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Natalie’s Top Reads of 2017

In 2017 I continued with my resolution to read more than the previous year. My reading habits in 2017 were no doubt informed by the fact that I ended a long-term relationship. This meant I found myself drawn to books that were about bettering yourself as well as topics like: sex, human psychology, relationships and dating, to name a few. The break-up also meant that I had a lot more free time than previously. At a recent author talk, Helen Garner said that she had been single for the past two decades and that this really helped free up her time and energy to devote to writing and other pursuits. I wholeheartedly agree with her.

The following is a list of books that I felt warrant a mention as being the best that I had read from the past year. They encapsulate a number of different genres, topics and authors. They are all ones that are noteworthy because in my opinion they were excellent, clever and made me laugh, cry or feel a mix of different emotions (except for anger, because that would be reserved for a list of books that were impossible to finish or the ones that made you want to toss them across the room or into a skip. But that’s a discussion for another time.)

So in celebration of all of the good stuff from 2017 and as Molly Meldrum would say, “Do yourself a favour!”

– NON-FICTION –

1. Dr Joseph Jebelli – In Pursuit of Memory – The Fight Against Alzheimer’s

I could relate to Dr Jebelli’s book because my grandfather also suffered from Alzheimer’s disease prior to his passing. This volume was a fabulous one that struck the right balance between offering up the science, break-throughs and set-backs about this devastating illness, as well as some personal stories about those touched by it.

 

2. F*cked – Being Sexually Explorative & Self-Confident In A World That’s Screwed by Corinne Fisher & Krystyna Hutchinson

This book is useful and practical, covering so many topics relating to sex and relationships. It doesn’t pander or speak down to the reader, it just presents things in a no-nonsense way from the perspectives of two young, American women. I’d love there to be subsequent volumes that followed on with other voices on these topics but for the moment, this is a wonderful starting point.

 

3. The Museum Of Broken Relationships – Around the World in 100 (Extra)Ordinary Break-Ups by Olinka Vistica & Drazen Grubisic

If you are fascinated by people, you’ll be intrigued by this book. It’s interesting to see individuals from all around the world reveal their inner-most thoughts about their relationships (not all of which were romantic) and how they failed over time. It’s something that manages to be cathartic, relatable, hopeful, and brutally honest in equal measure.

 

4. Depends What You Mean By Extremist by John Safran

John Safran is a loveable rogue who always manages to approach things from an interesting angle. In this book he hangs out with Australians from extremist groups (think White nationalists, Christian fundamentalists, etc.) Look out for the chapters where he predicts Pauline Hanson’s burqa stunt and the Trump presidency. Enough said.

 

5. Stranger Thingies by John Birmingham

This collection of essays by writer and columnist, John Birmingham is funny and grapples with a range of different topics. There’s the famous “He Died with a Felafel in His Hand” through to his thoughts on 90s revivals, the dad body, potato scallops and Trump, as well as countless other things. There’s a little something for everyone here.

 

6. The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy

This is a lovingly-constructed memoir of a life imploding by a staff writer from the New Yorker magazine. It’s an important reminder that we should never take things for granted.

 

– MEMOIR –

1. Detours by Tim Rogers 

I’ve known from his concerts with You Am I and solo that Messer Rogers has the gift of the gab. I didn’t realise that he’s also a powerful literary force. The prose in his memoir Detours is stunning and he certainly knows how to spin a yarn or ten.

 

2. The Good Girl Stripped Bare by Tracey Spicer

I think I developed a girl crush on Tracey Spicer after reading her memoir. This story is really well-told and inspiring, and it makes me want to sit down and share a coffee with this TV journalist that I previously knew nothing about.

 

3. Hunger – A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay’s Hunger is a devastating book in which she digs deep and describes her brutal gang rape as a tween and the impact that this had on her relationship with her body. It is impossible to read her story and not bawl yourself.

 

4. Set The Boy Free by Johnny Marr

I knew a little about Johnny Marr’s contribution to The Smiths but Set The Boy Free reveals the other stuff that this charming man has done. It turns out quite a lot and he is certainly someone that has some intriguing anecdotes up his sleeves.

 

– FICTION –

1. Calling Major Tom by David M. Barnett

This novel is a funny story about a reclusive astronaut, which threads in some jokes and other asides about the late, great David Bowie. This was such a fun and clever book.

 

2. Force Of Nature by Jane Harper

Force of Nature had me gripped from the start and makes me want to go back and read The Dry. A group of colleagues go bush-walking on a team-bonding experience but one goes missing in a forest. All alone, just like that song by The Cure. The result is one that keeps you guessing until the bitter end.

 

3. The Mummy Bloggers by Holly Wainwright

This novel us relevant and on-topic (including nods towards Belle Gibson and the extremes that Instagram models go to). It also reminded me of Ben Elton’s takes on Big Brother and the Idol phenomenon (in Dead Famous and Chart Throb), because Wainwright does a fabulous job skewering Mummy Bloggers and the extreme lengths they will go to in their day-to-day in order to win a cash prize and “influence.” Scarily funny.

 

4. A Letter From Italy by Pamela Hart

A novel with an interesting and inspiring female protagonist who works as a reporter during the First World War. This was a delightful romance that you could really get lost in.

 

5. Her Mother’s Secret by Natasha Lester

This slice of romantic fiction also stars a strong female heroine who dreams of making her own cosmetics in a place that is undeniably a man’s world, New York City during the roaring twenties. What follows is a story brimming with as many layers as the war paint itself.

 

6. The Making of Christina by Meredith Jaffe

This novel tackles some difficult subject matter but Jaffe does this all with a deft hand. She reveals a harrowing tale about a mother’s relationship with her daughter and how it changes over time.

 

– PICTURE BOOKS –

1. Koala Bare by Jackie French

This book has the makings of being a classic and beloved children’s book just like French’s famous story, Diary of a Wombat. Koala Bare is a beautifully-written and illustrated book that uses a great dash of humour to introduce us all to Australia’s beloved koala, an animal that is not a bear and proud of it!

 

 

2. Where’s Wally Destination Everywhere by Martin Handford

The Where’s Wally? series turns 30 this year and Handford revisits some classic Wally scenes and makes some changes to where that elusive, bespectacled traveller and his friends are hiding. This book is still lots of fun decades on, it helps you practice your observation skills, and Handford’s complex and detailed illustrations still continue to charm and allure.

Natalie's Top Reads of 2017

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