Favourite Books: 2018

I suppose I should start with my usual caveat: This is not a list of books that came out in 2018 (though some of them did). It is my usual list of the books I really enjoyed reading this year. Some old, some new, some in-between.

1. You've Got to Read This Book by Jack Canfield and Gay Hendricks - quite an old one, and quite meta - a book about reading books. But it is filled with interesting people talking about the books that inspired them, and I just love this kind of thing. The stories about the books were fascinating, and I noted a number of books from it that I haven't read or sometimes haven't even heard of. If you are wanting to put together a reading list for 2019, this will really help you

2. Depends What You Mean by Extremist by John Safran - I love Safran's strange, meandering works of gonzo journalism, and this one was fantastic. It's one of those books where you want to put off doing other things so that you can get back to it. An examination of Australian extremists from all sides.

3. The Memoir Book by Patti Miller - this is actually the second time I have read it, that's how good it is. This time I came away convinced that I need to write another memoir. Patti's style is engaging and entertaining, and the whole message of the book is incredibly inspiring and empowering. One for the budding writer in your life.

4. Our Paris: Sketches from Memory by Edmund White and Hubert Sorin - I have had a very Parisian year this year, reading-wise. This book has been in my library for ages, and when my partner had run out of something to read on the train I gave him this. He couldn't get past the first couple of pages because they were too sad. But he picked it up again and loved it. When I took it back from him I decided to have a look through it, and then I had to finish it (it IS a very slim book) there and then. When White writes like this nobody can beat him. One that you can enjoy in one sitting. A lovely and personal look at Paris written just after White's French lover of many years had died.

5. Mr. Eternity by Roy Williams (with Elizabeth Meyers) - a lovely, lovely little look at a part of Sydney's metaphysical and artistic history. And one you can read - and enjoy - even if you are not a Sydneysider. Roy is writing from an evangelical Christian perspective, but it is a perfectly valid one in this case because Arthur Stace, the man who spent decades wandering around Sydney writing the word 'Eternity' on the footpath, was a devout Baptist and evangelist. Roy's deep understanding of this mindset shifts this book to a whole new level, making it a thoroughly unusual, and unexpectedly fascinating, thing. A story beautifully told, and a terrific piece of popular history.

6. Bluebottle by Belinda Castles - always a thrill to read a book in which Sydney is the star. And a surprisingly rare occurrence. Castles' totally bewitching story set on Sydney's Northern beaches is engaging right from the start, and is quite cinematic in its storytelling. A fantastic easy read with many secret depths. This is the second of Belinda's books that I have read and loved - she is a rare talent.

7. The Miracle Club by Mitch Horowitz - and even rarer, a book that treats the spiritual tradition of New Thought seriously! Mitch's book is a practical and white-knuckled path to self-improvement, and he pulls no punches. Horowitz has been a serious student of American spiritual traditions for many years, and is himself a publisher of material that falls into  the genre (for TarcherPerigee). This book encouraged me to take myself and my dreams much more seriously. AND it gave me a blueprint for working towards them realistically.

8. How to be Your Own Genie by Radleigh Valentine - ok, another self-help book, but this one was so completely charming that I just couldn't resist. Radleigh was Doreen Virtue's long-time collaborator, but after her life took an unexpected turn it seems that he has stepped into  the void at Hay House and is finding his own solo voice. And that voice is abundantly clear in this cosy, friendly book about leading a more magical life based on his own brand of hokey folk-wisdom. It's rare that I fall in love with an author reading their books, but I did this one.

9. Homing by Shevaun Cooley - I am always trying to read more poetry, and I love the work  that Giramondo does in publishing Australian poets and introducing them to whole new audiences. I think this was my favourite collection of the year, the poems sparse little meditations on nature and literature. I have found myself returning to it all year, and it is quite an inspiring read for any writer, encouraging slow reading and reflection.

10. Alice: The Wonderland Oracle by Lucy Cavendish (artwork by Jasmine Beckett-Griffith) - ok, not a book,  but still a literary object. I am going to stop making excuses for including a card deck every year. This one, clearly, is a literary curiosity, and lovely and uplifting deck for anyone interested in literature. Also a great thing for younger readers to use - Jasmine Beckett-Griffith's amazing pictures speak to anyone's imagination, and Lucy Cavendish's ideas, words and meditations always seem spot on. A lovely way to inspire you to start each day - just take one the cards from the deck and see what the Universe might be wanting to tell you.


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