Books of the Month

My reading for 2019

Finally, I got around to it. It has taken two months to tally up my 2019 reading. (I keep a record of each book I read.) 95 books.

I like to think about my favourite for the year, but choosing one, or even a couple, is always difficult. This year I have come up with a new category: The Books That Have Stayed With Me.

So, The Books That Have Stayed With Me from 2019, in no particular order, are:


  • Beloved ~ Toni Morrison    Her writing of slavery and the ongoing trauma is powerful, disturbing and so beautifully written.
  • Bel Canto and Commonwealth ~ both by Ann Patchett   I didn’t want Bel Canto to end, partly because I knew that no good could come to many of the characters, and also because I wanted her beautiful writing to go on. Who knew that a book about a hostage situation could be so wonderful! Her words dip and soar across my mind and the point of view shifts seamlessly between characters. I was resistant to getting onto the Ann Patchett Bandwagon, but I am onboard, and loving the ride!
  • Exit West ~ Moshin Hamid   Two things stay with me. Firstly the intriguing idea of the portals opening to transport people to other places on the globe. Secondly, the premise of dystopian novels is usually based on the idea that when society collapses so too will all decency and humanity. Hamid doesn’t base his novel on that idea. While there are many examples of inhumanity, he writes of ways in which a future in a broken society may be built on generosity and a mingling of cultures.
  • The confessions of the Fox ~ Jordy Rosenberg    This book defies description. The best I can do is say it is a wild romp through the transgender world of the 18th century.

Memoir? Biography? Philosophy?

  • The trip to Echo Spring ~ Olivia Laing    Laing follows in the footsteps of six great American writers ~ Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Berryman, Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway ~ who were all alcoholics. She looks at how their addiction influenced their writing. It doesn’t sound appealing, but if you know Laing’s work you will understand how attracted I was to her writing. (I loved To the River.) Like Morrison and Patchett, her writing moved easily between characters and across time, with jewels of writing. And I have a fascination for addiction.

“When the sun came out the cataracts of ice shone blue, sliver, grey, pewter and sandy brown, the colours entwined like marble.”

  • Insomniac City: New York, Oliver and Me ~ Bill Hayes    Another beautifully written book, which is as much about Hayes’ love for New York as his love for Oliver Sacks. The writing is an interweaving of stories of the chance encounters with New Yorkers ~ in taxis, subways, parks, bars ~ and his journal entries of his life with Sacks. He creates a very warm and charming view of people, an optimistic view. Sacks comes across as very sweet, innocent, shy, but with a ferocious brain.
  • The Art of Travel ~ Alain de Botton    The best way that I can encapsulate this book  is to say it is about artists, travel, art works, philosophy, writers, tourists all tied together by de Botton’s smooth writing and fascinating insights.
  • Dark Emu ~ Bruce Pascoe   Pascoe argues, quite successfully in my view, that Aboriginal people were not the hunter gatherers portrayed after white settlement, but instead had an extensive agricultural system, where they grew crops, stored grain, had aquaculture and managed game animals. And they did so in a way that was suited to the land, creating a fertile land. According to Pascoe, indigenous people were baking bread long before the agrarian revolution in the Middle East.

Graphic Novel

  • The Park Bench ~ Chaboute   What a sweet, moving novel this was, of a park bench and the people how interact on it and around it. It is the sort of story that graphic novels do so well.


Now it is over to you….any recommendations are most welcome. I do follow up on them. (For example, someone recommended Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy. The second book The Eye in the Door came so close to being on my list. Maybe it should be there, because I still remember how moved I was by the brutality inflicted onto conscientious  objectors in the First World War.) I couldn’t get some that were recommended.


On an artistic note, I have been working on some more embroideries, these ones based on the sea. Tomorrow I am going to write about them in my Letter from the Studio. Sign up for the newsletter if you would like to know more about my art.



By anne54

Botanic artist

25 replies on “My reading for 2019”

An interesting and diverse list Anne.
I read Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’ ages ago but it’s her ‘Song of Solomon’ I remember most as I studied it for some exam or other. Have you read that one?
I’m not usually a fan of Ann Patchett but ‘Bel Canto’ was recommended to me and I really enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll relent and try another one of hers again if and when I come across a copy.


I was resistant to Patchett too, maybe it was the hype around her, and I can be a bit snobby about authors. However, I do love her writing. If you enjoyed “Bel Canto” I would recommend reading another ~ although when you will find the time is another matter!
I think I read “Song of Solomon”, ages ago. I would like to reread more of her work. “Jazz” stands out in my mind. We lost a treasure when she died last year.


Beloved has stayed with me too, and Dark Emu is on my must read list. The parallels between the world of Beloved and the world of our First Peoples is far too similar. Like a lot of Australians, I knew nothing about the real history of our First Peoples until I read a database compiled by the Guardian – from the accounts of the first /settlers/. It’s a database of massacres. 😦


I intend to read more about pre-Invasion, especially, after the bushfires, the use of fire. I started Gammage’s book “The Greatest Estate” but put it down sometime and never got back to it. (You know how these things go!) So it is back on the list. are there any other books you can recommend?


Sacks comes across as such a sweet, innocent man; he had never popped a champagne bottle until he lived with Hayes! However, you also get a sense, from their conversations, of how his mind was always inquiring. I hope you like the book, although Sack’s illness and death was very moving.

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Oh I know about ever-expanding book lists! I hope you enjoy “Exit West”. I find dystopian future novels very disturbing, but have a morbid fascination for them. It was good to read that there could be some hope in a future that may not be so far away from us. (Doesn’t that sound gloomy!)

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I loved the Regeneration trilogy! So incredibly moving.
Have you read The children’s book by A. S Byatt? That’s one of the books that has stayed with me. So emotional and so many layers to it. Half of a yellow sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is another one, but I think the book that most got under my skin is Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Of the ones that you mentioned, I’ve only read Beloved but Exit West sounds like one that I’d like. I’ve added it to my wish list.


I haven’t read any of those, Carole, and have added them to my list. It is a long time since I read Byatt, so I am probably due. Ishiguro is someone who I have intended to read for a long time, but never quite got there. Your suggestion will be my spur!

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Your list has inspired me to go and read some more! I read ‘Commonwealth’ last year by Ann Patchett and absolutely loved it, after an unsure start, now I need to read more. Another favourite was ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover, an extraordinary autobiography of growing up in a large family with a religious fanatic father, and not only her eventual escape from the family, but the things she gained from growing up in an amazingly harsh environment. “The Essex Serpent’ I loved, wonderful character developments and I was never quite sure where it was going. Autobiographies of Jimmy Barnes and Roger Daltrey were good reads and very enlightening too, and both really well written. I struggled (and gave up on) Jeffery Smart’s autobiography, sluggish and poorly written. However, Dark Emu, which I gave to my daughter and son-in-law who both loved it is one I must borrow back! Your descriptions are inspiring, Toni Morrison is one writer who I must read. Thanks Anne!


I enjoyed ‘Educated’ too. It was a Book Club book. I mention that because I probably wouldn’t have picked it up on my own, but I am glad I read it. “The Essex Serpent” had gone on the list. Interesting to hear that Smart’s extraordinary talents don’t stretch to writing!

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95. Even my best efforts have never come close but I really have to up my reading game. I have to read Exit West… as an antidote to the proliferation of bleak dystopian genre. Halfway through Dark Emu, it has changed my life. From my February reading list I just posted, I’m really enjoying the Maverick Soul. Visual but beautifully written, such a pleasant surprise. Not the coffee table book I thought it might be.


Reading takes precedence over most things in my life, and I always have a couple of books on the go. I love a good murder mystery, and get sucked in until the end. I don’t remember a lot about the books I read!
“Dark emu” is a very powerful book, and made me look at Australian history is quite a different light. I have Tyson Yunkaporta’s ‘Sand Talk’ on my list to read, which should give another perspective.


I’ve read a few of those books, and loved them -so I think that perhaps you might like similar stuff as me. I’m going to give you some authors I love to look out for. DV Berkom (thrillers with really believable female protagonists, I particularly love the Leine Basso series); JJ Marsh (police procedurals, but more of a modern take on an Agatha Christie); Jane Davis (all of her novels are stand alone, studies of a situation and how it affects people around it, which I’d call modern, accessible literature – her first won a Costa prize); AC FLory who you already know about (Innerscape / The Vintage Egg very accessible modern fantasy / scifi); and Virginia King (another Aussie like you and AC – mystical mysteries – I do struggle to describe her work, but that’s my fault, not her’s)
Hope you find at least one to enjoy there.


Thanks Dawn. I have looked up a couple on the Library catalogue, and unfortunately they don’t have them. Most of my reading comes from the Library, so I will ask them to get them in.
I have just come across the Josephine Tey series by Nicola Upton. Upton takes the real author of Tey (of The Daughter of Time fame) who wrote in the 30s, and has made her a character in this series. They are a good read.

Liked by 1 person

Lovely list, Anne. Just wondering if you’ve come across ‘Goodreads’? That’s where I list what books I want to read and monitor what I’ve read, where you can leave ratings and comments. I’ve got ‘the art of travel’ waiting for me to read and from your description it sounds perfect for me!


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