I feel so inadequate, really. It’s not the number I would have liked, and honestly I think I bought more books than I read – so at least I am supporting the industry!
But… I have a great excuse. I make books. In 2018, at this stage, 16 books I have acquired or co-acquired are coming out (plus second formats of earlier books). I’ve spent countless hours with these books. Not to mention all the submitted manuscripts! Many, many words. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, out here in February, is being released in 22 countries and counting. The Fortress by S.A. Jones is coming out in April; it’s the most incredible feminist speculative novel and I love it so much. Keep an eyeball on my social media, and the Bonnier Publishing Australia feeds, to find out more about all the books I’ve been working on, along with Echo’s publishing director Kay Scarlett. We are kicking serious butt for such a small team, and 2018 is going to be EPIC.
Not only that, but my own novel will be coming out in August, with the Peter Bishop Books imprint at Ventura. It’s going to be an exciting, busy year, and I’ll be juggling many things (but what’s new?).
But I’ve just found a way to read more books! Just in the last couple of weeks, audio books have finally clicked for me. So despite the massive workload I’ll have in 2018, I reckon I’m going to be able to read more. I’m listening to Oliver Sacks’ The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat at the moment on the train to and from work, and it’s glorious. I’ve read other books by Sacks, but for some reason hadn’t yet gotten to this classic. His insistence on never going for the easy answer, on always keeping in mind the humanity of his patients, on maintaining openness, curiosity and intelligent inquiry, and (gently) pushing his colleagues to do the same – I find it very inspiring. And the cases themselves are fascinating, moving, and often tragic.
So, what did I manage to read in 2017 (with somewhat stream-of-consciousness commentary):
1. Pond – Claire-Louise Bennett
Fragmented, body-room-mind, the book she’s reading, out the window, purée, *moods*. A someone, very fleshed & at points in time, observing, emoting, nerves, bodily sensations. I read this at the beach, with a someone there. Or a someone that was only half there with me.
2. Hot Milk – Deborah Levy
Hot skin stinging, tall desire, non-binary (spreading, splitting, as by Ingrid’s tiny bow & arrow). Freeing animals, freeing from her mother, her absent father. Constant observation. Fast prose. Fast & sexy & stinging & dark.
3. Wild Gestures – Lucy Durneen
4. Maurice Guest – Henry Handel Richardson
Obsession, jealousy, drama, music, violence, shifts of attention…
5. An Isolated Incident – Emily Maguire
Absolutely shattering. And the characters are women you know.
6. The Fortunes – Peter Ho Davies
Four stories in different time frames of Chinese-Americans. Identity, traversal, possession (of riches, of a place, of people).
7. Black Rock White City (re-read) – A.S. Patrić
Pools of thought.
8. The Fortunes of Richard Mahony (re-read) – Henry Handel Richardson
One of my favourite novels. Incredible portrait of a long relationship.
9. Autumn – Ali Smith
An art friendship, a connection between old man & girl. Girl as woman has frustrations at the passport office, visits Mr Gluck in hospital, notices her mum’s wit, gets in trouble for walking by a fence, & uncovers so much about Pauline Boty, a woman pop artist. Woman. Artist.
10. The Rules Do Not Apply – Ariel Levy
Too close to home. My clock ticking. No one to plan this with. The love she feels for the miscarried child, I can feel it. The career and the lust and the wanting of both the unconventional & the happy package. Devastating.
11. Another Country – James Baldwin
Relationships, all the in-betweens of love, affection & friendship, all the ways we hold ourselves back, all the ways society holds us back (race, class, gender).
12. Monkey Grip – Helen Garner
I loved it. Related very much to Nora & understood her & Javo, & her moments of love, longing, loneliness, anger, joy, inadequacy, wanting to be cool & calm, wanting to accept, her mothering & nurturing instincts, her pleasure in trying to be good to people, but then the overwhelm when suddenly needing her own comfort, her jealous fantasies – so many things. The way she forgives easily & lets go of any anger at him, because the love comes easily. The way she thinks about how she gives it all away, how that’s just how she is. And the feeling of being with Javo, so much like the feeling of being with […]. How she feels when he’s there in the room. Some of the things he says & does are so like […], & the shifts in his mood, & the way he explains them. Though of course he is more extreme. In some ways it was very hard to read, made me miss […] & brought up everything, but it was also just incredibly moving and also satisfying to read. I feel strangely comforted by it. Like the idea that one can live with such complex feelings for another person, and uncertainty around whether or not that person will be fully present, but how you can kind of protect that place for them – defiantly, in a way – inside yourself. It was such a perfect book to read right at this moment. […] recommended it to me after the break-up.
13. Cosmo Cosmolino – Helen Garner
A stranger beast. Grotesque. I liked the first two sections more than the long one. The images in the second section, of the guy fucking the depressed girl & then one day finding her dead, & then being forced to watch her burn up at the funeral – haunting.
14. Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and me – Bill Hayes
From my Sydney Writers’ Festival diary: This afternoon I saw Bill Hayes speak about Oliver Sacks, who was his partner right at the end of Sacks’ life. I can’t get it out of my head. The beautiful intimacy they shared & how Hayes is so confident in his capacity to write about this special, wonderful love (with such an incredible individual). 30 years age difference. And surprising to both of them. The way he spoke about Sacks’ joy in objects & appliances & stacking the dishwasher. The way Sacks shared an apple with him in the bathroom. The things Sacks said about nextness & nearness, & the brain stem, & really it’s such an enviable thing – that love. And being with someone who can express their appreciation of you. And Hayes captured it because he understood its rareness, its beauty.
15. Attached – Amir Levine, M.D., and Rachel S.F. Heller, M.A.
Part of a larger journey of understanding the impact of my child-self on my contemporary interactions and general being.
16. Bonjour Tristesse – Francoise Sagan
What does one read when you find yourself in London and having the most surreal experience of winning a huge award at a fancy ceremony for your work? Something young and European, something ‘amoral’ for how good you’ve been.
17. A Certain Smile – Francoise Sagan
18. The Passion – Jeanette Winterson.
A pleasure, a dream, an escape, lovers losing their hearts, haunted people & cities, a gamble; departing when older and one cannot bear the passion any longer. Waving from a boat, a tower.
19. Girl in Snow – Danya Kukafka.
An excellent, very human thriller. Superb control over multiple viewpoints. Tension. Ache. Longing.
21. City of Crows – Chris Womersley.
Witchcraft. Magic. Occult. 17th Century France. One of my favourite aspects were the very satisfying arcs of both Charlotte Picot & Lesage & how W wrote Lesage as recognisable as a man – the arrogance & bravado & the way he ‘mansplains’ (& she tunes out) & the way he imagines it’s himself v reality. I liked how Picot was flawed – quite gullible & easily led. I like how the book has two readings – one where magic is real & one where it can all be explained. Just the right amount of historical detail – one enters the world. No cliche, smart writing. V absorbing all up.
22. Australia Day – Melanie Cheng
Great stories with memorable characters. Pockets of life, psychologies delved into. I found ‘Muse’ particularly moving – an old man becomes inappropriately drawn to an artist’s model as some way of working through loneliness, grief, & the confusion of old lovers’ ghosts. He physically deteriorates, too. But through it all manages to rebuild his relationship with his daughter. This one was psychologically complex, truthful.
23. Valentine – Jodi McAlister
Addictive, sexy, paranormal fun.
24. My Phantom Husband – Marie Darrieussecq
A book that grapples with the experience of absence.
25. The Town – Shaun Prescott
Modernist, creeping bored-doom, the violence, hopelessness, circularity, depths unable to be grasped-ness of where I grew up. Curiosity treated as alien.
26. Death du Jour – Kathy Reichs
Exposition! Coincidence! Body count! Gore! But I was hooked.
For all these completed books, there are more I started and still have every intention of finishing. We’ll see on the 2018 list. Maybe they’re available as audio books…
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Have a wonderful 2018! Happy reading.