BOOKS OF THE YEAR

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

Wel­come to our an­nual Books of the Year wrap-up, in which writ­ers and crit­ics name the books they most en­joyed in the past 12 months. As usual, the only rule is the book has to have been read this year. Nat­u­rally a lot of peo­ple choose 2016 books, which is help­ful a week be­fore Christ­mas, but I en­joy the sur­prises, too, such as He­len Garner’s guilty se­cret this time around. I also ex­pect the un­ex­pected — if that doesn’t sound too Don­ald Rums­fel­dian — from cer­tain peo­ple. Sonya Hart­nett, for ex­am­ple, ha­bit­u­ally rec­om­mends a book I’ve never heard of, and im­me­di­ately want to read. She doesn’t dis­ap­point this year.

The most men­tioned book, here and over­seas, is Sec­ond­hand Time: The Last of the Sovi­ets, by 2015 No­bel lau­re­ate Svet­lana Alex­ievich. Such a har­row­ing book per­haps chal­lenges the phrase I used at the out­set — “most en­joyed” — but clearly this is a work of land­mark and last­ing im­por­tance.

Top of my hol­i­day read­ing list is Ge­or­gia Blain’s Between a Wolf and a Dog. Blain died last week, aged 51. Her mother, au­thor and broad­caster Anne Deve­son, died a few days later, aged 86. It’s been one of those years. In­deed, the day af­ter I’d writ­ten the pre­vi­ous sen­tence, I awoke to an email telling me the great Aus­tralian writer Shirley Haz­zard had died, aged 85. With this on­go­ing sad­ness in mind, I want to note my deep sym­pa­thy for our po­etry edi­tor, Jaya Sav­ige, who has writ­ten a per­sonal books-of-the-year con­tri­bu­tion on page 22.

Fi­nally, I re­ceived so many con­tri­bu­tions to this list — and thanks to all — that I de­cided to run it over two weeks, in rough odds and evens al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der. So look out for more books of the year on Christ­mas Eve, just in case you have a present or two still to buy.

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