2015 between the pages

I’m a little late to the party. Reflections & list pieces usually find their place in the lead up to New Year’s Eve, not the first few days of the calendar change over. I’d had the intention to write a little something before the year was out but never quite got my bum in the seat to do it until today. Sunday’s are after all, a nice day to quietly reflect & relax, particularly after a busyish Christmas. New Year’s celebrations bring with them resolutions, be they dedicated swears to change or just a little reminder to get back on track with plans, hopes & courses of action.

For me 2015’s most significant milestone was the submission of my PhD thesis. It also marked the relocation to a new city, after close to two decades of living in the same place. These milestones reflect considerable on the purpose of this list piece. With the PhD done & dusted, & with the occupation of a new home I found myself really dedicating some serious time to reading. I’ve always been a reader but I’ve also always been a bit old couch potato fond of lengthy stints of television watching (or half watching). I curbed the TV veg-out habit a little last year & started a reading journal to document my reading habits.

A new home
A new home in 2015

 

The following is a selection of the books I got through over the year. There are a few others that I read that I didn’t have much to say about, they were enjoyable but not particularly notable. This list also excludes any research or teaching reading. The following notes are not really reviews or critics, I’m not in-depth with my analysis; instead this is simply an “I read this & I liked it because…” style post. I’ve included links to the authors’ websites, online profiles or reviews of the books as opposed to linking to particular purchasing sites… I’ll let you chose how you might access the works.

The following indicates: *Australian author **Brisbane author

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This House of Grief by Helen Garner*

Everyone knows that memory is not a simple accessible file whose contents remain undisturbed from one inspection to the next. Memory is an endless life long process, fluid, active and mysterious. Garner 2014 p.106

Helen Garner is one of my favourite writers & this House of Grief was as intense & enthralling as expected. I saw her session discussing this work at the Brisbane Writers Festival in 2014. She made reference to keeping a handkerchief up her sleeve which only endeared me to her more. A book that raises questions in the reader & wades into the greyness of life, death, memory & relationships.

The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss*

In today’s increasingly open world, there was something peculiar about not being able to speak up. Moss 2014 p.33

I have been a Tara Moss fan since I picked up her first novel Fetish back in 1999. Her work & her open discussion of process (both online via her blog & in interviews) was a key motivator in my desire to pursue creative writing. The Fictional Woman is an accessible blend of memoir, gender theory & reflects on the responsibilities of those who produce culture. This book & the author talk I saw discussing the work, lead me to reflect on my own written representations of gender. I gifted the book to a friend as it was a highly accessible, reasoned & empowering read.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was. Strayed 2012 p.119

The release of the Wild movie led me to this memoir & thank goodness it did. A powerful & beautifully written memoir. I highly recommend not only reading this book but also curling up with a cup of tea & a set of headphones to enjoy Strayed & Almond’s Dear Sugar podcast.

NOS-4R2 by Joe Hill

 

She wanted to believe that information brought clarity. Not for the first time in her life, however, she had the disconcerting notion that it was often the opposite. Information was a jar of flies, & when you unscrewed the lid they went everywhere & good luck to you trying to round them all up again. Hill 2013 p.591

I loved this book! It was engrossing & I found myself eagerly making time to escape into Hill’s disturbing & sickly addictive narrative. This is the second Hill book I’ve read & it made me hungry to consume more of his work. NOS-4R2 marked a shift to tackling lengthy reads & exploring genre works beyond crime fiction. In my reading journal I simply noted that NOS-4R2 was ‘creepy as fuck!’

Joe Hill

 

When the Night Comes by Favel Parrett*

But silence was easy with Bo. It was not lonely and I could think. I could think about the sky & about the light & how things changed. I could stop holding myself so very tightly. Parrett 2014 p. 71

As soon as you finish reading this blog post I urge you to go out, buy a Favel Parrett novel & escape into a beautiful, heart wrenching pit of feelings! I’ve had to pleasure to meet Favel Parrett & she is a writer who radiates kindness & whimsy. This quiet magic is captured in her work. I have recommended this book & her exquisite debut Past the Shallows to multiple people including a stranger on a plane who told me he never read books. Parrett writes brilliant male characters, & should be read when & where you’re willing to cry openly.

Parrett

Bag of Bones by Stephen King

I have multiple King novels on my shelves that I have acquired from my Father, & finally I got around to reading one. I had previously only read King’s On Writing which had peaked my interest in his work. Bag of Bones was both escapist & intriguingly poignant. He remains a figure who I’m intellectually fascinated by.

One of Us: the Story of Andres Breivik & the Massacre in Norway by Åsne Seierstad

This is my stand out book of the year. Intense, complex & deeply important. This is a book that needs to be read! The discussion of issues & themes raised in this recounting of recent history & the well sculpted handling of the subject matter is exceptional. I cannot urge you strongly enough to read this work.

One of Us

Bachelor Kisses by Nick Earls**

I am an Earls fan. I remain an Earls fan. I am super excited for the release of his novella series in 2016. Particularly satisfying to read Earls work now that I live in the stomping grounds of his characters. A very personable author, both in person & on the page.

Day Boy by Trent Jamieson**

Don’t waste a fist on a foolish smile. Jamieson 2015 p.176

Some doors can’t be opened anymore, because in their closing they become walls. Jamieson 2015 p.215

I described this book in my reading journal as ‘stark, poetic, lyrical’. 2015 was a year to embrace speculative fiction, mostly urged by discussions with my boyfriend who is a fan of sci-fi. Jamieson is a local author who I saw read at a Brisbane writers event a few years back & had been on my ‘to read’ radar ever since. I was both in awe of his talent & completely captured in the world he created in Day Boy. Jamieson, like Hill is high on my ‘read more’ list for 2016.

How I Rescued My Brain by David Roland*

My trustworthy, capable, insightful brain was once my strength. It was always able to save me, to make a plan to push me forward. Now it has gone haywire. Roland 2014 p. 106

Roland’s memoir combines his reflection on his experiences with his process of researching his recovery & intellectual desire to understand. A fascinating exploration of academic work, self-care, & alternative methods of wellbeing. Roland is particularly insightful when discussing the outsider/insider perspective through his shift from caregiver to needing care. Includes a ‘further reading’ list of works discussed throughout his book.

I’m currently reading So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson & I’m thoroughly enjoying it. When I had the book singed by Ronson he was absolutely delightful & charming. Ronson will be added to my ‘read more’ list.

Ronson

I think I’ll read a lot more non-fiction, particularly creative non-fiction this year. I also plan to continue to explore the work of speculative fiction, particularly I want to get stuck into some cyberpunk. The other plan is to get through some of the non-fiction research orientated books that had to be shelved while I focused on my PhD work. Many of these are about technology, social media & cyberspace.

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2016 Reading plans

Immediate to read pile:

Wood

Must acquire to read pile:

Read more:

  • Joe Hill
  • Jon Ronson
  • Trent Jamieson
Trent Jamieson at Brisbane Writers Festival 2015
Trent Jamieson at BWF 2015

Read some:

Reading styles:

  • creative non-fiction
  • speculative fiction
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