The Book Pile – 2018

Globally and personally 2018 was a difficult year, so I built a wall of books and retreated. Here are some of the books I read, and some that I abandoned. This year I managed to get the balance between Australian and international books right, I think.

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Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend But The Mountains is lament and testimony, poetry and philosophy, reportage and heartbreak, sternly observed. The Australian government’s inhuman policy of incarcerating asylum seekers in Manus island and Nauru has resulted in this – such a tough read that I broke down several times and picked myself up and read some more. Simultaneously ashamed to be Australian and grateful for the gift of this book, I hope to be able to shake Behrouz’s hand one day when he is a free man.

Melissa Lucashenko’s Too Much Lip is brilliant. I loved the satirical, fast-talking, flawed and funny Kerry Salter (‘skinniest dark girl on a shiny new softail’) whose return to her hometown on a stolen Harley is bound to cause some strife. The cast of characters include talking crows and spooky lakes and people who endure, despite dispossession, abuse and colonisation.

Alice Nelson’s The Children’s House drew me into the power of language and story so quickly that I gave myself over to this tale of dispossession of another kind, completely. Never losing sight of white privilege, Alice Nelson tells the story of a Rwandan refugee’s mute struggles in New York, and a wealthy Jewish couple’s attempts to recover their own histories as they try to be everything to everyone.

Amanda Curtin’s beautifully reconstructed life of artist Kate O’Connor is that rare thing – the life of an artist rendered in language so visual and visceral, I was able to ‘see’ that life unfold as I read. Kathleen O’Connor of Paris introduced me to the famous daughter of an iconic West Australian (C.Y.O’Connor), about whom I knew very little. But more than that, it reminded me that intuition, chance, conversations, friendship and loss may choose the people and places we write about.

2018 was also the year where friends bought and recommended books to me which resulted in a different sort of reading. Han Kang’s The White Book is extraordinary and defies description and I loved it. Kanishk Tharoor’s book of short stories, Swimmer Among the Stars is lyrical, acutely observed and sumptuous. I have written reviews of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and The Blind Man’s Garden here.

And finally there were books I picked up because I had read other books by these writers, or read reviews and loved them. Sadly, none of these lived up to their earlier promise. I abandoned them after 50 pages.

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And here are the books I will read in January, in preparation for the Perth Writers Festival 2019.

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It was such a joy to read the debut novels of Michelle Johnston, Louise Allan and Susan Midalia, and Julie Watts’ award winning book of poetry, Legacy. The West Australian publishing industry is thriving and I’m so glad.

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14 responses to “The Book Pile – 2018

  1. Dear Rashida, while I was saddened to hear that this year has been a less than kind one for you, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your book recommendations. Thank-you! And may 2019 be a much kinder and easier year for you. x

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  2. Thank you Marlish. And you’re welcome.

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  3. Christina Marigold Houen

    A fascinating list, Rashida. I can’t remember all the books I’ve read this year! But the ones that stood out for me are No Friend but the Mountains, Amos Oz’s memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness (a masterpiece), and the most recent, compelling and confronting — My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent. I hope 2019 is a good year for you.

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    • I’m sure I’ve missed some Christina! And I’m looking forward to Amos Oz after I finish the three I must read in January. I will check out Gabriel Tallent, thanks for the recommendation. I look forward to seeing you at KSP next year.

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  4. Thank you for your kind words, dear Rashida. I am sending you every wish for a happier 2019, and I am grateful to know you will be part of mine. x

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  5. Books are such a comfort and have kept me buoyant when the real world gets too hard, too.

    Thank you for reading my book! Bring on 2019—may it bring many rewards and delights. 😊

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  6. I’m not sure I have time at the moment to read these recommendations as i have been trying to devour all the books that I can find written by and about KSP but will try to read them once i get a chance. I always enjoy reading your reviews and I know that the books you recommend won’t disappoint. Hope that 2019 is a much brighter and kinder year for you. Love Louise

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  7. Dear Rashida, I’m sorry the year has been a difficult one for you. Here’s wishing you a happier, healthier and restorative year in 2019. Thanks for taking the time to share your reading recommendations – there are several here that I am keen to explore. And you are in for a treat with ‘The Fireflies of Autumn’. It’s one of the books mentioned in my Reading Bingo post: https://angelasavage.wordpress.com/2018/12/28/reading-bingo-2018/

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    • Thank you dear Angela. I’ve started reading Fireflies already and I can’t put it down. I’m fortunate to be interviewing him and Annamaria for the Perth Festival. There were so many books I forgot to mention because I’ve loaned them out. Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, which I came late to, was stunning in every way and was among the top books I read. I shall now head over to check out your list. And all the best to you and yours for the coming year.

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  8. Thank you Rashida. My TBR list is still growing! I hope I live long enough to make some sort of dent in it.
    May 2019 be a good year for you – and for all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Eleanor, books are there to be looked at as well as to be read, in my humble opinion. I always have ‘too many books,’ and they bring me much joy – akin to planting trees one will not live to see mature, I think. The happiness is in the act of planting trees/accumulating books. Happy New Year to you and yours.

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