Notes on Australia’s favourite books, as voted by Dymocks customers

Dymocks has released its annual list of the top 101 books, voted by thousands of members of its Booklovers club.

While some of the books listed were unsurprising (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone took the top spot), there were a few unexpected inclusions. Here are some of my thoughts and observations on our favourite books.

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was the second most popular book on the list. I read this novel last year and, although it was an enjoyable read, I wasn’t really moved by it. Obviously, I was in the minority! Set in World War II, it centres on a father and his blind daughter’s escape from Nazi occupied Paris. The book’s plot is intricate and detailed, earning it the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. It appeared at the top of last year’s Dymocks 101 list.

 

  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck was the first non-fiction work in the list. The book by Mark Manson has appeared on Books & Publishing’s bestseller list numerous times throughout 2017 and 2018. Manson’s advice not to rail against circumstances, but to choose battles wisely. The book is about finding what’s really important, and letting the rest go. When I attended a talk by Manson in Melbourne last year, I found that he was an engaging speaker, but a lot of what he said seemed familiar. Perhaps it is an art in itself to nail down something that readers might already sense, but struggle to articulate in a way that is helpful in day-to-day life.

 

  • The top biography in the list was Magda Szubanski’s The Reckoning. I have not read it yet, but from all reports, the raw honesty of this book seems to have struck on some important truths for readers. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

 

  • A book of poetry appeared at number 50 on the list. The Sun and Her Flowers is Rupi Kaur’s second collection of poetry. Deemed by some ‘Instagram’s favourite poet’, Kaur’s previous work, Milk and Honey, which appeared at number 86, sold more than 1.4 million copies. Her poetry is accessible and simple, adorned with her own illustrations. It has been criticised for her style of poetry – described in The Guardian as ‘rupturing short confessional pieces with erratic line breaks to share hard-won truths’

 

  • Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet remains one of Australia’s favourite books, taking the 51st I wonder whether this one, published in 1991, has ever failed to appear on such a list.

 

  • George Orwell’s political allegory, 1984, appeared at number 12 on the list, with Animal Farm voted 54 on this year’s list. Given the political climate in the US, and Australia’s own interest in political affairs, perhaps the presence of these, some would say prescient books, is unsurprising.

 

  • A book that I read while travelling almost a decade ago, Shantaram has remained popular among Australian readers. The book follows Australian traveller Gregory David Roberts’ time spent in India, at times living in a slum and exposed to the underworld of Calcutta, with its opium dens and shady characters. I found the book to be fascinating, and obviously, young travellers today continue to be captured by Roberts’ evocative snapshot of a certain side of life in India.

 

  • Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, at number 98, was one of very few children’s books that appeared on the list. I think that the popularity of this book, which is a far cry from traditional fairy tales or ‘girls’ books’ of princesses and fairies, points to a significant change in adults’ attitudes about the interests of girls. I’m happy that my friend gave this book to my daughter, and she can read it alongside the wide variety of books that are now available, painting a far more diverse and interesting picture of girlhood today.

 

  • More than half of the books in the last were by female authors, including eight of the books in the top 10.

 

  • Some old favourites continue to be popular among Australian readers, including Pride and Prejudice (at number 7), To Kill a Mockingbird (10), 1984 (12), The Lord of the Rings (17), The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (19) and Jane Eyre (22).

 

  • So, what did not appear on the list? While Scott Pape’s The Barefoot Investor has appeared at the top of bestseller charts for years, it did not reach the top 101 in Dymocks’ list. Another notable no-show was The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, another book that has featured in Books & Publishing’s bestseller list during 2017.

 

  • I’ve read 21 of the 101 books on the list, so there are a lot more to add to my tbr pile! How many have you read?

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