Amazing, another year come, and going. And a chance to pick the best of 2019 (as the well-read gleebooks staff have enthusiastically done in this edition), and to look at what fabulous reading treats await all of us for Christmas, and the summer holidays. As I’ve said elsewhere, Robert MacFarlane’s Underland is my book of the year, but if, like me, you were late discovering how brilliant the 2018 Booker Prize winner, Anna Burns’ Milkman is, please read it. It’s as stunningly original as it is powerful.
As usual, our Summer Reading Guide has lots of enticing books—here are a few of my personal favourites (some read, some to come):
Australian Fiction sees Charlotte Wood return with The Weekend (a story of what really counts, in the end, rich in insight and dark humour). Christos Tsiolkas with Damascus (an epic exploration of the birth of the Christian Church); and Heather Rose with Bruny (a clever, confronting take about a possible new world order, set around and on Bruny Island in Tasmania).
On the international fiction front, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge returns to negotiate her later life in Olive, Again—what a treat, and Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House is (certainly amongst the staff here at Gleebooks) already the best loved book of the year—from a storyteller at the top of her game.
There’s a heap of good crime fiction to take to the beach this Xmas, but I’m highlighting a couple of great new Australian offerings—two small town Oz procedurals, Peace from Gary Disher and Chris Hammer’s Silver, and Christian White’s eerie island town in dead of winter thriller, The Wife and the Widow; plus a big bonus (I was sure he was done with writing) from the incomparable John Le Carré, Agent Running in the Field.
On the nonfiction to read list are: The Anarchy, William Dalrymple’s forensic dig into the rise and fall of the East India Company—perhaps the first ‘too big to fail’ company in history. Judith Hoare’s The Woman Who Cracked The Anxiety Code—we just held a very well attended launch of this long overdue and revelatory biography of Claire Weekes, the unconventional and intrepid doctor whose theories and best-selling books in the fifties and sixties revolutionised ideas about, and responses to, anxiety and nervous illness.
Of course Bill Bryson’s The Body, a Guide for Occupants —maybe it’s a bit late to be paying attention to my ageing carcass, but no one does this kind of history better. And lastly I look forward to dipping into Tim Flannery’s Life: Selected Writings. This is the definitive collection of essays, speeches, occasional speeches, reviews—I always recommend Tim as one of the finest reviewers of scientific and climate history of the last twenty years.