Reflections on a year of reading (@EasternRegional)

A friend recently asked how many books I read per year. It’s hard to explain, as sometimes I’m lucky to read one or two books in a week, while at other times I can be too busy to read anything at all.

One thing is clear: Thanks to this “Passion for Prose” column, I’ve been reading more Australian books than ever before. It’s great to have this tiny spot to share my love for everything about reading and writing.

Having studied journalism in the 1990s, writing for our community via a distinguished local newspaper means a lot to me. Particularly because I’ve been living in and working for this community for more than two decades.

Having an excellent local library makes a huge difference as well. Throughout the years, I have suggested many books for purchase and borrowed even more fiction and non-fiction titles from Eastern Regional Libraries. Belgrave Library feels like a second home to me.

So, reflecting on a year of reviewing Australian books and literary events, I want to thank all our readers across the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges. Anyone finds joy discovering a new book or author as a result of my recommendation – you’ll be making my day.

Below are my Top Five Books, out of the 31 Australian titles I’ve reviewed since February 23, 2021. These were published within the past five years:

#1: The Rich Man’s House by Andrew McGahan (Allen & Unwin, September 2019) – A 600-page monster that’s absolutely unputdownable, featuring a fictional yet unearthly mountain towering over the freezing Antarctic waters south of Tasmania. The only man who’s ever conquered it now feels – and fears – the ferocious, omnipresent and forever-patient forces of Mother Nature, which can be ultimately and overwhelmingly terrifying..

#2: The Arsonist: A Mind on Fire by Chloe Hooper (Penguin Australia, October 2018) – A powerful account of the fires on the outskirts of Churchill in Central Gippsland on February 7, 2009, which killed 11 people and torched 82,000 acres of land. It focuses on the hunt, arrest, trial and conviction of the mentally disturbed man who lit two fires and then sat on the roof of his house to watch the inferno.

#3: The Beijing Bureau: 25 Australian Correspondents Reporting China’s Rise edited by Trevor Watson and Melissa Roberts (Hardie Grant Publishing, April 2021) – An essential and entertaining read for all who care about Australia-China relations, detailing the history of Australian journalism in China. It raises our awareness of that country, the lives of its people, its government and culture, and what its ambition means to Australia and the world.

#4: Roots: Home is Who We Are: Voices from the SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition (Hardie Grant Publishing, July 2021) – A collection of 30 short memoirs about growing up in diverse Australia, selected from more than 2,000 entries from across the country. It’s a snapshot of contemporary Australia, with authors from all walks of life defying how others define them while seeking an honest way to define themselves.

#5: Soon by Lois Murphy (Transit Lounge, October 2017) – Winner of the 2017 Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel, suitable for those enjoying classic Australian tales such as Picnic at the Hanging Rock and Wolf Creek. Inspired by the demise of Wittenoom in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, the story illustrates the slow death of a remote tiny town as a result of a mysterious, malicious mist.

Once again, thank you all for reading my column. I’ll return in January 2022 to review and recommend more Australian books and literary events for you.

Note: This article was originally published under the title “Reflections on a year of reading with the top five books” by Ranges Trader Star Mail, December 21, 2021, P.17.

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