Monday, 31 December 2018

My Reading Year - 2018

Another year of reading has come to an end, and what a great year it has been. My reading goal for 2018, as documented in my challenge was 30 books, which I didn't quite reach having read only 24 titles this year.

My list included a number of books which I wrote about in my first of January planning for 2018 post. I managed to get through a many of these books, including:
In an attempt to diversify my reading I created my own reading bingo card with various categories (achievements highlighted below).  This was fairly successful, although I missed out on a lot of categories I had intended to pursue.

Adapted into a
Film/TV Show
or Memoir
New York Times
Booker Prize
Current Affairs
/ Politics
Set in Space
or at Sea
Pre-20th Century
Fiction Based
on a True Story
Short Story
in 2018
Free Choice
Set in the
First Novel
in a Series
Written by a
Nobel Laureate
Mystery or
Crime Novel
Stella Prize
Banned Book
20th Century
Set during
Lesser-known Book
by a Famous Author
Essay Collection
Book on the
1001 List

So here's what I read in 2018:

When looking back over the novels I read in 2018, there were quite a lot of crime/mystery books. Highlights were JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith's latest Coromoran Strike novel, Lethal White, and Australian author Chris Hammer's debut novel Scrublands. I enjoyed Jane Harper's latest outing,  The Lost Man, but it wasn't a patch on her previous novels with Detective Aaron Falk.

Wondering what all the fuss was about, I read Lee Child's first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor, which left me perplexed by its popularity. Another dud was Agatha Christie's The Murder on the Links, which I read as part of my 'Poirot in order' pursuit. Even though I didn't particularly enjoy either of these books, I don't feel my time was wasted - sometimes you have to read the bad to recognise the good.

I read two Helen Garner's this year: her delightful The Spare Room and the newly released collection Stories. I much preferred the former with its crisp prose and hidden complexities.

Strangely, two novels I read in 2018 were set in a graveyard! Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book was an enchanting, award winning children's book. But my greater feat was finally reading George Saunders' Booker Prize winning Lincoln in the Bardo. I had wanted to read it for some time but had found it hard to get in the rhythm. This year I succeeded and am pleased to have read it.

One of the novels I greatly enjoyed this year was Mohsin Hamid's Exit West, a magical realism book focussing on the lives of refugees. It is a novel for our times, as is graphic novel Sabrina by Nick Drnaso, which explores loneliness, isolation and despair when a loved one goes missing.

Of the dozen novels I read this year the one I would most recommend to others as a gripping, page-turning read is Chris Hammer's Scrublands. I really enjoyed this multi-layered suspense novel and have already shared it with many family and friends. Part of a current wave of Australian bush-noir, Scrublands has plenty of twists and turns to keep readers engaged.

I read a lot of biographies and memoirs this year. Top on my list was historian and journalist Julia Baird's monster bio Victoria: The Queen. At 700+ pages, Victoria took up a lot of my reading space but it was well worth it as this is a fascinating look at the long-reigning monarch.

One of my heroes is US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. So I was keen to read Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik's Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Unlike traditional biographies, this book blends pop culture, music lyrics, fan art, and more into an interesting portrait of an incredible judge.

Two memoirs tugged at my heart-strings. Journalist Rick Morton's One Hundred Years of Dirt tells of his upbringing on a remote Queensland station, the violence and poverty his family endured and the sacrifices his mother made for her children. Bri Lee's astonishing memoir Eggshell Skull centred on her year as an associate for a Queensland District Court Judge and her subsequent experience as a complainant in a case against her assailant.

I was absolutely engrossed by Sarah Krasnostein's  The Trauma Cleaner. This biography about the incredible life of Sandra Pankhurst was absolutely compelling, forcing readers to set aside their assumptions about how other people live.  Another fascinating book was Chloe Hooper 's  The Arsonist, which looked at the devastating Black Saturday bushfires and the trial of one of those who caused them.

I really enjoy reading well crafted essays. As Samantha Irby's We Are Never Meeting in Real Life topped many 2017 best book lists, I began this year with her funny, snarky and cynical collection.  At the other end of the spectrum, Rebecca Solnit writes with great intellect and thought on issues affecting women in her Men Explain Things To Me. Tackling gang rape, sexual harassment, genealogy, isolation and more, I really admired Solnit's feminist approach. I also read two Quarterly Essays, by Richard Dennis (QE70) and Laura Tingle (QE71).

As part of my commitment to Working Out Loud (WOL), I read Julian Stodd's The Social Leadership Handbook and attempted to complete the accompanying workbook.

I only read one book on American politics this year, Bob Woodward's Fear: Trump in the White House, and that was enough! I need to declare a Trump free zone and limit his influence on my reading life.

The best non-fiction book I read this year was, without doubt, Sarah Krasnostein's The Trauma Cleaner. The story of Sandra Pankhurst and her remarkable life is incredible, but Krasnostein also inserts the heartbreaking stories of Pankhurst's hoarder clients. This is a story of empathy and belonging, and one which I have recommended, gifted and shared with so many people this year. 

I had a pretty bad year with poetry in 2018. Normally I try and seek out fresh new voices but this year I only read one collection - Rupi Kaur's The Sun and Her Flowers. The fact that I read Kaur is strange since after reading her disappointing Milk and Honey I swore I would read any more of her work.... Oh well.

Best of 2018
Of all the books I read this year the two works I regard most highly are Sarah Krasnostein's  The Trauma Cleaner and Chris Hammer's Scrublands. Honourable mentions go to Bri Lee's Eggshell Skull, Julia Baird's Victoria: The QueenHelen Garner's  The Spare Room and Robert Galbraith's Lethal White.