December 31

2014: Books I read

  1. Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
  2. The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (re-read)
  4. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton [book club]
  5. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  6. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  7. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
  8. Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold (re-read)
  9. We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  10. Life After Life by Kate Atkins [book club]
  11. The Girl with all the Gifts by MR Carey [book club]
  12. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult [book club]
  13. Cartwheel by Jennifer DuBois [book club]
  14. Sabriel by Garth Nix (re-read)
  15. Lirael by Garth Nix (re-read)
  16. Abhorsen by Garth Nix (re-read)
  17. Across the Wall by Garth Nix (re-read)
  18. The Happy Prince & Other Stories by Oscar Wilde
  19. Murder in Mississippi by John Safran
  20. The Chaplain’s Legacy by Brad R Torgersen [Hugo nominee]
  21. The Butcher of Khardov by Dan Wells [Hugo nominee]
  22. Equoid by Charles Stross [Hugo nominee]
  23. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie [Hugo nominee]
  24. Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross [Hugo nominee]
  25. Parasite by Mira Grant [Hugo nominee]
  26. The Double by Fyodor Doestoyevsky
  27. The Diviners by Libba Bray
  28. Clariel by Garth Nix
  29. Livid by Francesco Verso (translated from Italian)
  30. Maze Runner by James Dashner
  31. All You Zombies and other stories by Robert Heinlein
  32. Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  33. Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
  34. Mortal Instruments: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
  35. A Great & Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
  36. Stranger on a Train by Jenny Diski
  37. Inheritance by Lisa Forrest
  38. Moron to Moron by Tom Doig
  39. Book of David by Anonymous
  40. A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty
  41. My Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  42. Deeper Water by Jessie Cole
  43. The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty
  44. The Call of the Trance by Catherine Clément (translated from French)
  45. The Hunt for Pierre Jnr by David M Henley
  46. The Tea Chest by Josephine Moon
  47. Manifestations by David M Henley
  48. Holiday in Cambodia by Laura Jean McKay
  49. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien (re-read)
  50. Stories of Sydney edited by SWEATSHOP and Seizure
  51. A Man Made Entirely of Bats by Patrick Lenton

Some random stats:

  • 25 books by women; 24 by men; 1 anonymous (Book of David—presumed male but may be a collaboration); 1 mixed gender collection
  • Books from 10 series or parts thereof (throwing dirty looks at Jaclyn Moriarty and David M Henley who’ll have their respective third books of trilogies out in 2015)
  • 47 novels/fiction collections versus 4 non-fiction books (my quota of 3:1 went out the window when I read 18 novels before I picked up Murder in Mississippi)
  • 6 short story collections
  • 9 of these books were made into 11 movies in the last five years (that odd number brought to you by the three movies made from The Hobbit)
  • 18 books by Australian authors
  • 14 authors I’ve seen live at events
Category: Read | LEAVE A COMMENT
January 28

Committed (book)

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert (Bloomsbury, 2010)

The blurb: At the end of her bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian-born man of Australian citizenship who’d been living in Indonesia when they met. Resettling in America, the couple swore eternal fidelity to each other, but also swore to never, ever, under any circumstances get legally married. But providence intervened one day in the form of the United States government, which gave the couple a choice: they could either get married, or Felipe would never be allowed to enter the country again. 

Having been effectively sentenced to wed, Gilbert tackled her fears of marriage by delving into this topic completely, trying with all her might to discover through historical research, interviews, and much personal reflection what this stubbornly enduring old institution actually is.

Those who have read and enjoyed Gilbert’s ubiquitous memoir Eat, Pray, Love will probably also enjoy this next chapter of her life—but not as much.

While there’s travel, emotional upheaval and a cast of interesting side characters that Gilbert meets along the way, Committed is a far more intellectually involved book containing a good balance of history, informal interviews that say more than the questions ask, and a dash of politics under the unfolding drama of Gilbert’s personal experience whereas Eat, Pray, Love sat heavily on Gilbert’s physical and emotional journey.

For my part, I found this to be a superior book that ‘spoke to me’ more clearly. Gilbert’s breezy tone is deceptively clever. She imparts humour and intimacy with ease and her anecdotes and emotions are well wrought. If anything, she is a better writer in this memoir than in the preceding crisis story: being more or less focused on the subject of marriage, the chapters work to convey certain elements of the ritual to make a whole, which satisfies long after closing the book.

She is also a master of pacing. Just as you think she’s going to let the tearaway narrative have its way, she reins back the informational and emotional avalanche so I finished each section with a sense of bonding with the text that went beyond the words on the page.

Although Gilbert rightfully claims to know very little about marriage compared to the many scholars she lists in her appendix, the book’s accessible style was the key reason I enjoyed Committed far more than its predecessor. And, let’s admit it, I probably liked it because I am also a marriage sceptic.

While I read Gilbert’s personal experience with interest and absorbed some of the wisdom she relays from the people she interviews about marriage, the chapter that secured my loyalty was ‘Marriage and History’. My own feelings about marriage were changed by some of the facts revealed in this section, how marriage not only pre-dates but transcends religion, politics and the law, and the alternative view of marriage as a form of rebellion.

This chapter is pivotal to the book. Gilbert’s own scepticism comes from a messy divorce but through her research she discovers that marriage is not the institution she thought it was. Reviewing marriage through the lens of her research, her experience and the experience of others she meets, Gilbert discernibly comes around—and I wouldn’t be surprised if many a reader came with her.

This is the book for you if you are a fan of Gilbert’s writing, a marriage sceptic, or need some good arguments for why excluding certain people from the institution of marriage is wrong.

Book rating: 9/10 – a convincing, accessible memoir written with panache
Enjoyment rating: 8/10 – marriage-sceptic reader makes peace with marriage

Category: Opine, Read | LEAVE A COMMENT
May 17

#30: Your favourite book of all time

I’d like to pretend I dallied and drew this meme out to coincide with the opening night of the Sydney Writers’ Festival but I’m too honest and the truth is that I’ve been hella busy this last week or so and therefore rather neglectful of my digital life.

The book I am about to mention comes laden with baggage. Which is to say my boyfriend bags out anyone who can categorically say that something is their ‘favourite’ anything.

This meme and I have gone through our ups (favourites for various reasons) and downs (hates and overratedness) and have skirted around naming the one book to rule them all (and in the bookmaker’s workshop, bind them).

I’ve mentioned the book, of course. But will the favourite book of my favourite author prevail over the favourite book of my favourite series? Will childhood triumph over my favourite book turned into a movie? Well none of this matters because the book I most consistently name my favourite is Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, which I mentioned back on Day #2 as a book I’ve read more than three times.

Just so you know, I don’t have a permanent favourite, but Catch 22 regularly turns up in my top 3 list more often than any other book, albeit not always at the top, so it’s my ersatz pick. For the others that often rotate in that top 3—have you been reading this meme?

Anyway, I like it because it’s different every time I read it. No matter how many times I read it, and no matter how often I think I ‘know’ it, it never gets old. Heller never came close with his other writing, but that’s almost part of what makes Catch 22 as brilliant as it is—he put all his mojo into this.

“[Yossarian] had decided to live forever or die in the attempt.”

I’d like to thank Sarah Jansen for her tweet about this, as well as The Literary Gothamite and Confessions of a Book Lush for the good idea.