2018 in books

I’m currently on a deckchair overlooking the beach at Torquay. The boys have turned as brown as gumnuts, despite me slathering them in 50+ multiple times a day. The past year of swimming lessons early on a Saturday morning in a humid, over-chlorinated pool have finally paid off, and they dive into the surf with no fear. I can read on a towel, sipping a G&T. It’s all quite civilised.

2018 was better than 2017, but still hard. Perhaps that’s what happens though, as we get older. I gave myself time to heal and grow, to move softly in a new direction after we lost our daughter. I threw myself into work, into new friends, into living intentionally and consciously. I read a lot, although not as much as previous years. I gave up on meditation, and decided that reading fiction for an hour a day is the best kind of mindfulness for me.

I unfollowed every single person on Facebook and culled my Instagram feed until it only features people I know. I became a School Mum, then a Fulltime Working Mum. Both are rewarding, in their own ways.

My big guy completed his first year of school, and took it in his stride. God, the kid is resilient. I asked him what he thought about finishing prep, and he replied with, ‘Of course it was good. I see my friends everyday and the canteen has sweet corn AND icecream.’

My little guy made his first proper friends. Not just kids he plays next to on the mat at kinder, but likeminded kids he runs up to at school pickup and writes cards to and talks about in his sleep. Being four is hard work sometimes, but it’s glorious to see these first buds of friendship, of him being himself in relation to other kids. Sorting out who he is, keeping that firm.

Anyway. I read 57 books last year. These are the most memorable.

For fun

Normal People by Sally Rooney

About two young friends who get into a weird relationship with an older married couple. It made me nostalgic for something I didn’t actually experience. Real, relatable, flawed characters.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

This floored me. It’s about a boy and a girl and how their relationship changes over a long period of time. It’s also about social mobility, class, anger, violence and gender. Superb writing.

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

SO GOOD. It’s very Australian without being all ‘bonza, mate!’ and slightly fantastical which I usually steer away from but this totally works. I read it in a day. Probably in the top 3 for the year for me.

The Choke by Sophie Laguna

Bloody hell she can write. The content in hard going (domestic and sexual violence, systemic abuse, extreme poverty, misogyny etc) but the lyricism and beauty in the way Laguna shapes sentences is stunning.

The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton

I would read his shopping list. The way he gets inside the head of an angry teenage boy is masterful. A lesson in voice and style.

For work

Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Aimed at managers and leaders, but helpful for anyone looking to tackle team culture and ways of working.

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

This is a bible for anyone in communications or leadership, but especially in non-profits. I read it years ago and read it again recently. A winner.

Least good books. Because ‘worst’ sounds too petty.

Tools of the Titans by Tim Ferris

This book is a bloody doorstop filled with male aggression and tech bros with $400 backpacks and coffee with yak butter. Ugh.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

Perhaps this was too intellectual for me, but the whole ‘take heaps of tranquilisers and sleep for a whole year’ thing just made me want to take a shower.

I’ve already read some winners since Christmas, including Jodi Picoult’s new Spark of Light and The Power by Naomi Alderman.