With another year of book-worming behind me, here’s my wrap up of my favourite reads from the different genres of books I read this year. I hope this list gives you inspiration for what to read next. Wishing you all happy holiday reading!
My number one book of 2018:
LOST FOR WORDS by Stephanie Butland
Pretty sure I don’t have a single friend left who I haven’t yelled at to read this. I found it when I was trawling through Perth’s beautiful second-hand bookshop, Elizabeth’s, and it’s set in a second-hand bookshop! Just read it. Read it!!
Compelling, irresistible, feel-good read. Perfect for fans of The Keeper of Lost Things and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
'Quirky, clever and unputdownable' Katie Fforde
'An exquisite story' Liz Fenwick
'Burns fiercely with love and hurt' Linda Green
'I cried like a motherf***er' Shelley Harris
'Intriguing and touching' SUNDAY EXPRESS
'An appealing character with a fascinating hinterland' DAILY MAIL
'A beautiful book' PRIMA
THIS BOOKSHOP KEEPS MANY SECRETS . . .
Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look carefully, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are some things Loveday will never show you.
Into her refuge - the York book emporium where she works - come a poet, a lover, a friend, and three mysterious deliveries, each of which stirs unsettling memories.
Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past and she can't hide any longer. She must decide who around her she can trust. Can she find the courage to right a heartbreaking wrong? And will she ever find the words to tell her own story?
It's time to turn the pages of her past . . .
Best contemporary general fiction:
LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng
I grabbed this book when I heard that Reece Witherspoon bought the film rights and I’m so glad that I did. Completely gripping and emotional – just brilliant.
'Just read it...Outstanding' Matt Haig
'To say I love this book is an understatement...It moved me to tears' Reese Witherspoon
'Beautifully written, completely charming, and extremely wise on the subject of adolescence and influence' Nick Hornby
Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned - from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren - an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town - and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at an unexpected and devastating cost...
Best Contemporary romance:
MISS YOU by Kate Eberlen
My friend, Steph Pegler, put this novel in my hands well over a year before I finally got around to reading it earlier this year. Anyone who loved ONE DAY, read this! In my opinion, better than ONE DAY. An amazing, amazing read.
Sometimes it's the people you miss who matter most.
"I couldn't put it down" Sophie Kinsella
"Funny, poignant and really rather lovely" Guardian
"I adored this book: wildly romantic, heart-achingly sad, warmly funny" Daily Mail
Tess and Gus are meant to be. They just haven't met properly yet. And perhaps they never will...
'Today is the first day of the rest of your life.'
That's what the plate in Tess's mum's kitchen says. And for a while, it seems like it might be true: Tess has just finished her A levels and is holidaying in Florence before going on to university and then Great Things. But that's before tragedy strikes.
For Gus, the tragedy has already happened. He and his parents have come to Florence to pretend they're a normal family, but they all know that's not true, and Gus can't wait to escape.
The first time Tess and Gus meet, they don't speak. The second time, they exchange nine words. The third time, three sentences.
Then they return to England and their separate worlds and that, as they say, is that. Or it would be -- except that the universe seems to have other ideas, even if neither Tess nor Gus realise it.
Best Rural romance:
TRUE BLUE by Sasha Wasley
I adored Sasha’s first book, DEAR BANJO so much I cover quoted for it. I didn’t think it was possible to love TRUE BLUE more, but I totally did. A passionate main character you will fall in love with and our beautiful Australian setting.
Love is random. Accidental. You just live your life and then one day it'll hit you with the right person.
Wandering soul Freya 'Free' Paterson has finally come back home. Idealistic and trusting, she's landed the job of her dreams working on an art project with the local school, but she hadn't planned on meeting the man of her dreams as well.
With his irresistible Irish accent, Constable Finn Kelly is everything Free wants - genuine, kind . . . and handsome as hell. He's also everything Free isn't - stable and dependable. Yet despite the passion simmering between them, he just wants to be friends. What is he trying to hide?
As Free throws herself into the challenges of her new job, fending off the unwelcome advances of a colleague and helping to save her beloved Herne River, Finn won't stay out of her way, or out of her heart.
But just when she needs him the most, will Finn reveal his true colours?
Best Young Adult:
P IS FOR PEARL by Eliza Henry Jones
Both my teenage daughter and I inhaled this book. Eliza Henry Jones is one of the most talented authors in Australia – her evocative style will tug at your heart strings.
'A POIGNANT READ BURSTING WITH HEARTACHE, GRIEF AND SMALL-TOWN FAMILY SECRETS THAT WILL DRAW YOU IN UNTIL THE FINAL PAGE'
- Gabrielle Tozer, award-winning author of The Intern, Faking It and Remind Me How This Ends
'P is for Pearl is a complex, authentic exploration of grief, friendship, mental illness, family and love, sensitively written by a writer whose voice will resonate with teen readers.' - Books+Publishing
Seventeen-year-old Gwendolyn P. Pearson has become very good at not thinking about the awful things that have happened to her family.
She has also become used to people talking about her dead mum. Or not talking about her and just looking at Gwen sympathetically.
And it's easy not to think about awful things when there are wild beaches to run along, best friends Loretta and Gordon to hang out with - and a stepbrother to take revenge on.
But following a strange disturbance at the cafe where she works, Gwen is forced to confront what happened to her family all those years ago. And she slowly comes to realise that people aren't as they first appear and that like her, everyone has a story to tell.
From the talented author of the celebrated novels In the Quiet and Ache comes a poignant and moving book that explores the stories we tell ourselves about our families, and what it means to belong.
Best historical fiction:
DEAR MRS BIRD by AJ Pearce
For a story based during World War Two, it’s remarkably uplifting, funny and sweet. Loved every page!
"The sweetest, most uplifting, lovely book about courage, friendship, love ... It'll be huge; it deserves to be" Marian Keyes, author of The Break
"If I had only known how much I was going to adore Dear Mrs. Bird, I wouldn't have gobbled it down all at once. Funny, fresh, and touching" Annie Barrows, author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
"A joy from start to finish. Dear Mrs Bird is as funny as it is heart-warming." John Boyne, author The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
"A joyfully uplifting and optimistic novel ... a timely story of courage and good humour in adversity." Observer
"Irresistibly charming and delightful" Kate Eberlen, author of Miss You
"An utterly charming story of friendship, heartbreak and heroism... You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll love it" Lucy Diamond
London, 1940. Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life thoroughly annoying for everyone. Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent and when she spots a job advertisement in the newspaper she seizes her chance - but after a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt of Woman's Friend magazine.
Mrs Bird is very clear: letters containing any form of Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. Emmy finds herself dismissing problems from lovelorn, grief-stricken and morally conflicted readers in favour of those who fear their ankles are unsightly or have trouble untangling lengths of wool. But soon the thought of desperate women going unanswered becomes too much to bear and Emmy decides the only thing for it is to secretly write back . . .
Irresistibly funny and enormously moving, Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce is a love letter to female friendship, Blitz spirit, the kindness of strangers and the art of letter-writing itself.
Best Literary Fiction:
DUSTFALL by Michelle Johnston
This novel haunted me for weeks after I finished reading it. Exquisite evocative writing. It’s a gem.
Dr Raymond Filigree, running away from a disastrous medical career, mistakes an unknown name on a map for the perfect refuge. He travels to the isolated town of Wittenoom and takes charge of its small hospital, a place where no previous doctor has managed to stay longer than an eye blink. Instead of settling into a quiet, solitary life, he discovers an asbestos mining corporation with no regard for the safety of its workers and no care for the truth.
Thirty years later, Dr Lou Fitzgerald stumbles across the abandoned Wittenoom Hospital. She, too, is a fugitive from a medical career toppled by a single error. Here she discovers faded letters and barely used medical equipment, and, slowly the story of the hospital’s tragic past comes to her.
Dustfall is the tale of the crashing consequences of medical error, the suffering caused by asbestos mining and the power of storytelling.
THE RUIN by Dervla McTiernan
I’m not normally a big fan of crime novels but I read this one because it was written by a local author. Wow! I absolutely adored it and will definitely be reading every other book Dervla writes.
The Top Ten fiction bestseller and critically acclaimed crime debut featuring everyone's favourite new detective, Cormac Reilly
'The Ruin is spectacularly good. So CONFIDENT ... excellently written and, at times, heartachingly sad' Marian Keyes
'Corruption, clandestine cover-ups and criminal conspiracy ... as moving as it is fast-paced' Val McDermid
'Dervla McTiernan's first novel outclasses some of the genre's stalwarts making her a crime writer to watch ... fans of Ian Rankin and Tana French will feel right at home' Bookseller + Publisher (4.5 stars)
Galway 1993: Young Garda Cormac Reilly is called to a scene he will never forget. Two silent, neglected children - fifteen-year-old Maude and five-year-old Jack - are waiting for him at a crumbling country house. Upstairs, their mother lies dead.
Twenty years later, a body surfaces in the icy black waters of the River Corrib. At first it looks like an open-and-shut case, but then doubt is cast on the investigation's findings - and the integrity of the police. Cormac is thrown back into the cold case that has haunted him his entire career - what links the two deaths, two decades apart? As he navigates his way through police politics and the ghosts of the past, Detective Reilly uncovers shocking secrets and finds himself questioning who among his colleagues he can trust.
What really did happen in that house where he first met Maude and Jack? The Ruin draws us deep into the dark heart of Ireland and asks who will protect you when the authorities can't - or won't.
Best Psychological thriller:
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by AJ Finn
I read this book in one night. Literally, quite literally, could not put it down. I think it was around three in the morning when I finally finished it and went to sleep!
THE NUMBER ONE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
OVER 2 MILLION COPIES SOLD!
‘Astounding. Thrilling. Amazing’ Gillian Flynn
‘One of those rare books that really is unputdownable’ Stephen King
'Twisted to the power of max' Val McDermid
‘A dark, twisty confection’ Ruth Ware
What did she see?
It’s been ten months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.
Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.
But one evening, a scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something horrifying. Now she must uncover the truth about what really happened. But if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?
Best Magical realism:
THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS by Ruth Hogan
The most delightful story I have read in years. I was so captivated by this book, I wrote the author fan mail!
WINNER OF RICHARD AND JUDY AUTUMN BOOK CLUB 2017 - 'One of the most charming novels either of us has read. Don't lose it. Keep it' Richard & Judy*
*The perfect holiday read, recommended by thousands of readers*
*One of the Mail on Sunday's 'Best books for the beach this summer'*
'The first book I read in 2017 - and if another as good comes along in the next 12 months, I'll eat my special gold reviewing spectacles' Daily Mail
Meet the 'Keeper of Lost Things'...
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.
Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.
But the final wishes of the 'Keeper of Lost Things' have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters...
FOUR RESPECTABLE LADIES SEEK PART-TIME HUSBAND by Barbara Toner
Hilarious and clever. I feel like this is the book Jane Austen would have written were she around today!
'Hilarious' Marie Claire
'A light, funny, warm-hearted read' Books + Publishing
'Laced with wry humour and a quirky style . . . it's a rollicking ride' The War Cry
A charming and witty novel, set in a small country town in 1919.
'When Adelaide Nightingale, Louisa Worthington, Maggie O'Connell and Pearl McCleary threw caution to the winds in the most brazen way imaginable, disgrace was bound to follow.'
It's September 1919. The war is over, and everyone who was going to die from the flu has done so. But there's a shortage of husbands and women in strife will flounder without a male to act on their behalf.
And in the southern New South Wales town of Prospect, four ladies bereft of men have problems that threaten to overwhelm them.
Beautiful Louisa Worthington, whose dashing husband died for King and Country, is being ruined by the debts he left behind.
Young Maggie O'Connell, who lost her mother in childbirth and her father to a redhead, is raising her two wayward brothers and fighting for land she can't prove is hers.
Adelaide Nightingale has a husband, but he's returned from the war in a rage and is refusing to tackle the thieving manager of their famous family store.
Pearl McCleary, Adelaide's new housekeeper, must find her missing fianc� before it's too late and someone dies.
Thank God these desperate ladies have a solution: a part-time husband who will rescue them all. To find him, they'll advertise. To afford him, they'll share . . .
Best Historical non-fiction
GIRT by David Hunt
Laughed till I cried reading this one. I actually had tears. And at the same time it’s educational, touching, profound. David Hunt should double as a stand-up comedian. This book is a laugh a minute.
Winner, 2014 Indie Award for Non-Fiction
Shortlisted, 2014 ABA Nielsen BookData Bookseller's Choice Award, 2014 NSW Premier's Literary Awards, 2014 Australian Book Industry Awards.
‘Girt … cuts an irreverent swath through the facts, fools, fantasies and frauds that made this country what it is today, hoisting sacred cows on their own petards and otherwise sawing the legs off Lady Macquarie’s chair. I was transported.’ —Shane Maloney, the Age Best Books of 2013
‘Girt is a ripping read… a humorous history that is accessible enough to share with the eight-year-old. Hunt’s writing interests span comedy, politics and history, a happy triumvirate when your subject is Australia.’ —Stephen Romei in the Australian
Girt. No word could better capture the essence of Australia...
In this hilarious history, David Hunt reveals the truth of Australia’s past, from megafauna to Macquarie – the cock-ups and curiosities, the forgotten eccentrics and Eureka moments that have made us who we are.
Girt introduces forgotten heroes like Mary McLoghlin, transported for the crime of “felony of sock”, and Trim the cat, who beat a French monkey to become the first animal to circumnavigate Australia. It recounts the misfortunes of the escaped Irish convicts who set out to walk from Sydney to China, guided only by a hand-drawn paper compass, and explains the role of the coconut in Australia’s only military coup.
Our nation’s beginnings are steeped in the strange, the ridiculous and the frankly bizarre. Girt proudly reclaims these stories for all of us.
Not to read it would be un-Australian.
ALWAYS ANOTHER COUNTRY by Sisonke Msimang
An incredibly moving life-story. I was blown away by Sisonke’s frank style, warmth, wisdom and humour.
‘Few of us have felt the grinding force of history as consciously or as constantly as Sisonke Msimang. Her story is a timely insight into a life in which the gap between the great world and the private realm is vanishingly narrow and it bears hard lessons about how fragile our hopes and dreams can be.' Tim Winton
‘Brutally and uncompromisingly honest, Sisonke’s beautifully crafted storytelling enriches the already extraordinary pool of young African women writers of our time.’ Graça Machel, Minister for Education and Culture of Mozambique
‘Msimang is a talented and passionate writer, one possessed of an acerbic intelligence…This memoir is also full of warmth and humour.’ Saturday Paper
‘Sisonke Msimang kindles a new fire in our store of memoir, a fire that will warm and singe and sear for a long, long while.’ Njabulo S. Ndebele, author The Cry of Winnie Mandela
'An excellent blend of both the personal and political…a bold memoir…a tale that will sustain itself for generations.’ Books & Publishing
If I were given five minutes with my younger self—that little girl who cried every time we had to leave for another country—I would hold her tight and not say a word. I would just be still and have her feel my beating heart, a thud to echo her own—a silent message that, no matter the outcome, she would survive and be stronger and happier than she might think as she stood at the threshold of each new home.
Sisonke Msimang was born in exile, the daughter of South African freedom fighters. Always Another Country is the story of a young girl’s path to womanhood—a journey that took her from Africa to America and back again, then on to a new home in Australia.
Frank, fierce and insightful, she reflects candidly on the abuse she suffered as a child, the naive, heady euphoria of returning at last to her parents’ homeland—and her disillusionment with present-day South Africa and its new elites. Sisonke Msimang is a bold new voice on feminism, race and politics—in her beloved South Africa, in Australia, and around the world.
NOTES ON A NERVOUS PLANET by Matt Haig
Last year, he wrote my favourite novel. This year, as I struggled with anxiety more than ever before, this book was the best medicine for me. It’s raw and real and so helpful for anyone who feels depressed or anxious.
THE NUMBER ONE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
The world is messing with our minds.
Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected, yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index.
– How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad?
– How do we stay human in a technological world?
– How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?
After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, these questions became urgent matters of life and death for Matt Haig. And he began to look for the link between what he felt and the world around him. Notes on a Nervous Planet is a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the twenty-first century.
WORLDS OF YOU by Beau Taplin
I read this book last year but I took it away with me on the writers’ retreat that I ran in July of this year and enjoyed it even more this time around. It’s mature, sensitive poetry that speaks to my soul.
Extraordinary insights about love, loss and living.
Think of Beau Taplin as capturing the essence of love and heartbreak, challenges and paradoxes, yearning and fulfilment, and attaching that to magical, majestic life. Beautiful, inspiring and empowering, Beau Taplin's poems sweep readers away on a journey of emotion. When you need advice, wisdom, something for your soul, Beau offers insight and balm.
Best Children’s picture book
EVERY FAMILY IS DIFFERENT by Maureen Eppen, illustrated by Veronica Rooke
Nobody I am friends with has had a baby this year and not been bought this book by me. It’s one of the most gorgeous children’s books I’ve ever read and should be in every home to teach tolerance and love.
Who’s in your family? Some children live with their mum and dad, others live with their grandparents or foster parents. Some live in a big house, others live in a tiny apartment. With captivating illustrations, Every Family is Different celebrates what it means to be part of a family, and reminds us that there’s something that’s always the same in every family…
WELL READ COOKIES by Lauren Chater
A luscious book of delightful treats for anyone who loves stories and baking!
Curling up with a book was never so delicious.
This gorgeous, whimsical gift hardback celebrates the most beloved works of literature as beautiful iced biscuits, as featured on author Lauren Chater’s popular blog, The Well-Read Cookie.
With 60 biscuits photographed in full colour, accompanied by Lauren’s meditation on what inspired her to create each morsel of edible art, this collection is the perfect gift for passionate readers and bakers ready for their next book.
Feast your eyes on mouth-watering classics ranging from Mary Shelley and Jane Austen to Tolkien and F. Scott Fitzgerald, modern masterpieces by Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman and Alice Hoffman, beloved children’s tales by Dr Seuss, and Australian classics by Geraldine Brooks and Melissa Ashley.
With Well Read Cookies you can have your books and eat them too! It also includes cookie recipes and icing techniques for baking enthusiasts who can’t wait to make their own literary creations.