I buy a ton of books each year (embarrassingly so) I’m an old bat who love, love, LOVES the library- I am one of these who puts books on order the SECOND they’re recommended to me, and when I get that text message telling me they’re ready to collect, well, let’s just say I do *quite* the happy dance. The lockdown closed the library (that’s when it got personal), so it was no choice but to move to the e-library.
The Ipad/Kindle/E-reader scenario has a number of benefits. Clearly, there’s the ability to load it up with no impact on the environment, nor my back which at any and every moment is on the brink of protest (told you, old bat here). This means I’m more likely to try different reads, and I’m somewhat less selective than I would be if I’m shelling out cold, hard cash. In my list of 84 reads there is some pure trash in there, seriously so bad, yet framed by social media worship and adoration that has me scratching my head- literally, girl, scratch your head. There’s a hint for you. I also read a ton of poetry collections this year- some sublime, some, well not so much. I churned through a ton of professional development and business books, I walked the camino many, many times as well as along the banks of the yarra and a few health/cooking/perimenopause titles made their way into my reading adventures too.
A negative is the fact that I had to listen to my mother bleat ‘you’re always on a screen’ times infinity. Fun.
Before I share my favourite reads for 2020, here’s my 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 best reads lists. I haven’t counted, but let’s assume there’s at least 10 on each list (and there is!), then including this post, you have a decent slab of reading ahead of you.
Here we go, in no particular order because ranking them would do my head in, as it’s hard enough nominating a top 10, and with Booktopia links with no affiliation (because, forgot, and wanted to get this out quickly) but for simplicity of obtaining:
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
This was a Christmas gift, and of course, I couldn’t read this second instalment of the Gilead story without refreshing myself with my twenty year old copy of:
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Both are incredible. No words for how good they are in terms of structure and use of devices, characterisation, plot, the works. In fact at the start of the year I saw Margaret Atwood in conversation at the Victorian Arts Centre. I went solo, and by some miracle I nabbed a seat in the second row, directly opposite where Margaret was sitting. When she walked on stage, we locked eyes, and I burst into tears. So smooth…
Dirt Music by Tim Winton
Tim Winton is perhaps my favourite author, Aussie or otherwise. I love everything he pens, his descriptions of small coastal towns are so eerily evocative. I reread Dirt Music for the fifty millionth time because I wanted that sense of the Australian coast while stuck in lockdown in Melbourne, and because I wanted to reread it before I saw the movie version- which was breathtaking. I saw it, again solo, in one of the largest cinemas in Chadstone a couple of weeks ago, and I had the whole theatre to myself. Seeing the story played out on the big screen was something I’ll never forget.
Why We Can’t Sleep by Ada Calhoun
I knew this would reach my top 10 within the first chapter. It’s about Gen x women (hello, me!) and why we/I are so cranky pants. It’s clever, relatable and I really enjoyed it.
A Passion for Narrative by Jack Hodgkins
My mate Ali Drew-Forster is a client and a member of my Band of Batchers, and she’s also my fiction writing buddy. Earlier this year, she asked me about some resources about writing dialogue, and I pulled out this tome from my Master of Writing and Literature days. I reread it, and the lessons in this are as applicable to writing for your brand as they are for fiction writing- it’s all about story, people, as is this fabulous book, written beautifully by yours truly 😉
I actually read this book a number of years ago, and felt compelled to reread it in the early days of the first lockdown in Melbourne- it’s about a pandemic, with a much scarier outcome that what we’ve experienced. So far. Touch wood. *rushes out to buy toilet paper*
One of my most trotted out piece of writing advice is that if you want to be a good/better writer, read bloody good writing. It’s as simple as that, and these collection of essays from the respective years deliver exactly that. They all share quality writing, excellent reportage and some beautiful creative non-fiction- the perfect trifecta.
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
I’m deep in revision of my YA novel, which is an angst-filled, pearl-clutching process that veers between ‘this is the best thing ever written in the history of writing’ through to ‘ugh, none of this makes sense,’ but it is no less exhilarating and joy-filled. Writing fiction lights me up like little else. The problem is it’s been a while *ahem, understatement of the decade* since I’ve been a YA, and so I reread this masterpiece of YA fiction to get my head in the game. I’m also spending an inordinate amount of time texting my friend Nicole Vine, mother of a daughter the same age of my protagonist to get the skinny on the vernacular of this age group.
Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
I’ve had this on my list to read for ages, and I’m kicking myself I didn’t sooner. It’s beautifully written, thoughtfully crafted and painfully evocative. My daughter and my father read it immediately after me and both loved it.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
I bloody loved this and have recommended it non-stop since I finished the back blurb! It is so clever- it shares stories of many different characters, all women, girls, others, and takes on their individual voices without disrupting or confusing the general feel of the book. Loved it!
So that’s my top 10 and because I can’t resist, here’s some more reads that floated my boat this year:
The Sunday Story Club by Doris Brett and Kerry Cue
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. by Malcolm Duffy
Past the Shadows by Favel Parrett
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Artists Way by Julia Cameron
And one more, just because the author changed my life:
Go-getter by Emma McQueen
I can’t believe this is my fifth year of compiling these lists! It remains one of my favourite posts- and I hope you enjoy it too. Tell me, what’s been your favourite read(s) this year?