13

Hugely powerful and incredibly pertinent, especially at a time where HIV/AIDS is again on the rise even in countries like Australia. This read had me tearing up more than a few times, with relatable material and humanistic themes spanning two lifetimes. An amazing book to end the year on.

12

I’m still unsure why I persevered through reading this. The book was emotionally stirring at times, but the repetitive motifs of heartbreak and death felt beyond me. The narrative meandered too much, and maybe I’m just simple minded. But I expected more from such a classic.

11

I really liked this one. Whilst it could probably fall into the category of “good bad books”, for lack of any overarching humanist themes, The Martian really gripped me with it’s level of attention to detail. The enormous amount of research that has gone into this book shows, and adds a credible dimension of realism. I won’t really go into it much more since there’s a movie out and pretty much everyone knows about it, but this was a good’un.

10

A nice book with many enjoyable aspects. Although the cliche of “geeky and socially awkward guy unwillingly falls in love with independent female” has been done a fair few times, this was still good, and written by an Australian author who didn’t push the setting to stereotypical extremes!

9

The Chrysalids, like many good books, is set in a post-apocalyptic future in a pastoral village. The main theme of the novel surrounds the belief that all humans must abide by the “true image” as set out by a holy book - an allusion to the modern-day bible. Alienation also features, and moral ambiguity plays a cameo for an interesting twist of the knife toward the end of the book. Although aimed at a younger audience, this is well worth a read for skeptics of institutions that insist on conformity.

8

This novel is truly something else. Gripping, emotional and dark, it takes a rather grim view of the human experience, with all its flaws. Norwegian Wood deals with the theme of mental illness and highlights how difficult it is to recover. This particularly hit home, with NW exploring the pitfalls of loving two people, one mentally healthy and one who is not. A beautiful read, I was struggling not to cry on the train at the end.

7

Richard Flanagan develops a compelling and incredibly graphic narrative of the horrors experienced by WW2 prisoners of war. He focusses heavily on the themes of love and suffering, and I love his frequent use of the phrase “The world just is.” Occasionally suffers from telling rather than showing but a must-read. Incredibly valuable for those, like me, disheartened by the lacking quality of supposedly classic Australian literature.

6

Animal Farm is a mindblowing read. The aestheticism on display is the best I’ve ever read in an Orwell novel. Not quite as smart as 1984, but definitely more poignant and it explores similar themes. Pretty darn impressed with this, I got through it in 2 hours.

5

The God Delusion is a dense and sophisticated novel. That is not to say I was entirely convinced of the argument presented herein, and at times Dawkins seemed to be on an anti-Christian tirade, which I guess is fair enough (see: Christians harrassing him). Having said that, as an atheist, my position of “no religion is god religion” was definitely enhanced and further developed towards the end of the book, where Dawkins lapses into emotional prose and departs from a purely scientific view. Stick with it and you’ll be rewarded.

4

Reading a teen romance novel straight after a literary novel is never a good experience. Having said that, this was a surprisingly powerful and emotionally charged read, given the initially shaky beginning, literature-wise. Although it tends to lapse into some poorer narrative-telling at times, Before I Die gripped me and made me want to cry intensely toward the end. Unfortunately I was in a car with family so I was not afforded such a luxury. Definitely worth a read if you like to feel as emotionally drained as a dried-up autumn leaf.

3

This one was a bit of a trek; I have always found Fitzgerald to be difficult to read. Maybe it’s cultural references to the time period which I do not possess an understanding of, or the way he structures the narrative. I believe it’s due to his aim of achieving a certain aestheticism in literature, which can be a powerful and beautiful thing. However it tends to drag the pace of a read down. Fascinating and tragically beautiful story, however, about a love afflicted by mental illness.

2

My second read was far more enjoyable than the first; this book fascinates, intrigues and fills your mind with its immersive world. JASPER FFORDE’S main premise has been covered previously but not so spectacularly or with such a modern touch. Note that his eagerness to tell the story led to the plot of Jane Eyre being ruined for me, which was somewhat disappointing. Having said that it was unavoidable given the chosen plot progression and thus still read very well.

1

My first read was a venture in optimism; a book that attempts to take stock of the current world and analyse some vague statistics to find that life is actually quite good. Unfortunately it often came across as cherry picking information and too many times grappled with stats rather clumsily to be truly convincing.