25 Aussie novels in 25 years

Why do people nominate lists of “(insert a number) books you must read before you die”? Some would say they simply can’t help it.

According to Gia R. from Book Riot, we feel the need to share what we read because we want to share something of value. Not only does this help to strengthen our relationships with others, but it also allows us to exchange viewpoints.

In other words, sharing lets us learn not just other people’s views, but also where they come from in terms of their backgrounds, positions, values and visions. This, in turn, enables us to better appreciate what we read from different perspectives.

Meanwhile – and perhaps more importantly – sharing helps others understand us. In Gia R.’s words: “Sharing a book can be a lot easier than providing a personal detail or explicitly stating something about one’s self. It is a way to share a part of ourselves.”

So. what can we learn about ourselves as Australians by sharing our favourite Australian stories? What unique aspects of our society and culture do we want each other to know in order to promote tolerance, respect, and cohesion in diversity?

Take reviewer Melanie Kembrey, who recently shared via The Age what she considers as the “25 best Australian novels of the last 25 years”. Her words reenforce the aforementioned point of sharing enabling the better understanding of others as well as ourselves:

“There is no shortage of heartbreak, havoc or hilarity in Australian literature… Literature has always been a way to understand who we are as a nation, and the last quarter of a century in novels shows how bold, innovative, brave and important our storytellers are.”

Kembrey’s list is a reminder of Books That Made Us (2021), which, in its author Carl Reinecke’s words, “selected a sample of influential books, almost all novels” that are “stepping stones in the complex, crowded history of Australian literature and culture”.

Yet, as Kembrey’s list only extends to the past 25 years, it focuses on award-winning and commercially successful books, “from those that have broken sales records, courted controversy and challenged the status quo, to quiet achievers that have slipped off our reading lists”.

Among the listed 25 are many household names, such as Peter Carey, Geraldine Brooks, Kate Grenville, Markus Zusak, Tim Winton, Steve Toltz, Craig Silvey, Richard Flanagan, Liane Moriarty, Charlotte Wood, Heather Rose, and Trent Dalton.

The list also includes many well-known authors of diverse backgrounds, such as Alexis Wright, Christos Tsiolkas, Kim Scott, Michelle de Kretser, Melissa Lucashenko, Tara June Winch, and Anita Heiss.

Finally, the list features some delightful classics, such as books by Madeleine St John, Lily Brett, Thea Astley, Sonya Hartnett, Nikki Gemmell, and Shirley Hazzard.

As we keep on adding the latest titles to our TBR pile, why not take a trip down the memory lane to (re)read some of these great books from our collective past? We might be surprised how each other’s views and viewpoints about them have changed.

Note: This article was originally published under the title “Looking back at 25” by Ranges Trader Star Mail, June 28, 2022, P.24.

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