At the beginning of this year, I had set myself the goal of reading 40 books in 2016. I managed to read 22 so far, according to my bookshelf on Goodreads, plus a couple of German books, which are not listed there. And the year is not over yet. I might manage to add a couple more to my list until the 31 December.
I enjoyed reading across different genres and deliberately chose titles that I would not read normally but stumbled across during the year. It was a very fascinating exercise, as I discovered a couple of YA books, which I absolutely devoured (for the records: I turned 50 last year). The universe must have sent them my way.
If you are still looking for some page-turning summer reads, check out my list of 11 books I loved reading in 2016.
1. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Ray Kristoff
One day, I was on my way to an event at Gleebooks, I listened to a podcast with Ray Kristoff about the second book in his SciFi trilogy The Illuminae Files, which was about to be published. I am not a big fan of science fiction and would never have found this book otherwise. However, I loved the story about how this 600-page volume came together and purchased it a few days later with my 14-year-old son in mind. When he did not show much enthusiasm in reading it, I decided to give it go so that I knew what I was talking about when recommending it to him afterwards. Well, I read it on a weekend with only short breaks. I was fascinated by the format – a very innovative approach to book layout – challenging the norm how a book should look like. It is a page-turner, and I was surprised that I actually loved reading this YA title. So, no matter how old you are, give it a go if you love a fast-paced, gripping read. It is perfect holiday companion.
2. The Dyehouse by Lena Calthorpe
The above-mentioned event at Gleebooks was the celebration of the 100th Text Classic, The Dyehouse, published by Melbourne-based Text Publishing. On that night, I discovered this vast collection of Australian writers telling Australian stories. I purchased a copy of The Dyehouse and again read it over a long weekend. It paints a vivid picture of the life and daily struggle of factory workers and their bosses in post-war Australia.
3. The Woman in Black by Madeleine St. John
Another Text Classic which I enjoyed very much. It tells the story of a young girl working as a temp at the Ladies' Cocktail Frocks department in a big Sydney department store and the people she meets along the way. Anyone, who is familiar with David Jones in Sydney's Elizabeth Street will recognise the similarities. Although the author denies that her novel is set in the famous shopping paradise, we can read in the foreword that she "often went shopping there with her mother". A pleasant read altogether.
4. Frank Lowy - Pushing the Limits by Jill Margo
I love reading biographies and came across this gripping story of the Westfield founder through the AWC podcast So You Want to Be a Writer. Although I have no particular interest in retail or the Westfield company history, I could not put the book down. Jill Margo did a wonderful job in portraying the eventful life and impressive career of Frank Lowy. The sequel A Second Life is in my to-read pile.
5. A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester
There has been a lot of said and written about Natasha Lester's bestseller, which came out in April this year. Another page-turner, which will take you to the New York of the 1920s telling the story of a young girl, who follows her heart and against all the odds fights for her dream to study medicine at university. Awesome, fast-paced read perfect for a relaxing day at the pool or beach.
6. Her Father's Daughter by Alice Pung
I heard Alice Pung talking at the Sydney Writers' Festival this year and purchased her memoir afterwards. It is a clever and vivid story about her relationship with her father revealing at the same time painful memories going back to the 1970s when the Vietnam War ravaged and US troops bombed Cambodia, her family's home country.
7. How to be Happy by David Burton
Another book I purchased for my teenage son and ended up reading myself. The subtitle 'A Memoir of love, sex and teenage confusion' says it all. Although a YA title, I highly recommend it for everyone.
8. The Middlepause by Marina Benjamin
Last year, I turned 50. It didn't feel like a big thing. This year, however, I noticed changes in my body, my feelings, and my capability of dealing with my children –especially my teenage son. When I came across Marina Benjamin's book, I didn't think very long and purchased it. A wise choice. Apart from telling her own story after turning 50 and, at the same time, dealing with ageing parents and a rebellious teenager, she looks at the transformation women go through in menopause and supports her observations with examples from science and literature. A great read not only for the affected but also for the men in the household.
9. Dames & Divas by David Leser
A collection of portraits of twenty-one remarkable women written by one of Australia's leading profile writers. Entertaining and informative.
10. Brett Whiteley - Art, Life and the Other Thing by Ashleigh Wilson
I love art, I love biographies, I love writing. When Text Publishing invited to Ashleigh Wilson's author talk on Sydney's Northern Beaches, I didn't have to think twice. The evening was entertaining as the story intriguing. A biography, which reads more like a thriller than a life portrait. The book made me visit the Brett Whiteley Studio in Surry Hills afterwards.
11. The Art of Travel by Allain de Botton
First published in 2002, I discovered the 2014 edition at the Art Gallery Shop in Sydney. When I read the back cover I was instantly intrigued: "The perfect antidote to those guides that tell us what to do when we get there, The Art of Travel tries to explain why we really went in the first place." The author uses his own travel experiences as a springboard to look closer at the journeys and voyages of famous writers, scientists and artists in previous centuries. Pick the chapters you are particularly interested in, for example landscapes, art or motives of travels, and read them while travelling for some enlightening moments.
I hope you enjoy my recommendations and would love to hear which were your favourite books in 2016. Share the titles in the comments below.