2016 will stand out for me as a brilliant year; it was the year my first book, Jenna’s Truth, was published. But it was also a year of terrific reads.
I tackled War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1.) Yep, I read all 1,215 pages of that blasted book and I hated it. I never understood how anyone could want to burn a book until I read this monster. My review from Goodreads was short and sweet: This was the longest book ever and by the end I hated it. Tolstoy just didn’t know when to stop. I loved the main characters although it’s a pity I had to wade through so much other stuff to get the story I wanted to read. Definitely not on my list to reread and utterly unlike Anna Karenina which for the record, I adored. A thrilling read because much vodka was needed to finish this millstone.
In April, I read The Bell Jar with a couple of friends and it was like being smacked in the face with a raw steak. Sadness descended and I was stuck in a maze; not a nice pretty one with clipped hedges but one made of barbed wire and darkness. Not a book to miss if you want a better understanding of mental illness.
I was more angry than anything else while reading Nabokov’s Lolita. Technically, the book is wonderfully written. Humbert aims to seduce the reader with his beautiful sentences but do not be fooled. I admit to being disgusted by Humbert and all that he represents. Yes, Lolita is a book that deals with a taboo subject. Yes, Lolita is still relevant today and yes, I would love to be able to write just one sentence as wonderful as Nabokov. But I will never let Humbert off the hook for destroying Lolita. Yep, I got darn mad reading Lolita.
Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a provocative book that paints a horrifying picture of the future. Women are mere vessels and assigned solely to the domestic world. They are owned by the men in their lives. They become dolls; mere puppets and men are their puppet masters. I found myself believing in this world too easily. It would not take an awful lot for The Handmaid’s Tale to become our reality.
Australian author, Charlotte Wood, won the $50,000 Stella Prize for her book The Natural Way of Things (5.). This dark, compelling novel reminded me of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Wood weaves sophisticated themes of womanhood, sexuality, emasculation, power relationships, captivity, and celebrity scandal throughout the story. Surreal twists take place against as rich backdrop of vivid imagery and symbolism. An utterly, compulsive read.
Inga Simpson’s book Where The Trees Were (6.) captivated me with imagery of tree burials. If you have a love of the land, this novel will suit you. It gives fresh insights into living on the land; where we have been and where we are going. The descriptions of the Lachlan River are visually disarming and I dare you not to feel the breeze sweep over your face as you stare into an ancient grove of trees.
The debut novel of Melissa Ashley The Birdman’s Wife (7.) tells the story of Elizabeth Gould; a prolific illustrator of birds in the 1800s. Elizabeth was married to famous ornithologist, John Gould, during a time when the general public was infatuated with exotic bird species. I was taken by Elizabeth’s struggle for professional recognition and a balanced work and family life. Delightful historical fiction.
The Golden Age (8.) by Joan London was a golden read. London has written a beautiful story which is based on a children’s polio convalescent home (1949-1959) in my hometown Perth. Momentous, atmospheric writing.
Do yourself a massive favour and read Favel Parrett’s Past the Shallows (9.). Past the Shallows is set in the remote south coast of Tasmania and tells the story of a fractured family; three brothers, Joe, Miles and Harry who have to somehow survive life with their alcoholic father. Parrett made the ocean, with its dark mystery and the way the light catches the water seep into my pores. The narrative throughout is beautifully lyrical. Past the Shallows was Parrett’s first novel and is testimony to her skill and brilliance. It is no surprise it is celebrated by the Australian literary world and a prize-winning novel. If you haven’t read this book yet, you are missing out.
Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami (10.) is a rhythmic tale of relationship as soft and delicate as tofu. Kawakami’s poetic yet sparse prose is evocative of Japanese aestheticism. A gorgeous, gentle, and unusual love story that made my heart ache as I closed the book on the final page.
My pick for 2016 is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (11.). Reading A Little Life was like being hit by a train – over and over again. I wept throughout – huge, gut wrenching sobs that left me exhausted (helpful hint: do not read in public). I think I need therapy after reading this, but you know what? It was worth it. Every single page was a masterpiece of modern storytelling. A symbolic book for the age in which we live.
You may have noticed I have not given you my 12th book yet. Jenna’s Truth by Nadia L King (12.) is my own book and what could be more thrilling for a reader than seeing her own words in print? Added to my excitement was the thrill of having Jenna’s Truth included in The West Australian’s 25 Best Books of The Year.
2016 has been an amazing year of books. I have read so many wonderful books by awe-inspiring writers and I can’t wait to see what books will be released for my reading pleasure (and yours) next year. What was on your list of thrilling reads for 2016 and what are you looking forward to reading in 2017?