Too many Best Ofs cluttering your inbox? We know, we know: they’re everywhere. How is one supposed to get to one’s actual work for all the emails telling one what to read and which are the best books of the year and yes, one does need to forward this link to one’s acquaintances on facebook and have an online discussion about book #5 because one’s book club loved it, didn’t they and one MUST go and look up book #14 to see if it will deliver in time for Christmas... Oh dear, it happened again, didn’t it...
Well, delete all the other Best Ofs, happy in the knowledge that this blog is the only thing you need to look at to sort yourself out for Christmas. And yes, you can send it to Facebook and Twitter – just look under the blog title. See, all sorted.
No one expects you to work in December, so go and get a cold drink from the work fridge, sit back and have a look at what your loyal Texters have been reading and enjoying this year.
Jane Finemore, Publicity Manager
The novel I read this year and will never forget is Michael Sala’s The Restorer. Set in Newcastle against the seismic global backdrop of 1989, it tells the story of a family in the grip of powerful forces that will break over them like surf over the seawall. Anaesthesia by Kate Cole-Adams is an astonishing work of memoir and science about a fascinating enigma at the heart of modern medicine. For a riveting insight into the dangerous power of social media I highly recommend The Woman Who Fooled the World, Belle Gibson’s Cancer Con, by Beau Donnelly and Nick Toscano. Jock Serong’s On the Java Ridge is a superbly written, heart-stopping thriller about the moral dilemmas posed – and their ramifications – when a boatload of refugees sinks in sight of a group of Australian surfers on board a converted Indonesian fishing boat, two days before a federal election. And who could go past the covetable new hardback collections of Helen Garner’s short works, the impressively huge True Stories and the slender, elegant Stories? Together they present a wise, funny and clear-eyed encyclopaedia of human emotions by a master storyteller.
Kirsty Wilson, Sales & Marketing Director
I became a parent this year, and really found the plot. Which is to say I took the slow-paced, thought-provoking and beautiful Booker Prize-winner Lincoln in the Bardo into hospital with me, bookmarked at page 60, and never picked it up again. But throughout the busy year I did manage to gobble up books with heaps of plot: Mark Smith’s gripping survival story for readers 15-85, Wilder Country; Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s heartwarming WWII adventure The War I Finally Won; Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist’s hugely entertaining Camino novel Two Steps Forward; Jock Serong’s political thriller about asylum seekers and Australian politics, On the Java Ridge; and Paula Weston’s crackling dystopian action novel The Undercurrent. Now I’m looking forward to getting into the new Garry Disher crime novel Under the Cold Bright Lights. Long live the plot!
Alice Lewinsky, Senior Publicist
Discovering the life and work of the singular Sandra Pankhurst has undoubtedly been the highlight of my year. Sarah Krasnostein’s engrossing and heartfelt biography The Trauma Cleaner is truly one of the most original works of non fiction published this year (and I’m allowed say that because I’m her publicist, right?). Written with deep sensitivity and gentle humour it might not be the obvious Christmas pick but it’s well worth taking the gamble! It was also an absolute pleasure to revisit Robin Klein’s Came Back to Show You I Could Fly via our Classics series – safe to say I still love that book just as much as I did when I first read it some fifteen years ago. And Bernadette Brennan’s immaculate biography of Helen Garner, A Writing Life, is a meticulously researched, delightfully insightful and highly readable study of the life and work of one Australia’s most iconic writers. I also adored Libby Angel’s vibrant debut novel, The Trapeze Act, and was positively blown away by the visceral power of Moira Burke’s Losing It. From outside the Text family: Naomi Alderman’s The Power is an immersive page-turner that had me hooked, while every sentence of Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race felt like essential reading.
Danielle Bagnato, Marketing Assistant
I’m Supposed to Protect You From All This by Nadja Spiegelman, Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down and Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney are three books that hit very close to home for me. They’re all very different: I’m Supposed to Protect You From All This is a memoir about the author and the relationships between mothers and daughters in her family, and the other two are fiction, but all three follow the lives of women in their twenties as they navigate relationships, work and their identities. These books are for fans of Girls and Broad City, and my dog-eared copies are well-loved! The Trap is another book I loved – a psychological thriller about a woman who sees her sister’s murderer presenting the news on TV and puts together a plan to trap him. It made me super antsy, but in the best possible way. I thought I’d guessed the twist halfway in, but I was wrong! The Bright Hour is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. It’s a memoir by Nina Riggs written after her breast cancer diagnosis, reflecting on life, death, family and love. It sounds like a sad read but it’s very uplifting and the writing is incredible. Kids Like Us is one of the loveliest YA books out there. Martin is a teenager on the autism spectrum and when he spends the summer in France with his mother, he mistakes a girl in his class for a character in his favourite novel. It’s a very sweet and realistic representation of autism, and such a beautiful story!
Lucy Ballantyne, Publicist
2017 kicked off for me with The Destruction of Hillary Clinton by Susan Bordo. Bordo is an icon, and this play-by-play of the fall of Hillary is an insightful salve against the nightmare of the Trump presidency. I loved Losing It by Moira Burke – an extraordinary novel about teenage Josie and her ride to self-realisation in 1980s suburban Melbourne. Josie’s story is told entirely as her inner monologue, and its intensity and immediacy rips your heart open. Krissy Kneen continues to be one of Australia’s most inventive and thought-provoking writers, and her novel in five parts An Uncertain Grace is an utterly compelling bit of speculative fiction about the future of sex, gender and desire. Sarah Sentilles’ Draw Your Weapons is a Maggie Nelson-esque collage that wrestles with profound questions about art, war, and pacifism. It almost reads like a prayer – an urgent and precious meditation on our violent era. Text unearthed a number of phenomenal short story collections this year, and Bird Country by Claire Aman is a favourite. Claire’s stories are set in and around regional New South Wales, and are tinged with a melancholy that is deeply moving.
It was a total privilege to hear Durga Chew-Bose read at the Sydney Writers Festival this year – her essay collection Too Much and Not the Mood is a lush, enlivening piece of writing that I'll be giving to all the women in my life this Christmas. I also loved Briohny Doyle’s Adult Fantasy, an incredibly astute and nuanced book about growing up that assuaged all sorts of quarter-life-crisis anxieties.
Khadija Caffoor, Rights & Export Coordinator
The Quiet Earth by Craig Harrison is one of the creepiest, most uncomfortable books I’ve ever read – and that ending! Draw Your Weapons by Sarah Sentilles is the book I’ve been forcing on my friends all year. It made me think about the world, and life, in a completely new way. I didn’t expect to love Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, but I was enchanted by it. For its old-fashioned, feel-good charm, All in the Blue Unclouded Weather by Robin Klein is high on my list. And (is this cheating? I read it this year!) my favourite-of-next-year-in-advance is Robbie Arnott’s startling and dazzling debut, Flames. Look out for it in May!
W. H. Chong, Design Director
Totally Hot and Cool: Helen Garner’s Stories (orange jacket) and True Stories (ultramarine jacket). Someone said to me there will be no better book of writing published this year than Garner’s collected short non-fiction. Who am I to argue?
Boots: I enjoyed a journey with Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist as their characters walked the Camino de Santiago in Two Steps Forward; I could smell the herbs in the air.
Stowaways: The reading group I’m in recently did Randolph Stow’s Visitants, and were blown away. We are all highly indignant Stow is not celebrated along with White, Stead et al. Stow is amazing.
Wow: the heart-stopping drama/thriller of the year – Jock Serong’s On the Java Ridge.
Remember This: Bram Presser’s The Book of Dirt. That Bram can write.
Captivated: My favourite manuscript (due out in February 2018) is Lloyd Jones’s The Cage. A great writer, Jones rises to magnificence in this parable about strangers, about ‘us’ and ‘them’.
Verses: I stumbled across the extraordinary poetry of Frank Bidart this year. His Half-Light: Collected Poems 1965–2016 just won the US National Book Award in Poetry. His poem about Genghis Khan growing up is incredible, and he has a piece titled ‘Poem Ending with a Sentence by Heath Ledger’.
Alaina Gougoulis, Editor
I had a baby late last year so my life has changed in ways big (not sleeping for 12 months) and small (getting to write comments on Guardian pieces that start with ‘As a mother’ when there is absolutely no logical reason to do so), and my reading life is no exception. I’ve been drawn to books, fiction and non-fiction, about the experience of mothering, parenthood and family life, and it turns out a lot of the best ones are published by Text: The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson; On Immunity by Eula Biss; The Conflict: Woman & Mother by Elisabeth Badinter; Blue Skies by Helen Hodgman; everything by Elena Ferrante, of course. I haven’t got to Marie Darrieussecq’s Being Here: The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker yet, but it’s on the holiday reading list, along with Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (which I don’t think have anything to do with babies, but I’m ready to branch out). One of my favourite reads of 2017 was Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin: reading it is like living a lucid nightmare, in the best possible sense. Read it in one sitting (compulsory) with the lights on (recommended).
Imogen Stubbs, Art Director
Another wonderful year of reading and designing excellent books. Some of my highlights included: Pulse Points by Jennifer Down for her way with words that stays with you long after; An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen, for always pushing my expectations and creating weird and wonderful worlds; Beautiful Mess by Claire Christian, for perfectly depicting fraught teenage life; The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein, for bringing the truly remarkable story of Sandra Pankhurst to us all; and the four Robin Klein Text Classics, because they were a wonderful world to revisit and I’m so glad they’re back in print. Outside of the Text list I really enjoyed Durga Chew-Bose’s book of essays Too Much and Not the Mood, which I have been re-reading and sharing all year.
David Winter, Senior Editor
It’s been a bumper year in my corner, and I can heartily recommend – in no particular order – Judith Brett’s The Enigmatic Mr Deakin, for political biography of the highest order; Wayne Macauley’s novel Some Tests, for a customarily brilliant trip to the margins; Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist’s charming and romantic walk along the Camino, Two Steps Forward; Bruce Beresford’s witty dissection of a life in the arts, The Best Film I Never Made; and, from overseas, Sarah Sentilles’ entrancing, genre-hopping Draw Your Weapons. If you put these five books in a single Christmas stocking, the stocking will probably break. But what reading pleasure awaits. Outside the Text bubble, I continued my unhealthy obsession with rock’n’roll memoir and caught up with the evergreen Go-Between Robert Forster’s gentlemanly Grant and I. I stared greedily at Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach, top of the pile. (Side note: why haven’t I read Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation? It’s not even long: rectify immediately.) I will read more by Tony Birch (Common People), who’s always excellent. The most beautiful book I saw this year was Bella Li’s illustrated poetry collection Argus, though I have Journeys Into the World, showcasing the Tasmanian nature photography of Peter Dombrovskis, coming my way. I vicariously – over-partner’s-shoulder – read The Woman Who Fooled the World by Beau Donnelly and Nick Toscano, and gasped.
If you made it this far, you’re now set up for the holidays.
Go forth and read.