“I declare there is no enjoyment like reading. How much sooner one tires of anything than a book!” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Taking the time to sit back and reflect on 2015 is a daunting task! Not only have the sands of time disappeared quicker than ever, but the book industry appears to have had a fabulous year all around. I have spent the entire year neck-deep in books – personally and professionally – and I have often marveled at the abundance of talent and creativity within our reach. Only yesterday I was in a second-hand bookstore talking with a young boy (eleven years old) and his mother. I instantly recognized him as a kindred spirit as we swapped some of our favourite books. Kids these days – especially the advanced readers – have so much more age-appropriate stories to read than I did. When I was that age, young adult fiction was barely a ‘thing’ and so once I finished the entire kids section in our local library (before the end of primary school) I moved on to the adult section.
The young adult readership has grown exponentially this year and I really struggle to contain my excitement. It is such a diverse section in the bookshop; there is something for everyone! There are love stories galore, thrilling and captivating fantasy, thoroughly enjoyable fluff and some magnificent literature and non-fiction. Controversially, young adult authors are beginning to write with the older (adult) readership in mind, rather than the ‘actual’ teen audience but I personally see this as an advantage to both. Teen readers are being introduced to a more varied subject base and these fabulous books are gaining a broader readership because adults are able to connect with the same stories on different levels. There are some genuinely amazing stories out there that are being discovered by young and old – there is nothing better!
It isn’t just young adult fiction that has grown this year; all aspects of the market are exciting in their own way. The recognition of our homegrown talent has revealed some exceptional stories. The Australian awards – too many to list – have drawn attention to some of the best books I have read this year. There has been a real push to support our local authors and even though I don’t agree with some of the methods used to attract readers, I really believe their hearts were in the right place! The Australian publishing industry is comparatively small in relation to other international markets and our authors have incredible talent that would easily stand up against their counterparts abroad given the chance. Considering the international-to-local ratio of books in bookstores is 9:1, our Aussie authors don’t have much of a chance in our market, let alone breaking out overseas. I will continue to support them – not just because they’re Australian, but because I truly believe in the stories they share!
Now for the hard part, trying to pick out my favourite reads for the year. I have read (and reviewed) so many excellent books however there were some that stood out, all for completely different reasons!
Fiction: The Golden Age by Joan London
The Golden Age has been shortlisted for many awards this year and it even won a few! Tone is one of my favourite parts of a story and London’s sweet melancholy stole my heart! It is a stunning account of childhood, illness and of times gone by. I love how reflective her characters are and the way she evokes emotion, different time periods and the way her intricate characters come to life!
Young Adult: In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker (Aus) and The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness.
I am going to be greedy and choose two young adult books. Anything Patrick Ness writes will automatically go to the top of my favourites list. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is fabulous; it is an ode to teenagers everywhere – chosen or otherwise. Ness’ teasing tone is completely on point; his gentle (and obvious) mocking is never mean and he had me giggling out aloud so many times…
“There are two more dead indie kids… this is worse than when they were all dying beautifully of cancer,” said Henna.
HA! It gets me every.single.time!!
In the Skin of a Monster couldn’t be more different if it tried. Set in a small town after a high school shooting this book surprised me in so many ways. It is highly imaginative, captivating, horrifying, thought-provoking with a little bit of hope thrown in too. Don’t let the dark subject matter put you off – this book is incredible!
Non-Fiction: Island Home by Tim Winton
My complicated relationship with Tim Winton shifted from dislike to understanding with Island Home. It is the sweetest love letter from Winton to his childhood and to Australia, the place we call home. It is sentimental without being mushy and insightful without being over the top. It is nostalgic and lyrical and it spoke directly to the part of me that loves this country. Winton suddenly made a lot more sense and I have a whole new appreciation for him as a writer.
There are so many books I could list but I am going to stop there. For now, I am going to return to my reading chair and disappear into the next fictional world. Let us wave goodbye to 2015 and welcome in the New Year. I wish you all the very best and hope that the year to come is filled with love, joy and fabulous books!