2013 was a HUGE year. Between having a baby (hard work, surprise!), going back to uni (some more hard work), and making the switch from PC to MAC I’m still a little shell-shocked. And amazed that I managed to get through any books at all. But I did. 66 of em if you’ll believe my Goodreads account (which you should).
There were some good and not so good as you’d expect, and quite a few dystopian and sci-fi series, which I got a bit hooked on towards the end there. Some highlights.
1. The Divergent series, by Veronica Roth. How had I not read these before? They had somehow made it onto my stubborn ‘everyone tells me I should read these and therefore I definitely won’t’ pile. But I caved over christmas and am glad I did. Hunger Games who?
2. Lexicon by Max Barry. Deservedly dubbed ‘the year’s smartest thriller’ by Time magazine. Lexicon is clever, pacey, suspenseful and a little on the surreal side. I’m not ashamed to say that I love a good action/thriller and this is indeed a good one.
3. Invisibility by David Levithan and Andrea Cramer and while we’re at it, Every Day by David Levithan, and actually while we’re at it, everything by David Levithan. Let’s face it the man is a genius who writes about love like it’s liquid gold, beautiful, fiery and raw.
4. Things I Didn’t Expect When I Was Expecting by Monica Dux. I definitely wasn’t expecting to get as much from this book as I did. As a reader I loved the writing which is pithy and witty. Monica Dux speaks frankly about her own experiences as a woman – pregnant/birthing/mother, as well as the shared experiences of those around her. The humour in this didn’t surprise me (although I’d point out that she thankfully doesn’t rely on heavy handed in-jokes or patronising off handers about men/husbands/friends without babies) but the pathos and depth of research and knowledge in each chapter did. This isn’t just some memoir dashed off in the rush of emotion accompanying motherhood, it’s a thoughtful, funny, provocative and frank book about being a mother, being a woman and finding a place in today’s reality. It was perfectly timed for me, and it’s the one book that I can see myself thrusting at new mothers for years to come.
5. Everything (and I do mean everything) by Deborah Ellis. I was lucky enough to interview Deborah Ellis for Viewpoint in 2013 and prepared by reading her entire backlist, as well as a sampler of her new title. Every word is thoughtful and thought provoking, ‘Children of War’ and ‘Off to War’ especially made me look at war more intimately. Each of her books is incredibly personal and humanising.
6. The First Third by Will Kostakis. I’m the only child of an only child (mum) and while dad has brothers and sisters, they didn’t all live close enough to be ever present in my childhood. I grew up around a lot of adults, who are (for the most part) quieter than kids. The family in this Greek Looking For Alibrandi-esque novel aren’t like that. They’re loud, and chaotic and all up in each other’s business. Their madness and love for each other pours liberally from the pages, with laughter and tears and a gradual understanding of the importance of family.
7. Girl Defective by Simmone Howell. Oh but Simmone Howell does know how to write about those painful teenage years. She creates characters like Sky, who is just almost on the verge of starting to fit into her own skin and pairs them beautifully with those characters, those characters that we all have one of I’m sure, whose exotic vulnerability makes them so desirable as a friend. This is a thriller with a heart that catches a time, a place, a person, and a moment just before they fall through the cracks. I’m so so glad to see this and some other great YA titles make buzzfeed’s list of top Aussie titles from 2013.
8. My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg. Candice Phee stole my heart last year. It’s impossible to describe just how much you will love her, and her completely earnest attempts to solve the problems of her family, Earth-pig-fish and Douglas Benson From Another Dimension.
9. Hostage Three by Nick Lake. You wouldn’t think that Somali pirates would make the ideal romantic lead in a YA story, but in this, they do. That’s not to say that Hostage Three is a feel good romance, it’s more a tragic exploration of love and humanity played out in the claustrophobic setting of a yacht that has been taken hostage by pirates.
10. Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield. When I was asked to judge the Clayton awards for the 2013 CBCA I was thrilled not only at the invitation but also to have the excuse to pick up the Australian gems that I’d missed the year before. Friday Brown was one of those gems and I’m only sorry that I didn’t read it earlier. If Girl Defective is about the moments before people fall through the cracks then Friday Brown is what happens after they do.
11. Winnie-the-Pooh by AA Milne. What a wonderful return to my childhood favourite. I think that this was more for my benefit than the baby’s (who would fall asleep almost before the reading began). I had forgotten how wonderful that Pooh bear is. So strange, and funny to read aloud. And such a wonderful thing, reading aloud. I’m looking forward to reading it again to him in a few years.
12. Shadowboxing by Tony Birch. Was it really only a year ago that I read this? Seems like the stories have been in my brain for a lifetime now. I’m sure I’ve said it before but Tony Birch is nothing short of extraordinary, and is really one of Australia’s outstanding writers.