As Victoria looks ahead to months of lockdown, and readers rely on great books for consolation, distraction and entertainment, here is an updated list of my favourites. Some are new to the list, while others have remained my firm favourites over many years.
Living in a regional centre where coronavirus restrictions are still in place, although not as tight as those in Melbourne, I have found books to be a source of stability and comfort during a time of uncertainty.
I hope you are enjoying whatever you are reading, whether you live in a place where your movement is still restricted, or you can move around freely.
- Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko – this has been my book of the year so far, its beautiful language exploring the intergenerational trauma of Australia’s Indigenous population, while also celebrating the hope, rich traditions and warmth of that community. I was hooked from the first page.
- Phosphorescence by Julia Baird – this book taught me so much, from the futility of feeling insecure about your appearance to the value of observing the beauty and awe of nature.
- The Choke by Sofie Laguna – this book about a young, neglected girl living on the Murray River is harrowing, heartbreaking and beautiful. It might be my favourite book ever. It’s language is gorgeous.
- All That I Am by Anna Funder – again, beautiful language tells a story of passion, sacrifice, heroism and loss. I’m not crying, you are!
- We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – the ending of extraordinary psychological thriller book took my breath away. I read it before having children, and I’m surprised that it didn’t make me reconsider.
- A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth – this sweeping family saga was rich and memorable. I found myself missing the characters after I had finished it.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – this was the first book of magical realism I had read and it swept me along with all of its colour and wisdom.
- City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert – I read this book during the first lockdown, and I loved the escapism and joy of it. The only problem was that it made me yearn to visit New York, where it was set.
- Plainsong by Kent Haruf – this gentle, warm and soothing book was the perfect antidote to uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic. Each character was drawn with sensitivity and truth.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – there is no wonder Pride and Prejudice is so well-loved, across generations. The characters were irresistible (who can forget Lydia?), and the message enduring.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – after having seen the series on television, I wasn’t sure the book could compete. Clearly, I was underestimating the intelligence of Atwood’s writing. Superb … and more than a little frightening.
- Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie – another book in which the ending was shocking and memorable. Home Fire was full of complex characters that made it hard to know where your sympathies lay.
- Circe by Madeline Miller – this reimagining of the story of Homer’s Odyssey offered escapism as it recounted the life of the mythological witch, Circe.
- Less by Andrew Sean Greer – taking a trip around the world with the insecure, hilarious Arthur Less was a real treat, and a bit of a tearjerker at the end.
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – I finally got around to reading Gone Girl this year, and wasn’t disappointed. This book is one of the best, smartest psychological thrillers I have read.
- Wimmera by Mark Brandi – this book might be considered by some as too dark and harrowing, but I loved the hot and sultry setting, and the pervading sense of doom.
- The Fish Girl by Mirandi Riwoe – the only novella in my list, The Fish Girl quickly captured my heart, even while breaking it at the end.
- The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham – I stumbled across this book by chance, finding it in an op shop, but I’m so pleased I did. The story is dark and brooding, but very readable.
My favourite series
Harry Potter by JK Rowling – who doesn’t love the boy wizard and his friends? I started reading this series with my son, and while he raced ahead, reading the whole series, I’m still pottering along, savouring the wonderful world JK Rowling has created.
The Neopolitan series by Elena Ferrante – Ferrante’s series is full of unlikeable, complex characters and set in a neighbourhood of poverty and violence, but somehow, these books are unputdownable. I even missed the mean, insecure or arrogant characters when I finished them, such was the world created in the series.
The Wolf Hall series by Hilary Mantel – I still haven’t read the final instalment, but the first two books about the life of Thomas Cromwell were captivating.