Our mid-year bookish awards for 2014
The Vladimir Nabokov award for an opening paragraph:
Family Life by Akhil Sharma
‘My father has a glum nature. He retired three years ago, and he doesn’t talk much. Left to himself, he can remain silent for days. When this happens, he begins brooding, he begins thinking strange thoughts. Recently he told me that I was selfish, that I had always been selfish, that when I was a baby I would start to cry as soon as he turned on the TV. I am forty and he is seventy-two. When he said this, I began tickling him. I was in my parents’ house in New Jersey, on a sofa in their living room. ‘Who’s the sad baby?’ I said. ‘Who’s the baby that cries all the time?’
The Gillian Flynn award for dark, complicated female characters:
The Fever by Megan Abbott
A mysterious illness begins affecting teenage girls at a high school and as hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerge. Gillian Flynn herself calls the book, ‘dark, disturbing, strangely beautiful and utterly unshakeable.’
The Sheryl Sandberg award for inspiring young women:
Conversations With Creative Women edited by Tess McCabe
Tess McCabe is the Director and Melbourne event coordinator of the Creative Women’s Circle, a community of women involved in creative industries sharing ideas. Her second volume of collected interviews with creative Australian women is insightful and inspiring, not to mention, gorgeously packaged.
The Jane Austen award for brilliant wit:
The Love Affairs of Nathanial P. by Adelle Waldman
Adelle Waldman’s debut novel – a work of intelligent, amusing social commentary – has earned her the the accolade of ‘this generation’s Jane Austen’. Our reviewer says, ‘Wry and elegant, Love Affairs positions itself within a small circle, but Waldman – like Austen – offers a social commentary that occupies a space much wider.’
The Art Spiegelman award for innovation in Australian comics:
Fluid Prejudice edited by Sam Wallman
Fluid Prejudice is an Australian history comic anthology including 50 contributors and 175 pages of comics and drawings focusing on marginalised and alternative visions of Australian history. It’s important, diverse and a great introduction to what’s happening in the Australian comic scene.
The Stephanie Alexander award for a must-have cookbook:
Community: Salad Recipes from Arthur Street Kitchen by Hetty McKinnon
Since its release in May, Hetty McKinnon’s collection of recipes gathered form her community kitchen in Surrey Hills, Sydney has quickly earned itself a reputation for being beautiful, accessible and delicious. The recipes are for big groups of people and most are best eaten cold, so this is a perfect book for planning dinner parties.
The Joan Didion award for an audacious essay collection:
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
The winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, The Empathy Exams has garnered much well-deserved praise since its release earlier this year, and won the hearts of several Readings staff. Mark Rubbo gave it a glowing recommendation. Bronte Coates said the book resonated with her in the same way as Didion had. Nina Kenwood described the essays as reflective, intelligent non-fiction. And Gerard Elson predicted that it will surely be one of the best books he’ll read all year. Obviously - compulsory reading.