My five favourite reads of 2020
Our digital marketing manager Lian Hingee shares five of her favourite reads from this past year, including gorgeously written fantasy and spine-melting true crime.
Piranesi by Susannah Clarke
I’d been wallowing in a months-long reading rut when I was offered a copy of Susanna Clarke’s long-awaited second novel for review. I’d loved her multi-award winning first book, but it was a dense historical epic and I was a bit worried that in my current state that I’d find her second (which was 15 years in the writing) impenetrable. I needn’t have worried: Piranesi had everything that was so wonderful about Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – breathtakingly good world-building, well rounded characters, gorgeous prose, a fascinating premise – condensed into a meagre 270-odd pages. At once contained (almost the entire book takes place within the walls of a mysterious house) and wide-reaching (the house is infinite) this is a story about identity, memory, ego, and the search for meaning. It was exactly what I needed.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
I couldn’t believe my luck when I managed to get my mitts on an early copy of Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea, another long-awaited second novel. The Night Circus is one of those books I revisit every couple of years, and it never fails to enchant me (why you no film adaptation, Hollywood?) so my anticipation was through the roof for her second. This story about a young man who discovers a vast subterranean library combines fairytales, fables, memories and journal entries in an ambitious and absorbing fantasy adventure. An ode to reading, to stories, to books, to memory, to secrets, missed opportunities, second chances, fate, love, and hope, The Starless Sea is a beautiful tale that rewards patient readers with a magical world from which they’ll emerge, blinking, into the light.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
I was a bit late to the party with I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and I picked just the worst time to read a book about a home-invading serial-rapist-turned-murderer – during Melbourne’s lockdown, with an 8pm curfew, and a baby at home. Despite the occasional nightmare, I found this an engaging book that balances a knife-edge between intensely thrilling and deeply personal. McNamara’s incredible tenacity and attention to detail are revealed on every page, alongside her empathy for the victims and her determination that the Golden State Killer be brought to justice. She was a remarkable person, and a vivid and personable writer.
Go to Sleep (I Miss You) by Lucy Knisley
I had a baby in 2019, and immediately lost any ability to enjoy the kind of sustained reading I’d always taken for granted before. I ended up spending most of my time googling things like ‘how to make baby fart?’ and ‘when baby sleep through night?’ and reading all the wildly conflicting advice the internet has to offer. At some point in my travels, I stumbled across Lucy Knisley’s wonderful cartoons about early parenthood, and raced right out (a couple of months later) to buy her book Go to Sleep (I Miss You) which seems to capture the experience of being a parent better than anything else I’ve ever seen. Knisley’s simple line drawings, warm humour, and sympathetic voice make her the understanding Mum-friend everyone should have.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
2020 has been a horrible year, and to counterbalance it I’ve been reading a lot of feel-good fiction. Richard Osman’s debut novel (hopefully the first in a lengthy series) absolutely fits the bill. Featuring a cast of brilliant retirees, a couple of loathsome murder victims, a very charming pair of bumbling police detectives, and a good twisty mystery, The Thursday Murder Club is the crime fiction equivalent of a cup of tea and a (gluten free) lemon drizzle cake. It’s got a number of wonderful narrative voices, some absolutely unforgettable characters, and a great big heart.