A lot can happen in 10 years. For me, there have been some big changes, including marriage and three kids, moving back to my hometown and getting my dream job in publishing. There has also been illness, a redundancy, and the loss of much-loved family members.
A lot has also happened in the world of literature in the past decade, and as a new one begins, it seems like a good time to reflect on some of my favourite discoveries of books and authors form the past 10 years.
Some of my fondest reading memories have been of a couple of series that I have escaped into completely, offering me insight into different worlds and times. These have been Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, Rachel Cusk’s Transit, Outline and Kudos trilogy and Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell books. These novels were entirely different to any I had read before, either in topic or style.
It was also a decade in which I (sometimes belatedly) discovered some of my favourite authors, including Anna Funder, Sofie Laguna, Kate Atkinson, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, I have also maintained a love affair with books by Alexander McCall Smith, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Franzen and Tim Winton.
Plenty of stand-alone books blew my mind, including Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, Madeleine Miller’s Circe, Mirandi Riwoe’s Fish Girl, Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things, Sally Rooney’s Normal People, Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, Room by Emma Donoghue, and too many others to remember.
I finally read classics including Jane Eyre, Middlemarch, The Painted Veil and The Way We Live Now, and re-read Beloved and Slaughterhouse 5, and enjoyed non-fiction from David Sedaris, Maggie O’Farrell Bri Lee and Magda Szubanski.
I have also rediscovered many classic picture books with my children, falling in love with Dogger, Are You My Mother, The Corduroy Bear and Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series. It is fascinating to read the books of childhood as an adult, and to see what it was that fascinated your young self. In many of them, I have recognised themes and complexities that I never saw as a child, when I gazed at the beautiful illustrations or let my own imagination run away. I was surprised to find myself moved to tears (I was obviously suffering from the fatigue of sleepless nights and rowdy toddlers) by The Giving Tree and Oh, the Places You’ll Go as I now understood more deeply the stories of the passage of time, love and hope that they told.
More recently, Andy Griffiths’ Treehouse series has also made a big impact in my house, capturing the imagination of my son for years. Some newer picture books that have become favourites include Florette, Rodney Loses It and Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas.
And many of these are books that I have read towards the end of the decade, as it is hard to remember all of the novels that brought me joy in the first five years.
In The Age, Shona Martyn wrote of the book trends of the decade, which have included the rise of mindful colouring books, erotics and Aussie noir. While I thoroughly enjoyed reading Aussie noir including Jane Harper’s The Dry, Mark Brandi’s Wimmera, Dervla McTiernan’s The Ruin and Emma Viskic’s Resurrection Bay, the other two categories didn’t make an impact on my reading or purchasing during the decade.
In recent years, one major trend for readers has been the emergence of social media as a site to share news and information about books and literary events. Through Twitter and Instagram in particular, it has become possible to ‘meet’ like-minded readers – here are whole communities of readers who are supportive, engaged and passionate about books. They have shown me that I am most certainly not alone in my book obsession – who would have known there were so many of us out there, just waiting to find each other? While Instagram is often accused of being a narcistic medium where looks matter more than substance, bookstagram is quite the opposite, featuring considered reviews and collated book collections that make users look beyond the cover into what lies beneath.
I’ve loved reading other book lovers’ blogs, including The Writing Finch, Book’d Out, The Bibliofile, A Little Blog of Books, and all of the bloggers I’ve been introduced to through The Write Reads blogging community.
Another newish addition to the reading experience has been the advent of podcasts, so that alongside the ABC’s The Book Show, I have listened to The Garret, Words and Nerds and The Penguin Podcast, all opening up a world of bookish conversation.
There have also been some incredible events at the wonderful Wheeler Centre, The School of Life and Melbourne Writers Festival, and I have been thrilled to hear talks with Kamila Shamsie, Jonathan Franzen, Joyce Carol Oates, Anna Funder, Alain de Botton, Mark Manson, and many others.
I can’t wait to see what the ‘20s brings, starting with Margaret Atwood’s visit in February. I am currently reading Melissa Lucashenko’s Too Much Lip, which looks set to become one of my newest favourites and I have a new Kindle that will make it easier to haul a collection of books with me everywhere I go. I also can’t wait to start reading the Harry Potter books alongside my son. As always, there is so much to look forward to in the world of literature.
Wishing you a wonderful year of reading.