The best books I read in 2011, as told to the Australian

This first appeared in the Australian over the weekend of 24 & 25 December, 2011. Thanks to Stephen Romei for seeking my contribution.

In 2011 I caught up on some classics: I enjoyed being isolated with aging actor/director Charles Arrowby in Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea. I took to sea with Gulliver on his travels in Jonathan Swift’s masterpiece, which is a surprisingly easy read (for a book from 1726). Brave New World, Portrait of a Lady and The Picture of Dorian Gray left impressions.

I was lucky enough to see Michael Cunningham speak in Sydney, Melbourne and London. In his new novel By Nightfall a married man becomes fascinated by his wife’s younger brother. It’s about art, passion, loss and longing. I also re-read his spectacular novel The Hours.

While travelling, I read Alison Bechdel’s moving graphic memoir Fun Home, which I found in Shakespeare and Co., Paris, one of the best bookstores in the world.

Closer to home, I gobbled up NZ-author Rachael King’s neo-gothic Magpie Hall; went on an epic historical adventure with Dominic Smith’s Bright and Distant Shores and was compelled by Wayne Macauley’s The Cook. I was seduced by art and the past in Alex Miller’s Autumn Laing. Best biography: Hazel Rowley’s Franklin and Eleanor. Best short story collection: Amanda Curtin’s stunning Inherited. Best poetry: Ali Alizadeh’s Ashes in the Air.

4 thoughts on “The best books I read in 2011, as told to the Australian

  1. Some great books there Angela. Loved The sea, The sea when I read it a few years ago. I read a few classics this year too – all rereads for me though which is silly really as there are many I haven’t yet read. They were Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Sense and sensibility, and Albert Camus’ The plague. I too read and loved Rowley’s Franklin and Eleanor. The other nonfiction I loved this year was Alice Pung’s Her father’s daughter.

    My standout fiction reads for the year were a couple of older books Barbara Hanrahan’s The scent of eucalyptus and Mario Vargas Llosa’s The feast of the goat, and more recent ones, Lloyd Jones’ Hand me down world, and Kim Scott’s That deadman dance. An interesting find was Alan Gould’s The lakewoman – I say find because I’m ashamed that it’s taken me so long to read his work. I found this one rather beautiful. I read some good short story collections, including Gretchen Shirm’s Having cried wolf.

    • You read the Austens and the Camus I haven’t got to yet! Though I did visit Bath and the Austen museum this year, and learnt a lot about her.

      And thanks for sharing your standout reads. More to add to the to-read list 😉 Alan Gould’s The Lakewoman will actually be in the mail on its way to me soon.

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