It was a relatively slow reading year. Lots of audio books, lots of re-reads, but a few stand out titles too. Of the 50 books I managed to get through, here are my highlights.
The Book of Dust was my favourite fiction book of the year. It felt so good to delve into Lyra’s world again, and to have this exploration of the period before His Dark Materials. I was bracing myself for disappointment, worried that it wouldn’t live up to the depth of love I feel for the HDM trilogy but was relieved to find it a great accompaniment to the previous works. I’m already hanging out for the next one.
My top non-fiction pick of the year has to be the audiobook of Magda Szubanski reading her debut novel Reckoning, A Memoir. I’m sure it was great to read on the page, but listening to her emotions crackle in your ear made this an extra special experience. It’s not just that she has an engaging story to tell, it was also a pleasure to discover Magda is a beautiful writer. From her descriptions of growing up in Australian suburbia to her ability to capture the experience of visiting places rich with history, she has a beautiful way of describing both setting and emotion.
Lynda LaPlante’s Tennison novels (I watched Prime Suspect when it aired originally in the early 90s, I can’t overstate how central it was to developing my love of British crime). I really enjoyed coming back to this character and getting a sense of how she evolved into the tough-as-nails female detective.
Ida was definitely a standout; this YA-scifi title is deftly constructed and keeps you turning pages long past bedtime.
Songs that Sound like Blood was a great YA read this year. Jared Thomas excels at telling the story of a young person at a pivotal point in their life, capturing the pressure and uncertainty accurately.
Birds Art Life was also a really lovely short read. I’ve long loved Kyo Maclear’s kids books and being asked to facilitate an in-conversation session at MWF with her and Shaun Tan was a great excuse to delve into her work for adults.
Lastly, I did a lot of re-reading this year and particularly enjoyed listening to Phryne Fisher in audiobook format. She sparkles when being read aloud, I thoroughly recommend listening to whole series.
This year was supposed to be my maternity leave year… how did I do keeping to my goal of not taking on any major projects? Well, let’s say I failed, but I failed well.
Linus was born November 2016, and I did manage to have almost a full 12 months without a major project. I did, however, take the opportunity to be a guest at the International Literature Showcase in Norwich, City of Literature. And then I accidentally (on purpose) fell into the perfect part-time role at the Centre for Youth Literature (CYL) at State Library Victoria.
So why did I knowingly divert from my 2017 goal? Because these two opportunities were worth it. Visiting Norwich and meeting literary programmers, producers and artists from all over the world was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I felt so fortunate to be the only Australian in attendance and learned so much in my week in Norwich. Joining CYL has been a career goal for me for as long as I can remember. It’s one of the few workplaces I see doing youth-driven, engaging programming for YA lovers. The chance to deepen my YA knowledge (I’m a huge YA reader) and learn from this experienced team of programmers and producers was one I couldn’t pass up. Not to mention it happens to be the perfect part-time fit for my current life with two children.
These two things are my clear work highlights of 2017. As I wrote about earlier this year, it wasn’t a stellar year for reading. I finished up reading 50 books, which is far less than I’ve managed for quite a while. That’s what having a baby does to your hobbies! I also facilitated some really great panels at Reading Matters, Melbourne Writers’ Festival and the inaugural Feminist Writers Festival: I always feel so lucky to speak with writers whose work I love such as AS King, Lili Wilkinson, Shaun Tan, Penny Modra and Kyo Maclear.
I’m looking forward to 2018. When I joined CYL it was on a short contract until the end of the year but I’m incredibly happy to have extended that until mid 2018. I’m really enjoying the role and working with some great people. It does mean that I am unlikely to get much writing done, but as always producing brings a different kind of work pride and enjoyment. I’d like to read more books next year, too. I think that’s my only firm goal for the year professionally: read more. Always nice to set a goal you enjoy.