They’ve stolen us into the night’s most secret hours; they’ve kept us company on trains, buses and long car rides, where the pages riffle under the breeze of an open window. They’ve consoled us through hard times, and elated our hearts through good. They’ve made us both want to thrust them wild-eyed into the hands of friends and strangers like lunatics, crying ‘take it! You must read it!’ – and, at the same time, hug them fierce and close to our chests and never let go.
These are the books published in 2019 that our people at Roaring Stories loved most. In the mix, there is fiction and non-fiction; stories about queer love, space junk and Dead Papa Toothwort; a book by a Wiradjuri author which featured on the Guardian’s Unmissables series, and titles that you might have otherwise overlooked.
The Yield by Tara June Winch
Allow me to simply say how much I enjoyed The Yield by Tara June Winch. From the beautiful cover to the endearing protagonist, August and her amazing Poppy Albert, the dictionary maker. It’s not often that I tell you to read a book, but this is the one. The Yield is not just a highly recommended, but a must read.
The main themes centre around grief, loss, missing and belonging. We have a missing child, a missing book and all of our characters miss the recently deceased Poppy.
We have lost language, lost country and that sense of loss for those no longer with us as well as times gone by.
Winch’s moving story reminds me once again that Indigenous culture is not a unified whole. And that’s okay. Like every other culture, different groups within that culture want different things. Poppy Albert’s family, faced with the sadness of his death and the tragedy of dispossession as a tin mine tries to take over their property, all react differently – some want the money, some want to stay on the land. Some want to remember the past, some want to forget. Some want to give in, some want to fight.
Bronwyn Richens, Assistant Manager
- Bronwyn also recommends:
- Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
- The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay
- Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hopeby Mark Manson
- Create Calm by Kate James
- All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
Lanny by Max Porter
My gold star for the year goes to Max Porter’s Lanny. As wild, lovely and strange as Porter’s first novel, Lanny revels in play with language and form, woven from the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life in an English town – scraps of conversation, private thoughts – wound through with the mad shapeshifting ramblings of Dead Papa Toothwort, the voice of nature, sinister myth, and history. These fragments layer into intimate and beautifully drawn portraits of the inner lives of characters; it’s a book steeped in old magic, but heartbreakingly human through its core.
Sylvia Bozym, Bookseller
Find Me by Andre Aciman
Andre Aciman’s Find Me is a perfect read for any fan of queer fiction. In his much-awaited sequel to Call Me by Your Name, Aciman delves back into Elio and Oliver’s lives 20 years after the initial romance. The story follows the two men as well as Elio’s father, exploring key intimacies in their lives and with each other.
The book is touching and sweet, and offers a memorable continuation and conclusion to Oliver and Elio’s story. If you enjoy Aciman’s style of writing, or even just the film, this is a worthwhile read.
Nell Rendalls, Bookseller
Minotaur by Peter Goldsworthy
I think my favourite book of 2019 in any genre is The Yield by Tara June Winch, however the novel which currently has me enthralled is Peter Goldsworthy’s Minotaur. The narrator is a blinded former detective plotting revenge against his escaped assailant. The characters are interesting and alive and there’s plenty of humour and practical philosophy. There’s a great imaginative depth as Goldsworthy explores how words help us navigate through darkness.
Tim Maloney, Bookseller
The Topeka School by Ben Lerner
I first encountered Lerner this same year, in his novel 10:04. Incandescent and astonishing, pellucid in its prose, unconventional its plot and modern in its themes of ecological strain, the metafiction followed the same protagonist as his earlier acclaimed Leaving the Atocha Station – Adam, a poet.Both books are fashioned like magic boxes: uncanny echoes ripple across them; anachronisms effloresce; images and sentences are transferred between characters and times. Memoir and fiction breathtakingly blur.
They’re the kind of books which I feel my inner eye can’t stretch wide enough to take in; like I lack the literary lung-space.
So of course when The Topeka School came out in October, it was a book I knew I had to requisition for my shelves. It’s an exhilarating read, tracing back into Adam’s childhood, when he was learning and unlearning and struggling with the toxic assignments of gender. Chapters carry us through the eyes of his parents, too, both of them psychologists; only one of them (his mother) famous.
If the act of reading it to comingle and be transported by another’s mind, it is a singular experience indeed when that mind is Ben Lerner’s. His voice is the future of prose for me, and I can’t wait for whatever comes from him next.
Kate Prendergast, Blogger and Marketing Coordinator
Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia by Christina Thompson
Published in March 2019, this is an important work given the current geo-strategic issues in the Pacific region and in the context of the Australian Government’s Pacific Step Up. With thorough scholarship, and through the lens of familial connection, Christina Thompson takes the reader on a wondrous and exciting journey through successive theories of settlement of the ‘Blue Continent’ – the Pacific.
Through this, we learn about the truly amazing feats of human endeavour in exploration and then navigation back and forth from islands many thousands of miles apart, by peoples of the Pacific over millennia.
Claire Gorman, Proprietor
Dr Space Junk Versus the Universe by Alice Gorman
This is a memoir driven work which takes the reader on a fascinating journey across the solar system through the lens of the cultural heritage of our human activity in space.
Gorman has a unique voice and take on this subject. She is one of a handful of archaeologists and academics across the globe who are forging a new field in examining this, but in doing so, Gorman is firmly focussed on the future. She asks us to consider all our journeys into space as human endeavours and that it is up to us as humans across the globe, in totality, to determine how we want to take these steps into a new frontier.
I have to declare an interest: Alice Gorman AKA Dr Space Junk is my sister-in-law. Family dinners are always entertaining.
Daniel Jordon, Proprietor