Newly signed up to GoodReads, I set myself a target of reading 26 books in one year. One book every fortnight sounds reasonable, I thought. Especially given that I read kids novels too. But I fell short. Watching TV went by the wayside long ago but my real nemesis … ? Social media, begone with you.
Knowing others suffer the same affliction, my urging for everyone to read The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron (1992) will probably fail. With this book, do or do not. There is no ‘read’. It’s an action book, you see, where you are the protagonist.
In the jumble of genres that I did read were some absolute crackers. I bookended my year travelling virtually to Newfoundland, Canada. First via The Shipping News by Annie Proulx (1993) and lastly via a theatre performance of Come From Away at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre. Whether Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer Prize winner has helped Newfoundland’s tourism is questionable. The Shipping News made me wonder whether this isolated north-east island attracted or repelled me (unlike a certain 2022 book that made me want to visit a swamp). Luckily, Come From Away has made up for any doubt. Tourism folk must agree: the musical’s major sponsor in Australia is Air Canada.
One hundred years ago I represented stand-up comedians. 99 years ago I became a comedy cynic. The challenge? Make me laugh with a punchline I didn’t anticipate. Jerry Seinfeld has spent his life figuring this out and shares his journals in Is This Anything? (2020). Yes, Jerry, it is. Then keeping it real, keeping it local, I read comedian Adam Hills’ memoir, Best Foot Forward (2018). In a former life, I briefly represented Adam and always laughed, no matter how many times I saw him perform.
Heads up there’ll be a magpie in a book of mine one day. Inspo found in Penguin Bloom by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Grieve (2017).
A family member sat the HSC this year. In solidarity, I read An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (1986). Themes oozed out of it. Lots to discuss in 1000 words or less.
Have I ever told you how much I admire Cheryl Strayed? Well I do. I honour Wild but this year’s read was Tiny Beautiful Things (2012). I listened to the audiobook while driving, read by Cheryl herself, and cried in the car.
For this year’s belated catch-up of a previously unread big hit I ‘discovered’ The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008). I promptly inhaled Catching Fire (2009) and Mockingjay (2010). Followed by all four movies. Twice. I’d like to read them all again too, taking notes on how she did it.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017) backed up my 2020 and 2022 George books. A fantastically enjoyable Booker Prize winner.
The two fastest-selling Australian novels lately have been Boy Swallows Universe (2018) by Trent Dalton followed by The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams (2020). I’ve somehow skipped over the former to instead listen to the engrossing audiobook of All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton (2020) (kudos to narrator Ruby Rees). But I did enjoy Pip Williams’ Dictionary and backed it up with her earlier travel memoir One Italian Summer (2017).
The Pulitzer Prize finalist The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature by David George Haskell (2012) was an unexpected non-fiction deep-dive delight.
On to kids books now that adults can and should read. The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate (2020) is the sequel to The One and Only Ivan that I enjoyed last year. Secret tip: I like Bob better. What a dog.
Because I’m also a great admirer of Elizabeth Gilbert, I paid attention when she recommended her sister’s work, The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (2018).
I wrote myself a note to read Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds by Jeremy Lachlan (2018) after finding out his debut had publishers frothing to publish it. Reading it I could see why.
Rounding out the year I also read Leaving the Lyrebird Forest by Gary Crew (2018) because I loved his books when I was a teen; Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake (2020) because I liked the cover (Jon Klassen illustrations do that to me) and was blown away by its contents; The Little Wave by Pip Harry (2019) because I was curious about a novel in written verse; and finally, The Golden Tower by Belinda Murrell (2021). Belinda is a former travel writer who turned to children’s writing with fabulously successful results. Then she sneakily combined the two in novels like this one set in a fictionalised Florence. I’m taking a leaf out of her book.
Oh yeah, and the other book I read countless times is the one I wrote. My debut The Bondi to Manly Walk: The Definitive Guidebook was released during Sydney’s lockdown in September 2021. First of many. Stay tuned.
Everything I Read in 2021 in Chronological Order
- The Shipping News by Annie Proulx (1993)
- Is This Anything? By Jerry Seinfeld (2020)
- Penguin Bloom by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Grieve (2017)
- An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (1986)
- Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (2012)
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008)
- Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017)
- Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (2009)
- Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (2010)
- Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills (2018)
- All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton (2020) Audiobook
- The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams (2020)
- One Italian Summer by Pip Williams (2017)
- The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature by David George Haskell (2012)
- The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron (1992)
- The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate (2020)
- The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (2018)
- Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds by Jeremy Lachlan (2018)
- Leaving the Lyrebird Forest by Gary Crew (2018)
- Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake (2020)
- The Little Wave by Pip Harry (2019)
- The Golden Tower by Belinda Murrell (2021)