2019 Reading Summary

This was a blockbuster year of reading for me. Over 100 books across most genres. But as we all know, it’s not how many you read that matters, it is whether you managed to find books that made your heart sing or kept you up late into the night or left an indelible impression on you. I definitely felt like this was a good year for me in finding some exceptional reads.

Highlights of 2019:

Australian fiction: Rain Birds by Harriet McKnight, A Constant Hum by Alice Bishop, Wintering by Krissy Kneen, Beautiful Revolutionary by Laura Elizabeth Woolett, The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey.

YA/MG: How to Make a Movie in Twelve Days by Fiona Hardy, Sick Bay by Nova Weetman, Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, Sophia and the Corner Park Clubhouse by Davina Bell, The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman, How to Bee by Bren MacDibble.

Fiction: The Plotters by Kim Un-su, Normal People by Sally Rooney.

Non-fiction: Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, Only by Caroline Baum.

Notably, of the many, many crime books I read in 2019 I only added one to my highlights of the year (Sarah Bailey). I listen to a crime novel audiobook to fall asleep to nearly every night, but if it is a particularly good book I quickly switch to listening to it during the day so I can give it my full attention (or probably more accurately, so that it doesn’t keep me up at night!). You’d think that, statistically, reading more crime novels would mean it would feature more in my highlights. Does the fact it doesn’t mean I have higher standards for what makes a notable crime novel, or does it indicate I’m losing interest in the genre? A little of the former, probably, but not the latter.

We read different books for different reasons. For me, a good crime book is one that keeps me wanting to turn the pages and find out whodunnit. It also needs engaging characters, a setting that I enjoy and when it comes to audiobooks, a good narrator. I use crime books to unwind before sleep. The predictability of the genre is a big part of its appeal. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all of the books that fit in the genre also fit my criteria for what makes a good book. A good crime book needs to stand out from others in the genre, yes, but it also needs to fulfil my (rather nebulous) criteria for what makes a good book in general. I’m going to write a follow up post about this very thing and what it made me realise.

2018 Reading Roundup

In an unexpected turn of events, Goodreads tells me I’ve managed to meet my 2018 reading goal already. I wanted to read a book and a half per week which has been my goal for the past couple of years (I have fallen short up until now).

This year I’ve had significantly more time housebound which has probably contributed to me reading more. Certainly when I look back over the titles I’ve read there are a much higher proportion of cosy crime audiobooks which are my go-to solution when my ME/CFS is bad and I’m stuck in bed.

Of the books I’ve read my highlights were Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee, Amelia Westlake by Erin Gough, White Tears by Hari Kunzru, Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina and Fleshers by Alison Croggon. Eggshell Skull and Catching Teller Crow particularly moved me. Notable mentions go to After the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson and White Night by Ellie Marney.

It will be interesting to see how many I manage to read by the end of the year given there is still so much time remaining. I don’t imagine I’ll reach two books per week (104 in total) but time will tell.

2017 Reading Roundup

front cover image of The Book of Dust, two figures rowing in a boat over rough seas in the dark
Worth the wait

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.

Honorable mentions:

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.

Reading update


As August draws to a close I thought it might be worth checking in on my reading goals for this year. As in previous years, I set myself the goal of reading 52 books this year. One per week always sounds entirely reasonable, but I’ve been shocked to see how short I have fallen from the goal in some years. As I check in on my Goodreads stats for 2014, it tells me I’ve read 46 thus far, and am nine books ahead of schedule. Awesome. I’m pretty sure I got a substantial boost from the large collection of books I managed to devour while on holiday in the UK, and more recently on a trip to Cairns, but I’m still really pleased to that I might finally reach my goal. One of the factors that has definitely helped has been my Kobo, which I can now pop into a bag and take anywhere with hundreds of books at the ready. Previously I’ve had to consider whether I should lug various big or bulky books with me, particularly on holiday, but with the Kobo it is all so much easier.

Of these titles, I’d say my favourite is Ambelin Kwaymullina’s The Tribe series, which blew me away for its technical prowess in structure and character story arcs, and in impeccable world building and beautiful use of mythology. I also found a beautiful collection of short stories that finally offered Josephine Rowe’s Tarcutta Wake and my classic favourite Peter Carey’s The Fat Man in History some competition for my favourite collection of Australian short stories. I only just finished Maxine Beneba Clarke’s Foreign Soil, so I’ll see if its stories haunt me over the coming months the way Rowe’s did, but I think it is safe to say they are some of the finest examples of what short story collections can and should do.

Of my 46 books 32 were written by women, 12 were by Australian authors (this is much lower than it would usually be thanks to my ‘reading books about the UK or by UK authors while in the UK’ challenge) of which only two were men (sorry lads (not sorry)). Only 7 were non-fiction and 8 were young adult. I noticed my reading had lacked writers of colour, and thanks to some generous advice was able to put together an enviable selection of books by authors from diverse cultures and backgrounds, some of which I’ve already managed to read. I’m looking forward to adding more in as the year progresses.

All in all, the reading year is going well. Melbourne Writers’ Festival draws to a close today, so I’m looking forward to some of the excellent books I’ve added to my reading pile after seeing authors speak at various events. Any recommendations for me?

Reading UK Authors While in the UK


In my recent travels around the beautiful continent of the United Kingdom, I set myself the challenge of reading works either written about, or by people from, the UK. I asked for recommendations on Facebook, compiled a wish list of reads, loaded up my Kobo and set off on a trip intended to be both an opportunity to research and learn more about the UK literary world. More on that aspect of the trip can be read here.

So how did my reading challenge go? Quite well. Overall I read 12 books, which may seem like a lot for a three week trip, but includes two audio books and a couple of shorter titles. None of them were doorstoppers, and one is not quite finished. I read a lot at night (the joys of holidaying with a small child, your night time adventures are somewhat curtailed) and while in transit (we drove the length of the continent, from London to the Scottish highlands, took the train from Edinburgh to London, and of course the interminable flights).

Of the 12, nine I had never read before, six were written by women, three were YA, one was non fiction, two were crime, one was science fiction.

My favourites were probably the David Walliams audiobook of The BFG (it had all three of us in stitches, and it was so cool to introduce Ave to Roald Dahl), Brick Lane and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

Reading Evelyn Waugh while staying in one of the hotels he frequented and wrote in was amazing. Visiting the Roald Dahl Museum in Buckinghamshire, wandering around the village that inspired so many of his stories and buying The BFG audiobook and collector’s edition for Avery was amazing. Visiting Brick Lane after reading Monica Ali’s beautiful portrait of its immigrant roots was amazing. Thinking about Mrs Dalloway’s London while hearing Big Ben chime was amazing. Overall, I think I would say that immersing myself in writing about the locations I was actually in was amazing. Amazing? Yeah, amazing.

Of course I came home with more recommendations of UK authors to read, so I imagine there will be a sharp increase in them for the remainder of 2014.

The full list of the books I read, and some ratings and thoughts on those books, is on my Goodreads page.