I have had another slowish reading year with only 70ish fiction and non-fiction books. Though, there are a further 50+ picture books that I have read. I imagine that the closer I get to completing my thesis, this number will get lower. If you want a more comprehensive list of books I have read this year, click on the Goodreads dooblydob in the margin. I know that there is the whole of December reading to go but I am getting in early because I will be chatting to Linda Mottram on 702 about my picks today for the last The Blurb of the year.
I don’t want to call these books “the Best” as that is such a loaded term. Yesterday, I browsed through Penguins Best of 2015 and there wasn’t a single book on their list that I had read or that I wanted to read. I ask – best for whom? Instead, I am sticking with calling this list “My favourite”. I felt a little perturbed at the Penguin list, and then at the NY Times list. For a moment it made me question my choices. Am I that out of sync with the rest of society? And then I found Pop Sugar’s Best Books for Women 2015 and I relaxed. Lots of books that I had read and lots that sits on my TBR. Funny how I needed some validation for my reading.
Now for my faves (in no particular order):
Fave graphic novel
SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
Not really a novel in your traditional sense, this book is a collected anthology of Tamaki’s quirky webcomic that can be best described as a mundane Hogwarts without the adventure and amped up teen angst. It is dry, disengaged with a queer sensibility where the teen witches and mutants grapple with magic, board games, crushes and teacher expectations. Tamaki also writes atmospheric graphic novels as well as running a popular tumblr.
Fave celebrity memoir
Wildflower by Drew Barrymore
So many of us grew up watching sweet, young Drew Barrymore in ET. These stories from her life make me both want to hug her as well as want to ask her to go out dancing with me. She is wild, funny and an absolute champion. I loved the section in the book where she has just become emancipated from her mother and she is sitting in her apartment, alone, aged 14 and she realises that she will need to educate herself because she loves reading.
An honorary mention to Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost). I haven’t finished it yet. Homeschooled (hippie parents who couldn’t find a liberal enough school for her in Alabama), computer mad, friendless, career driven. Felicity Day is internet famous and writes in such a funny, engaging way that she very nearly pippped Barrymore out of her place.
These were too difficult to choose from so I have had to go with two choices:
Playing by the Greek’s Rules by Sarah Morgan (Puffin Island series).
This was a cheeky, and perfectly written Mills and Boon that both adored and poked fun at the genre. Sarah Morgan is one of the highlighted author’s in the BFI’s love festival. Her M&B acts as an amuse bouche to her Puffin Island series which are all standalone books not published within the M&B line. This book was so fabulous. Heroine Lily is a self-soothing, post-grad archaeology student working 3 jobs to pay off her university fees who hooks up with Greek billionaire Nik whose house is one of the homes in her cleaning contract. Funny and smart with the expected absurdist plot line but with genuine emotions, sincerity that at no point becomes cloying or patronising. The narrative finds both of our protagonists realising the best of themselves through their time together. I put this book up there with Jennifer Crusie’s Charlie All Night – a category that is still being reprinted 25 yrs after its first edition. Link: to my full review.
Flirting with Disaster by Victoria Dahl
This was a perfect read for me. Dahl’s Isabelle West is a kind off fugitive who starts an affair with a US Marshall who discovers her murky past. The tension is high both with the build up of their relationship as well as the mystery behind Isabelle’s past. Betrayal and feminism are both common themes in Dahl’s writing. Her keynote speech at ARRA15 on International Women’s Day was rivetting. In Isabelle West you see these ideals of women choosing to not be passive, to not adhere to cultural expectations of what it means to be a woman. I think she excelled with this book. Link: to my previous review.
As much as I love Bookriot’s diverse author representation in their Reading Lives series, as well as the irreverance of Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb’s Chats 10 Looks 3, I have to give it to Get Mortified. Adults reading their cringeworthy teen diaries on stage.
Fave kids’ book
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale
Great introductory level Chapter book about a princess who drinks tea and wears pretty dresses who is also a stealth ninja assassin. The first of a series, they are a lovely complement to the delightful Fancy Nancy series. Simple and funny and the Princess owns a unicorn called Frimblepants.
Fave Picture Book
This was such a hard pick! Every year there are stellar picture book choices.
When I see Grandma by Debra Tidball
A family visits their grandma who is in a nursing home with dementia. Her A beautiful book that illustrates the kids grandma lying in bed yet on the flip page you see her in her younger years full of life. Upon my first reading of this title, I cried my eyes out. Absolutely beautiful.
Fave Board book
Slow Snail by Mary Murphy
This board book has the perfect amount of words (often picture books that are just turned into board books are weighty and inappropriate for the medium). The book design is glorious with an indented glossy silver snail trail that your fingers trace over bricks, shoes and through the house with only a few simple words per page describing the snail’s journey.
Some Reads for 2016
After the huge success of Anna Todd’s ID fanfiction I think we will be seeing more storytelling emerge from this space. My own fanfic interest is Elsie J Oxenham’s Abbey Girls that there is usually only one post a year and I now of only one other fan (@MerrianOW) as well as Pride and Prejudice fics. I have been dabble reading here and there but nothing has really grabbed me this year. I think that the fanfics to watch for will be Mulder/Scully ships and the X-files and I’m going out on a strong limb and saying that there will be a spike in Jennifer Jones fics too. To add to that, I have a boffin-like interest in the tag-wrangling going on at Archive of Our Own and I think that we will see publishers adapt some fanfiction tagging practices which I despise and love in equal parts (perhaps the topic of a separate blog post).
I am currently at a Futures of Storytelling symposium. There are some amazing ideas being discussed about locative fiction which I think is going to change the way we engage with tourism. Some immersive, digital stories will emerge similar to Pry from earlier in the year. I’m still not convinced that these are much more than a slightly more sophisticated Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story but we are in early days and we have far to go. I am only a tad perturbed by the lack of discussion around the future of print.
YA – Zeros is a series that is cowritten between Scott Weserfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deboarah Giancotti. I also relish all the glitzy, pretty YA romance titles that are on the horizon (though there are way too many to list!).
Romance – Bollywood and Indian stories. Sonali Dev’s debut was phenomenal earlier this year and I have both her books on my TBR. And yay! there is also Kristan Higgin’s If You Only Knew to anticipate reading.
I’m feeling like a pig in mud 🙂