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.
- Black Rock White City, A.S. Patric. It took me ~50 pages to warm to the story, but then it was unputdownable. A decidedly worthy winner of 2016 Miles Franklin Award.
#read2016: A couple almost unknowingly clinging to each other through deep wordless grief, and yet a hopeful book.
- Commonwealth, Ann Patchett. Wonderful writing. Skilled in capturing moments and innermost thoughts in few words. As a promising relationship between a famous author and a waitress begins: ‘He patted the top of her hand, which she had left close by on the bar in case he needed it.’ A glimpse of a left-behind, overworked mother of four young children: ‘The speed at which their mother ran from work to school to the grocery store to home had doubled. She was always arriving, always leaving, never there.’
#read2016: Vignettes spanning 50 years woven together to tell the story of complex blended family relationships.
- Postcards from Surfers, Helen Garner. Eleven short stories in true Garner style.
#read2016: Stories that never use more words than they need. Expertly constructed.
- Dying: A Memoir, Cory Taylor. I first learned of Cory Taylor on the fabulous ABC ‘Terminally Ill’ program of the ‘You Can’t Ask That‘ series. Cory was frank — the same as in her memoir.
#read2016: Clear-eyed. Unsentimental. A deeply reflective view of dying and of life. Moving.
- Notes on An Exodus, Richard Flanagan. Richard Flanagan won the Man Booker Prize for his remarkable ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’. His ‘notes’, along with sketches by Ben Quilty (Archibald Prize winner), paint powerful portraits of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Greece and Serbia.
#read2016 (1): Devastatingly moving portraits of Syrian refugees from two of Australia’s most acclaimed in their crafts.
#read2016 (2): A slim volume but not at all light. Honours their dignity + courage. ‘Refugees are not like you and me. They are you and me.’
- The Good, the Bad and the Unlikely: Australia’s Prime Ministers, Mungo MacCallum. More than 29 biographies, this also brings together the story of Australian politics.
#read2016 (1): A lively and humanising view of each of Australia’s 29 PMs. Witty + concise writing that had me laughing (or snorting!) out loud.
#read2016 (2): I learned many things, but am still struck by the news that we had a PM with the middle name of ‘Christmas’.
- The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull, the Incredible Shrinking Man in the Top Hat, Andrew Street. I preferred the first book, ‘The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott’, but only because Abbott was so laughably hopeless. The sequel certainly reveals some of the ineptitude of Turnbull.
#read2016: Grab the popcorn and dig into the spectacle. (If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.) Street dishes out snark in spades.
- Salt Creek, Lucy Treloar. An interesting blend of fact and fiction.
#read2016 (1): Set on the South Australian Coorong in the 1850s as white settlers first encroach on the lands of the Ngarrindjeri people.
#read2016 (2): A beautifully-told, heartbreaking shameful story that matches historical truths. Starts painfully slow; gripping past pg 90.
- The Long Green Shore, John Hepworth.
#read2016: Published 50yrs after writing of Australians in PNG during WWII. Banality alongside barbarity. Matter-of-fact yet almost poetic.
- The Hate Race, Maxine Beneba Clarke. An Australian of Afro-Caribbean descent, Maxine Beneba Clarke tells what it is like to grow up as a person of colour in Australia.
#read2016: Packs a powerful punch, right to the stomach. A difficult, but important read. Particularly now.
- * Which One Doesn’t Belong? Teacher’s Guide, Christopher Danielson. The premise of ‘Which One Doesn’t Belong?’ is to consider four shapes, and ask the question. In the children’s picture book and its companion teacher’s guide, Danielson focuses on geometry and uses WODB to draw out rich mathematical ideas. The teacher’s guide provides convincing rationale and practical advice. There are plenty more WODB out there; try www.wodb.ca and the hashtag #wodb.
#read2016: A delightful way to discuss + explore maths. The writing is crisp, purposeful, insightful + welcoming. A must-have for tchrs.
- Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia, David Hunt. Australian history like it should have been taught at school. The ABC Radio podcast Rum, Rebels & Ratbags with Dom Knight is also worth a listen.
#read2016: Peppered with witticisms and dripping in places with sarcasm, this is a lively telling of Australian history like no other.
- * Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had: Ideas and Strategies from Vibrant Classrooms, Tracy Johnston Zager. I have been madly awaiting this book for at least a year. It was so good I read it cover-to-cover almost as quickly as I could. It’s a beautiful, important book. Truly something special for all maths teachers. My full review is in this blog post.
- * Avoid Hard Work!, Maria Droujkova, James Tanton, Yelena McManaman. There is a lot to like about this book, but ultimately I found it too light. I also have problems with the title.
#read2016: A gentle approach to encourage mathematical problem solving with very young children.
- All That I Am, Anna Funder.
#read2016: A fictionalised biography of political activism against the Nazis in WWII. Crushing. Beautifully written. A page turner.
- Our Souls at Night, Kent Haruf. The first book by Haruf that I’ve read. I’ll definitely be looking for more. From the back blurb: ‘Addie Moore and Louis Waters have been neighbours for years. Now they both live alone, their houses empty of family, their quiet nights solitary. Then one evening Addie pays Louis a visit.’
#read2016: A tender, quiet and impossibly beautiful tale of growing old together with grace.
- Victoria: The Queen, Julia Baird. Loved the narrative-style approach, particularly once I realised it was built around impeccable research.
#read2016: A hefty portrait of a formidable + intriguing queen. Flowing, engaging, well researched. Fascinating details of V as a woman.
- Monkey Grip, Helen Garner. Her acclaimed first novel. Reads like diary entries, with Garner’s perceptive view.
#read2016: Explores addiction, to hard drugs + to love. Written in the 70s; curious to see where Garner started. Still wondering if I liked.