Here are ten books that I enjoyed reading last year and thought were worth sharing. They’re a mix of fiction and non-fiction in no particular order. I read them at the beach, on the train, on the couch, in the park, in waiting rooms and in bed. Enjoy!
Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit Rebecca Solnit embodies two of my favourite attributes, she writes exquisitely and is a radical peddler of hope. Described as a ‘cultural historian in the desert mystic mode’, Solnit argues that our pessimism and despair arise from assuming we know what will happen next. Subtitled Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, this fascinating collection of essays unearths the transformative power of political engagement.
Journey’s End by Jennifer Scoullar Set in the Byron Bay hinterland this is the perfect summer holiday read. In the genre of page turning rural romances but with a rewilding twist, it will have you dreaming of selling up your city life and escaping to the country.
Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit Ok so it’s obvious I’m a big Solnit fan but she just writes so beautifully. This is a book about walking. It’s also a history of thinking while wandering, with tales and adventures of the mind and spirit from philosophers and poets, trouble makers and adventurers. I also recommend The Faraway Nearby, A Field Guide to Getting Lost and The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness.
Philosophy for Life And Other Dangerous Situations by Jules Evans Part self help, part cognitive psychology this entertaining and wise book inspires us to use classical philosophy to solve modern day problems. Structured as a day shadowing the ancient philosophers at the School of Athens it will inspire you to keep your New Year resolutions.
Oldest foods on Earth: A History of Australian Native Foods by John Newton This is a fascinating survey of the native foods that grow on our continent and have been used for thousands of years by Indigenous Australians. I love the suggestion that we celebrate Australia Day with a meal of native Australian foods shared between European and Aboriginal Australians. A revolutionary idea and a perfect way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum this year.
The Art of Grace by Sarah L Kaufman A delight to read, this beautifully written book delves into all aspects of the elusive quality of grace. Subtitled, On Moving Well Through Life it’s like a wander through a well curated modern art museum. It ends with a lovely chapter guaranteed to make even the most slothful and clumsy amongst us more at ease in the world.
The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones A delicate love story immersed in the philosophy and high art of Chinese cuisine. Sublimely written it is nourishment for the soul but it will also make you hungry for the traditional food of the Middle Kingdom. (Try Chinatown’s Golden Century where Sydney’s top chefs can be found after their shifts). I also enjoyed Mones’ other novels set in modern China, Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light.
My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem This is a terrific memoir of a life well lived. Gloria Steinem regales us with tales from her travels. As a feminist activist, democratic organiser and writer since the 1960’s, she credits a deeply held attitude of hope to a lifetime on the road.
Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen I love this writer and this, her latest novel, is possibly also my favourite. Set in a small American town that is about to be drowned to make way for a dam, it is a beautiful exploration by the main character, Mimi Miller, of truth, identity and home. Quindlen is just one of several female American writers whose novels I have enjoyed. Others include Barbara Kingsolver, Anne Patchett, Amy Tan, Ursula Le Guinn, Toni Morrison, Nicole Mones and Marilyn Robinson.
The Story. An anthology in three parts: Love, Loss, Life Chosen by Victoria Hislop I thoroughly enjoyed this terrific collection of short stories by women writers such as Katherine Mansfield, Doris Lessing, Alice Walker, Flannery O’Connor, Hillary Mantel, Margaret Atwood and many, many more. These are some of the most brilliant and profound pieces of short fiction I have ever read.
Top image: Winslow Homer, Reading by the Brook (wikimedia commons)