Best Books of 2009 as chosen by Readings staff and selected Australian authors, editors and publishers

Mark Rubbo, Managing Director of Readings

lovesong Lovesong by Alex Miller is a touching love story set in France by one of Australia’s great writers. Miller never fails to excite and delight me.

If the Dead Rise Not by Phillip Kerr features Nazis, Cuba and murder – not to mention great characterisation and plot. This is the latest in Kerr’s series featuring German ex-cop Bernie Gunther. In my opinion, Kerr has been terribly underrated as a crime writer. His invitation to the forthcoming Adelaide Writers’ Week will help bring him to a wider audience.


And if you want to understand what’s happened in Australian politics and the economy in the last 15 years (the Keating/Howard years), you should turn to Paul Kelly’s The March of Patriots. He has incredible access to the main players and writes so lucidly that one can’t fail to be gripped. He manages to strip away the cant and give us the real story.


I read the delightful The House in Via Manno by Milena Agus quite by chance and was totally captivated. The novel’s young narrator tells the story of her beautiful but eccentric Sardinian grandmother and her search for love.


Inspector Singh Investigates: A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul is the second in the Inspector Singh series, a delightful crime series featuring the overweight and slightly incorrect Singaporean Inspector Singh. Seconded to the Bali Police in the aftermath of the bombings, Inspector Singh lands a bizarre case and saves the day.

Jo Case, Editor Readings Monthly newsletter

reunion I was particularly excited by two local novels of ideas this year – Kalinda Ashton’s devastatingly accomplished debut The Danger Game) and Andrea Goldsmith’s brilliant Reunion. Both engage with a changing Melbourne and Howard-era politics, but are dominated by virtuoso writing and finely etched characters.

Sonia Orchard’s debut novel The Virtuoso is an absorbing story of obsessive love, delusion, and the seductive power of great art that riffs off the true story of Australian pianist Noel Mewton-Wood. I know nothing about classical music, but somehow that didn’t matter.

Anna Goldsworthy’s memoir Piano Lessons is ostensibly about her development as a concert pianist under the guidance of her extraordinary teacher. But it works on a deeper level as an inspiring tale of passion, dedication and creativity – and a startlingly good coming-of-age story.

figurehead I recommended Patrick Allington’s debut, Figurehead to everyone I knew with an interest in politics and fine writing. Allington (who had J.M. Coetzee as his mentor) counts Orwell as an influences, and it shows in this admirably polished ‘absurdist version of history’. It’s a sharply satirical novel about questions of culpability, responsibility and idealism as played out in Pol Pot’s Cambodia and the decades that followed, with characters based on controversial journalist Wilfrid Burchett and Pol Pot’s right-hand man.

Like everyone else, I was blown away by the chiselled perfection of Wells Tower’s Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, a story collection to rival Nam Le’s in the ‘deserves the massive hype’ stakes.

a_gate Lorrie Moore’s wry, satirical A Gate at the Stairs, follows a small-town college student nannying for a well-off couple and their adopted child – a job that will accumulate a significant ethical and emotional freight. In one year, she loses her innocence in a variety of ways. An almost unbearably poignant book exploring race and class in the US.

It’s almost a cliché to be a Wire tragic, but I plead guilty. This year I was hooked by two landmark works of reportage that laid the groundwork for the show. For Homicide, David Simon took leave from his newspaper job to embed wire himself in Baltimore’s homicide department, reporting on its inner workings. In The Corner, he and Ed Burns spent a year on one neighbourhood’s drug corners.

As is Jeff Sparrow’s intellectual page-turner, Killing, which is up there with The Tall Man as an example of Australia’s finest reportage. A fascinating, confronting and deeply personal journey into the dark heart of his subject.

bro And a late discovery – Charlotte Wood’s anthology Brothers and Sisters is packed with superb stories, including Wood, Nam Le, Christos Tsiolkas, Robert Drewe and the marvellous Virginia Peters. Dark, funny, moving, but never sentimental.

Martin Shaw, Readings Books Division Manager

girl As many of you know, the third and final Stieg Larsson volume, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, was my companion on recent holidays. Like a favourite TV series, it delivered again on all counts: the ever resourceful Salander is now pitted not only against her father but an ineluctable and even greater enemy, with the whole gallery of characters (both good guys and villains) returning from previous volumes to ensure a riveting, immensely satisfying read.

Otherwise, 2009 was again the year of the short form for me: the nine connected episodes in the exhilarating debut by Steven Amsterdam, Things We Didn’t See Coming was a worthy winner of the Age Book of the Year from a writer with the utmost dedication to his craft, and a semi-miraculous ability to conjure the most unlikely situations and make you care about them – a lot!

My love affair with American realist fiction continued apace with another debut – Wells Tower’s short-story collection Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. access Some stunning stories here, written in a rich vernacular that walks a line never far from both the tragic and the comic.

William Maxwell spoke of ‘the happiness of getting it down right’ – and if there is a better writer in English at the moment than Maurice Gee, I would be surprised. His Access Road is an immensely affecting short novel that makes you believe in the power of fiction all over again.

Sonia Orchard, author of The Virtuoso

barley_patch This year I’ve caught up on some big titles that have sat, unread, on my bookshelf for years. Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin and Siri Hustvedt’s What I Loved are three that stood out. My favourite novels tend to be about memory – a study of a character at a particular time, with the burden of that character’s past pressing up against each moment. I like to really feel the weight of a character’s life. I re-read John Banville’s The Sea and W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz every year: they both always bring me to tears, inspire me to write, yet at the same time make me feel I should give up immediately.

I’ve also read some fantastic books by local writers: Gerald Murnane’s Barley Patch Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man, Jeff Sparrow’s Killing and Kalinda Ashton’s The Danger Game.

Steven Amsterdam, author of Things we Didn’t See Coming

sum When I wasn’t pretending to be making headway with Moby Dick, I really enjoyed ***Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives*** by David Eagleman. Speculative in the truest sense, it offers 40 dream-like alternatives for what will happen to us after this. Written in the present (and usually unforgivable) second-tense by a neuroscientist, the stories stuck with me because of their rare balance of dark irony and childlike loveliness. Pick up the book, try one, and see.

In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz, Díaz does what you can’t – he combines high global culture with scabby street talk and keeps you under his power. It’s the intersection of history, of minor American military occupations in the Caribbean and torturing dictators with sci-fi nerds and Grandpa Simpson that makes the Pulitzer Prize winner here. 

Steven Carroll, author of The Lost Life

lovesong I’ve just finished reading Alex Miller’s superb new novel Lovesong. The writing is classically poised, disarmingly simple and moving, drawing the reader into a highly atmospheric, complex world (the action alternating between poorer parts of Paris and Melbourne) of love, and, in a sense, fated lives.

Irene Nemirovsky’s All Our Worldly Goods can be read as a companion piece to the hugely successful Suite Francaise. It’s a tale of a small town, social ritual, love, class and the impact that two world wars and a depression have on it all. The ‘message in a bottle’ factor notwithstanding, Nemirovsky is a terrific writer.

Finally, some vague impulse took me back to Wordsworth’s autobiographical narrative poem ‘The Prelude’. The imagery, that sense of setting out on the journey of life, is as powerful as it ever was.

Craig Silvey, author of Jasper Jones

rust I think my standout pick for the year would have to be Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower. It’s a tight, energetic and profound collection of short stories that have rattled and excited me the same way Drown (Junot Diaz) and Jesus’ Son (Denis Johnson) did, and that’s the highest praise I can offer anybody. He has a terrific turn of phrase, lasting characters, and great pacing. He’s absolutely raised the bar for me. Can’t recommend it enough. It’s brilliant. Another notable mention would be American Rust by Phillip Meyer.

Brian Castro, author of The Bath Fugues

2666 At about 1000 pages, 2666, by Roberto Bolaño is, for me, a masterpiece of unrestrained narrative drive, a rhythm section wildly percussive and unstoppable; a melody-lead which seems to go nowhere until the very end, slowed by a miasma of intertextuality. But between the documentary and the fiction, the unique world of literature reconstructs itself in neo-baroque moments of astonishment and de-romanticised sensitivity worthy of the greatest writers you may never have read: José Lezama Lima, Alejo Carpentier, Guillermo Cabrera Infante. Bolaño knows instinctively how to mix violence with song and the archive with poetry. His political and historical instincts are not of the third world, but of the coming one. This is the writing of the future. Try reading it in Spanish.

M.J. Hyland, author of This Is How

our I’ve been listening to The New Yorker fiction podcasts, usually on Sunday morning and usually in bed and, after hearing Roger Angell reading John Updike’s brilliant short story, ‘Playing with Dynamite’, I read Updike’s My Father’s Tears & Other Stories . After hearing Mary Gaitskill reading Nabokov’s perfect short story, ‘Symbols and Signs’, I read The Collected Stories of Vladimir Nabokov. And likewise, after hearing T. Coraghessan Boyle reading Tobias Wolff’s classic short story, ‘Bullet in the Brain’, I read more of Tobias Wolff’s stories in Our Story Begins: New & Selected Stories. All three collections are superb.

Andrea Goldsmith, author of Reunion

olive The contemporary American novelist Elizabeth Strout is a masterful storyteller. Her three books: Amy and Isabelle, Abide with Me and the linked short stories, Olive Kitteridge tell sharp, sad, irresistible stories of ordinary people living in small-town America. All wonderful.

In his latest novel, Ransom, David Malouf takes a minor event from The Iliad and spins it into a tale of the limitations of honour and pride and the strength of a father’s love for his son. Ransom shows the fictional imagination at full strength. I loved it.

Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks is a big sprawling family saga in the nineteenth-century model. If you want to fall into the arms of a good book during the hot summer days, this novel is a beauty.

Kalinda Ashton, author of The Danger Game

killing Killing by Jeff Sparrow is a subtle but defiant reflection (and the sort of self-interrogation that comes from interviewing executioners in byway American towns) on state-sanctioned murder in the United States and a much-needed and courageous exposition of the hypocrisy and damage of the war in Iraq.

Little White Slips by Karen Hitchcock is a triumph of a short story collection … clever, relentless, empathic, bizarre and tender. Let’s hope this heralds a brief reprieve for short fiction, which has been snubbed by the publishing houses on the dubious but much-worshipped ‘wisdom of the market’. I know Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap was last year, but I feel it has to be acknowledged for producing an incredible turnaround in Australian fiction. In this gutsy, elegant mosaic of a book, contemporary Australia is observed with incisive, curious tenderness: the novel is part-condemnation, part-confrontation and wrought with ambiguity and the nostalgia of lost radicalism and fury. The politics of private life are ruthlessly exposed.

Cate Kennedy, author of The World Beneath

everything In a year of great reading, I feel obliged to name the two ‘favourite reads’ that have stayed with me most clearly. Wells Tower’s Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned – a wonderful collection of short stories from this young US author, brimming with a kind of quirky authority and vision. Just a pleasure to absorb this fresh, confident voice. And The Ghost Poetry Project by local boy Nathan Curnow – a striking collection of poems inspired by visiting ten ‘haunted’ sites around Australia. It’s not what you expect and it’s work that packs a sly sideways punch, most memorably when performed by the author. A startling find from an author I’ll be looking out for.

Anna Goldsworthy, author of Piano Lessons

too I’ve always found Alice Munro the most devastating of writers. She creates these understated textures and then fells you with a sentence. ***Too Much Happiness*** is a collection of transgressions, essentially. As I read these stories, I believed they were happening to me: for days afterwards I still felt violated. Not sure why I liked this, but I did.

Alex Miller, author of Lovesong

ghost My choice of a 2009 book will be Shirley Walker’s wonderful memoir The Ghost at the Wedding – an unqualified masterpiece. The most moving account of love and war I’ve ever read. And I’ve just read Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria for the second time. It is the great Australian novel. An astonishing epic act of the human imagination that warps the moral and linguistic face of the Australian novel in a completely new direction. She is without a doubt Australia’s most grandly inventive writer. The most important Australian novel in 100 years!

Peter Temple, author of Truth

fifty In a good year of reading, four books come to mind: Cate Kennedy’s remarkable debut The World Beneath; Adrian McKinty’s tight-as-a-fist Fifty Grand; Andrew Roberts’ masterly new history of World War II The Storm of War; and Vincent Bugliosi’s Four Days in November, surely the last words on J.F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Charlotte Wood, editor of the anthology Brothers and Sisters

anth The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker is an acute and hilarious study of procrastination, an entertaining lecture on poetic form and a subtle questioning of how we measure artistic success or failure – I loved it.

Patrick White Letters edited by David Marr: I love letters for their idiosyncratic intimacies. So astutely edited by Marr, these are full of tenderness, black wit, rage and insight, especially about the writing process. On irritably rewriting a short story: ‘so boring tucking into cold pudding’.

Garry Disher, author of Blood Moon

blind I’d like to start by asking why anyone would want to read Kathy Reichs or Patricia Cornwell ahead of Karin Slaughter – or at all. Meanwhile, thank God the UK police procedural is no longer cute and bucolic. This year’s standouts were Stuart MacBride’s Blind Eye, set in Glasgow, and Brian McGilloway’s Bleed a River Deep, set on the Irish borderlands.

Michael Williams, Head of Programming at the Wheeler Centre for Books Writing and Ideas


Eva Hornung, Cate Kennedy, MJ Hyland, Jeff Sparrow, Chloe Hooper, Guy Rundle: it’s been an extraordinary year or so for Australian writing from voices old and new. Sleepers Publishing launched its fiction list this year with an outstanding early run, following Age Book of the Year Things we Didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam and Brendan Gullifer’s very funny Sold with Kalinda Ashton’s powerful debut The Danger Game.

wolf From further afield, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall looked like an imposing behemoth best held over for the summer break, but revealed itself to be a compulsively readable romp and worthy of its accolades. And Truth, Peter Temple’s long-awaited follow-up to The Broken Shore, made my heart race, made me cry and made me see Melbourne in a new light. Hard to ask for more, really.

Mandy Brett, Senior Editor at Text Publishing

fire My favourite book of 2009 apart from Eva Hornung’s Dog Boy, which it would be poor form to mention because we published it? That would be Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. You don’t often get a historical blockbuster taking out the Booker Prize, although the late great Dorothy Dunnett was shortlisted once. But it really is one of life’s most indulgent pleasures: crack the spine on one of those big fat bastards and you’re off to the sixteenth century (or whenever) to hob-nob with richly clad figures of power, acumen and charisma. When Hilary Mantel’s driving, you also get massive serves of intelligence and sly humour, deployed with breathtaking technique.

And an honourable mention to The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson. Much more exciting, as everyone has said, than the first in the series; plus it’s got intrigue, mayhem, polymathic genius, lashings of Swedish sexual insouciance and a diminutive kick-arse heroine. Very chunky!

Ben Ball, Publisher at Penguin Books

ransom Putting aside books I’ve published this year, here’re the best things I’ve read. David Malouf’s Ransom is a little gem, a delicate and refined work of art about blood and grief.

Colm Tóibín is one of the finest writers of our time, and Brooklyn is as transporting and transforming as The Master, which is saying something.

Michael Cathcart’s The Water Dreamers is a brilliantly original and dashing work of Australian history, perhaps too dashing to have been praised in the way it ought to have been.

piano And Anna Goldsworthy’s Piano Lessons starts as a delightful, controlled character piece (Goldsworthy is generous enough in spirit to make a character of herself as well as her piano teacher) but goes on to introduce just enough bass notes to make it soar.

Finally, David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water can be mistaken for a trifle, but it can also be used as a tiny key to unlock the work of one of the great souls.

Sophie Cunningham, editor of Meanjin

city Here are my picks of the year. Dog Boy by Eva Hornung: Hornung’s immersion, and thus ours, in the world of a child and the pack of dogs it lives with is complete. Exhilarating.

The City and the City by China Mieville: Futuristic thriller noir (shades of 1984) combined with a new pared-back style from the super-smart Mieville. 

Diary of a Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee: It took me a couple of years to get to this but it was worth it. Some are frustrated by the split narratives but I found it totally engaging and profound.

Killing by Jeff Sparrow: Tough ideas that need thinking about held together by an exuberant gonzo style.

reunion Both Look Who’s Morphing by Tom Cho and Things We Didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam push the form of the short story into something else – the unsexy phrase ‘discontinuous narrative’ doesn’t quite cut it. Both are clever, incisive and thought provoking – and Cho is extremely funny.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is a smart, political, well-written thriller (first in a trilogy) with a terrific female lead. Addictive.

And Reunion by Andrea Goldsmith – a moving novel thats effect builds slowly and then continues to haunt long after you are done.

Louise Swinn, Editorial Director at Sleepers Publishing

truth The new Peter Temple, Truth was definitely worth the wait; as was the debut from Karen Hitchcock, Little White Slips, a dazzling collection of stories, complemented by Wells Tower’s whip-smart Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. The surprise was Madeleine St John’s The Women in Black, which was an absolute treat – evocative, delightful and sharp as lemon.

Aviva Tuffield, Fiction Acquisitions Editor at Scribe

brothers In my day job I spend a lot of time reading unbound books without proper covers (i.e. manuscripts) so I always make sure I’ve got a ‘finished book’ on the go, too. My favourites of 2009? Well, The Women in Black by Madeleine St John, laced with irony yet still exuding such warmth for its characters; a beautiful time capsule of 1950s Sydney.

Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott is also a novel with real heart: it questions how far we will go to do good, and whose interests we are really serving.

Brothers and Sisters, edited by Charlotte Wood, collects together some of my favourite writers, emerging and emerged, delivering polished gems of short stories.

And finally a novel that has more dazzling passages in it than any other I’ve read this year, despite some flaws, is Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs.

Angela Meyer, Acting Editor of Bookseller & Publisher and Literary Minded blogger.

morph Some of my favourite reads of 2009 display the variety of books that come under the banner of ‘Australian fiction’. Steven Amsterdam’s enlightening post-apocalyptic novel-of-stories Things We Didn’t See Coming and Tom Cho’s brilliant, funny and imaginative ride through different types of transformation Look Who’s Morphing were major highlights. I’ve revisited parts of both. Kalinda Ashton’s The Danger Game is a haunting insight into loss, modern city life, and having political and emotional courage – and I loved the challenging narrator, Patrick Oxtoby, in M.J. Hyland’s This Is How, as well as the book’s existential nature.

cave The best book I read from across the sea was Philipp Meyer’s American Rust, about mistakes and failures, and choices made and violence done on small and large scales, most often quietly. Highly memorable. Other books that definitely will stay with me from 2009 are Nick Cave’s disgustingly compelling The Death of Bunny Munro and Krissy Kneen’s raw and beautiful sexual memoir Affection.

Chris Feik, Publisher at Black Inc.

baader I knew nothing of Herta Muller before her Nobel Prize. Since then I’ve read a short novel by her called The Passport, which was superb – a distilled, almost expressionist evocation of a Romanian village from which everyone wants to escape. This year I found Stefan Aust’s The Baader-Meinhof Complex transfixing. Several books by Tony Judt, including Reappraisals were also great.

Tanya Swan, Key Accounts Manager at Random House Australia

housekeeper The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa is a moving and sparsely written story of friendship, trust and learning.

Small Wars by Sadie Jones follows the plight of Hal and Clara’s crumbling relationship against the backdrop of Britain’s ‘small war’ in Cyprus. This novel paints an emotionally powerful portrait of marriage and what happens when you are forced to question everything you believe in.

The cast of eclectic characters residing in Siddon Rock come to life in the mystical and engaging Australian debut novel of the same name – Siddon Rock by Glenda Guest.

Alexa Dretzke, Readings Hawthorn

portrait The Portrait by Willem Jan Otten is my number one fiction pick for 2009. It sounds ridiculous – a canvas that tells a tale – ahhh, but what a tale: splendid, moving, masterful and original. And my non-fiction pick is The Lost Mother by Anne Summers. Tracing a youthful painting of her mother, Summers eloquently and evocatively draws disparate threads to make a compelling story.

Danielle Mirabella, Readings Hawthorn

brooklyn For my picks of 2009, I’ve chosen the latest offerings from the masterful Irish literary writers Colm Tóibín and William Trevor. Both Tóibín’s Brooklyn and Trevor’s Love and Summer are elegantly written novels, subtle and restrained in style, yet utterly emotionally absorbing. Locally, Craig Silvey’s second published work of fiction, Jasper Jones, is a fantastic read. Winner of the 2009 Indie Award for Book of the Year as voted by Australian independent booksellers, Jasper Jones is a funny, quirky and uniquely Australian novel.

Pip Newling, Readings Port Melbourne

world The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy snuck up on me. Kennedy’s writing is so clear, so precise and reveals the chasms in relationships so assuredly, that before I realised it, I was seduced, beguiled and drawn to the last satisfying page, as though being led by the hand. A read that will stay in your imagination (and your heart) long after you have finished.

Michael Awosoga-Samuel, Readings Carlton

how The Portrait by Jan Willem Otten is the beautiful story of an artist narrated by his canvas – seamlessly written by a delicate author who uses his sentences sparingly and to great effect. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa is a genuine must-read. I was lost in a world of mathematical equations and it felt so good. I loved This Is How by M.J. Hyland: she is able to get so completely inside her subject, you are left astounded. The Book of Flights by J.M.G. Le Clezio is a book you can get completely lost in. The experience is akin to a dream-like state. Amazing and truly otherworldly.

Sally Madsen, Readings Carlton

dog This year I feel as if I’ve rediscovered the short story. I’ve just read two terrific collections. Actually I picked up each book thinking it was a novel. Olive Kitteridge by 2009 Pulitzer Prize winning (for this book) author, Elizabeth Strout, has its title character, Olive Kitteridge, crop up to a greater or sometimes an absolutely minimal extent in these stories set in a small seaside town in Maine. The same nameless narrator features in every one of Steven Amsterdam’s stories, set in some strange future dystopic world in Things We Didn’t See Coming. And I’m now dipping into the the diverse, sharp and funny collected stories of Amy Hempel in The Dog of the Marriage and have just read the first two beautiful stories in Alice Munro’s new collection Too Much Happiness. So when you haven’t the time or the inclination to go into the expansive world of the long novel, pick up a short story.

Emily Harms, Readings' Marketing Manager

rustica Movida Rustica is an absolutely stunning book and gift for those who love to cook to impress, as well as those who just love glancing over the beautiful photos! A must-have for all Melburnians! Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion has inspired me and I am reaping the rewards of my little family’s veggie patch at St Kilda Veg Out.

Too Much Happiness, Alice Munro’s latest book of short stories, is absolutely engrossing. Her writing is sublime. Bottersnikes and Other Lost Things by Juliet O’Conor is a gorgeous collection of Australian illustrated children’s books and includes works from some of Australia’s best known and loved writers and illustrators, including my personal old favourites May Gibbs and Ida Rentoul Outhwaite.

Mike Paterson, Readings Port Melbourne

lush Richard Price is crime fiction’s dirty realist. In Lush Life he makes the streets sing with his dialogue.

Jason Austin, Readings Carlton

My pick is This Is How by M.J. Hyland , a powerful piece of fiction. Her writing has a cold distance to it, her words so spare – yet you get under the skin and feel compassion for this man who has done something very wrong. Masterful.

Bruno Moro, Manager of Readings Malvern

homer My favourite was Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctrow.

Robbie Egan, Manager Readings Carlton

zeitoun My picks are Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, Father’s Day by Tony Birch, Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets by David Simon and Melbourne: The Making of an Eating and Drinking Capital by Michael Harden.

Kathy Kozlowski, Readings Carlton

I loved Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, the story of a young woman caught between the possibilities of her new life in 1950s Brooklyn, and her sense of belonging to Ireland and home. Colm Tóibín writes with such a balance of understatement and visual colour that it is almost our own imagination telling the story.

Chris Gordon, Events Coordinator at Readings

year_of_the_flood The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood combines a wonderful fairy tale morality with spine-tingling visions of the future with strong women leading the way … I could not put it down.

Michelle Calligaro, Editorial Assistant of Readings Monthly

censoring My favourites this year include: Shahriar Mandanipour’s difficult and darkly humourous Censoring: An Iranian Love Story that evokes the absurdity and fear of life under a merciless regime; Anne Michaels’ haunting The Winter Vault, in which a bright young engineer ably oversees the reconstruction of the temple at Abu Simbel, but struggles to reconstruct life with his wife after personal tragedy; Roberto Bolano’s, miserable priest whose deathbed confession reveals a life not well-lived in By Night in Chile; and After the Fire, A Still Small Voice, in which Evie Wyld beautifully captures the intensity and anger that flows through the lives of three generations of men, through war and peace, across Europe and Australia.

William Hueston Heyward, Readings St Kilda

lucky 2666 by Roberto Bolano absorbed me for 900 pages. It is huge, beautiful and dark. Filled with voices, characters and places, 2666 is alive.

The premise of David Eagleman’s Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives is simple and timeless: what happens when you die? Eagleman writes charmingly and with warmth; the product of which is this small, thoughtful and touching book.

A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal is incredible. Unlike writers such as Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel, Thomas Buergenthal waited until much later in life before writing an account of how he survived the Nazi concentration camps; the result is stunning. This book is incredible.