As I’ve mentioned, I love books. Real books, with paper and ink. None of those fancy ebooks. I spend enough time each day staring into screens. Plus, I like to read in the bath and the idea of accidentally dropping a $1000 device doesn’t appeal. (I’ve only ever once dropped a book in the bath. It was a library book. Go figure.)
The busier I get, the less I seem to read for pleasure. To redress this, my plan is to read 50 books in 2016. Fiction, mathematics, Australian politics, biographies, non-fiction, anything. Some books are short novellas which you might think of as ‘cheating’. Whatever. Despite the fact that I am counting, the number doesn’t count. It’s just a target to get me to read more.
I am tweeting 140 character reviews with #read2016, but I’ll also post the books here in three parts, one every four months. The maths ones (*) might be the subject of separate posts.
There were 19 books in Part 1 (January – April). Here is Part 2 (May – August) with 16 books.
- After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, Evie Wyld. I raved (see Part 1) about her award-winning second book. This is a mind-blowingly good first novel. Can’t wait to see what’s next for Wyld.
#read2016: Incredibly moving in a matter-of-fact kind of way. Sadness seeps from every character.
- Stop at Nothing: The Life and Adventures of Malcolm Turnbull, Annabel Crabb. This is an update to her 2009 Quarterly Essay, which I finally read in December 2015. I enjoyed re-reading the previous material and looking out for the additions.
#read2016: A snappy update to her 2009 Quarterly Essay. Witty and incisive, as always.
- Teacher Man, Frank McCourt. From the bestselling author of Angela’s Ashes, which I read many years ago. Because Fawn Nguyen often mentions that Teacher Man is one of her favourite books, I’ve been looking out for it. I found three copies in a small secondhand book stall in the Penguin markets. (I resisted the urge to buy all three.) A fabulous read.
#read2016: The honest account of teaching. Master teller of stories. Words of wisdom on every page.
The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k, Sarah Knight. A parody of Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (number 29 on this list). This was laugh-out-loud on every other page. I loved it. Great food for thought.
#read2016: After the day I had I read it in one sitting … while not giving a fuck about a whole lot of other things.
- Weekend Language: Presenting with More Stories and Less PowerPoint, Andy Craig and Dave Yewman. There had been a lot of buzz about this book in the MTBoS, so I wanted to check it out. I liked it (see below) but for a deeper read I suggest two important books on the same theme: Made To Stick and Presentation Zen.
#read2016 (1): Snappy summary of elements of good presentations. Particularly liked chapter on mechanics of delivery.
#read2016 (2): Mechanics of delivery (my clumsy phrase): vocals, pausing, pacing, gestures and the like. Important to get right.
- Faction Man: Bill Shorten’s Pursuit of Power, David Marr. In the lead-up to the Australian election (and wasn’t that a debacle!), Black Inc republished updated Quarterly Essay profiles by Annabel Crabb (see Item 21) and David Marr of the leaders of the two main Australian political parties. Some insight by Marr, but I felt it missed the mark.
#read2016: Adds detail to the sharp rise of the prime ministerial contender, but a rather disjointed piece of work.
- The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, Deborah Rodriguez. An impulse purchase at Cairns airport (with some encouragement from a companion) because I’d accidentally checked in my books and headphones. In places it was poorly written chick-lit, but the story stayed with me for many days — enough to buy the sequel.
#read2016: Fascinating, fictional account of Afghan culture. A little corny in places but surprisingly moving.
- The Natural Way of Things, Charlotte Wood. I can see why this book has an ever-growing list of awards, including the 2016 Stella Prize. An imaginatively dark setting for an unlikely but captivating story.
#read2016: An engrossing dystopian tale of punishment and liberation. Almost unlike anything I’ve ever read.
- Everywhere I Look, Helen Garner. This is a collection of Garner’s short stories, opinion pieces, diary extracts, essays and more. All but three have been published elsewhere, but the only one I’d previously read is still one of my favourites: The Insults of Age.
#read2016: Gulped when I should have savoured. Master of acute observation.
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Marie Kondo. I like to think that I’m an organised person who tries not to collect ‘stuff’, but I still like to read books on organising principles. After this I was inspired to get rid of half of my clothes. I can’t do the same with my books though!
#read2016: Slightly kooky but ultimately worth contemplating. Do your possessions spark joy?
- The Spare Room, Helen Garner. After Everywhere I Look (Item 28), I had to read more of Garner’s work. Loved this book.
#read2016: An unflinching view of the complicated care of a dying friend. Deeply touching. Beautifully crafted.
- The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides. I’ve not seen the movie, and I didn’t know the premise of the novel, but I’d been curious about it for a while. Dragged on, with the occasional great moment.
#read2016: Melancholic. Almost ethereal. Lyrical prose. Some intriguing moments but I never really connected.
- * Thinking Mathematically (2nd edition), John Mason, Leone Burton, Kaye Stacey. This book changed the way I thought about mathematical thinking, so much so that I designed and developed a university course for pre-service maths teachers around it.
#read2016: Readying myself for another semester with 52 pre-service teachers by re-reading this foundational book.
- Cosmo Cosmolino, Helen Garner. Based on what I’d read about this book I was expecting something a little different to her other works. I was not disappointed, but it was certainly unusual.
#read2016: Oddly engrossing with themes of new age, commune living and emerging from the shells of damaged lives.
- * More Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Secondary Mathematics Instruction, Marian Small, Amy Lin. Such an invigorating read.
#read2016: Immensely practical + deeply stimulating. With examples of open tasks to use, adapt or be inspired by.
- High Sobriety, Jill Stark. ‘I’m the binge-drinking health reporter. During the week, I write about Australia’s booze-soaked culture. At the weekends, I write myself off.’ Jill makes an unsparing assessment of her relationship with alcohol — it’s worth doing the same.
#read2016: A frank look at Australia’s obsession with alcohol, along with a self-deprecating narration.