BOOKS OF THE YEAR
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.