#read2017: My year in books

I love to read but don’t always make enough time. In 2016, I redressed this by planning to read 50 books. I blogged about the books (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). I took on the same challenge in 2017 buoyed on by my 2016 success (53 books), and managed to read 62 books.

This year, blogging about the books fell by the wayside. But, like 2016, I did tweet short character reviews with #read2017. I’ve copied them below, along with links to the books on Goodreads. The maths books are indicated with (*). Teaching-related books are indicated with a (^). But first, a few statistics and lists.

A collection of statistics

Out of the 62 books:

  • 33 books with Australian authors
  • 29 books by women
  • 25 fiction books
  • 13 books about political/current events
  • 13 memoirs
  • 12 books about teaching or maths (or teaching maths)
  • 6 authors, multiple books (Georgia Blain: 4, Helen Garner: 4, Geraldine Brooks: 2, Peter H Johnston: 2, Graeme Simsion: 2, Elizabeth Strout: 2)
  • 4 books aloud (We resumed this habit in June, with books 35, 38, 41, 60.)

(Note that there is some overlap with political and memoir.)

A dozen books that drew me in (alphabetical order)

It’s not a ‘Best Of’ list, but twelve books that I either couldn’t put down or couldn’t stop thinking about afterwards. (There are probably more in this category on the long list.)

  • Between a Wolf and a Dog, Georgia Blain
  • Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks
  • Light and Shadow, Mark Colvin
  • Pushing the Limits, Kurt Fearnley
  • Talking to My Country, Stan Grant
  • Turtles All the Way Down, John Green
  • The First Casualty: A Memoir from the Front Lines of the Global War on Journalism, Peter Greste
  • Lab Girl: A Story of Trees, Science and Love, Hope Jahren
  • Choice Words, Peter H Johnston
  • Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension, Matt Parker
  • The Paper House, Anna Spargo-Ryan
  • Anything is Possible, Elizabeth Strout

The book with a real ‘wow’ moment

  • A Pale View of Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro

One pronoun that I initially thought was a typo, and then it hit me. Wow. (Could have joined the previous list for this reason.)

The books (in the order I read them)

  1. My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout.
    #read2017: A story of a mother who loves her daughter imperfectly. And of a daughter who accepts. It’s what isn’t said that lingers after.
  2. Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf.
    #read2017: Success! To be read patiently and perhaps as unhurriedly as the story unfolds.
  3. Reaper Man, Terry Pratchett.
    #read2017: Part of my slow journey to re-read the Discworld novels in their published order. Not a fav, but still some great writing.
  4. Can You Solve My Problems?, Alex Bellos.
    #read2017: Brimming with an assortment of puzzles and their history. Filled with old and new favourites. A rich source for my classes.
  5. Take it Easy, Danny Allen, Phil Cummings.
    #read2017: Convincing portrayal of an Aussie country kid, their experiences + their fears of moving to the big smoke. Surprisingly touching.
  6. The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster.
    #read2017: A hero’s quest through a strange land. Ultimately a tale about learning. Delightful wordplay, wisdom and wit. Loved it.
  7. The Paper House, Anna Spargo-Ryan.
    #read2017: The shape of new and old grief, loss and mental illness. The support of loved ones. Exquisite. A stunning debut novel.
  8. True Stories: Selected Non-Fiction, Helen Garner.
    #read2017: More Garner. (Nearly through her oeuvre!) Her ability to illuminate what at first glance appears simple is magnificent.
  9. Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien.
    #read2017: A intricate generational tale of the Cultural Revolution and its effect on creative expression, music, free thoughts and love.
  10. * Yes, But Why? Teaching for Understanding in Mathematics, Ed Southall.
    #read2017: A valuable resource for beginning maths teachers (and I learned a thing or two myself!).
  11. Honour & Other People’s Children: Two Stories, Helen Garner.
    #read2017: One day I’ll run out of Garner to read. One day.
  12. * Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension, Matt Parker.
    #read2017: A recreational maths book with a difference. is an unashamed nerd and his delight+playfulness leap off every page.
  13. * Math on the Move: Engaging Students in Whole Body Learning, Malke Rosenfeld.
    #read2017: Some great ideas for using the moving body as a tool to make sense of and connections between mathematical ideas.
  14. Choice Words: How our Language Affects Children’s Learning, Peter H Johnston.
    #read2017: How our choice of words helps learners grow + develop agency. Set in a literacy context with many parallels to learning maths.
  15. Wrong about Japan, Peter Carey.
    #read2017: A manga-anime pilgrimage to find ‘Real Japan’ in the enigmatic mix of old + new. Enjoyable read but felt Carey missed the point.
  16. The Good Girl Stripped Bare, Tracey Spicer.
    #read2017: A ‘femoir’ from one of Australia’s best-known journalists. Spicer reveals gross inequities. Brutal. Insightful. Funny. Powerful.
  17. ^ Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Stuart Brown, Christopher Vaughan.
    #read2017: Play as an integral part of how we learn, love and live.
  18. ^ Embedded Formative Assessment — practical strategies and tools for K-12 teachers, Dylan Wiliam.
    #read2017: Provoked deep thinking on how I can improve my teaching. Full of practical ideas + concise integration of evidence-based research.
  19. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, Mark Manson.
    #read2017: After tolerating a blustery and vulgar start targeted at a specific audience, the message is strong and worth considering.
  20. Between a Wolf and a Dog, Georgia Blain.
    #read2017: Slow to draw me in but I was eventually enveloped. So exquisitely beautiful. Sorrowful, but still joyful and hopeful. Affecting.
  21. * A Mathematician’s Apology, GH Hardy.
    #read2017: I really wanted to like this but, on the whole, I found Hardy to be smug with an elitist view of ‘real’ maths.
  22. The Secret Lives of Men, Georgia Blain.
    #read2017: Short stories done right — dipping for a moment into the lives of others.
  23. Anything is Possible, Elizabeth Strout.
    #read2017: Unexpectedly for me, interwoven short stories linked to earlier book. I couldn’t put this down. Skillful character development.
  24. Stoner, John Williams.
    #read2017: Hard to pinpoint why I liked this. A simple story of an ordinary life filled with setbacks and sadness, and yet still uplifting.
  25. Astonishing the Gods, Ben Okri.
    #read2017: Mystical, with many koan-like statements. I’m not sure I understood anything. Strangely compelling.
  26. Unpolished Gem, Alice Pung.
    #read2017: A self-deprecating coming of age memoir. Laugh-out-loud start which became rambling + introspective. Strong, vivid storytelling.
  27. ^ Opening Minds, Using Language to Change Lives, Peter H Johnston.
    #read2017: A strong follow-on from the powerful ‘Choice Words’. Eye-opening examples of dialogic classrooms. Inspirational.
  28. The Feel of Steel, Helen Garner.
    #read2017: The clarity of her writing is incredible. Another magnificent collection of essays.
  29. Lab Girl: A Story of Trees, Science and Love, Hope Jahren.
    #read2017: An intimate and fierce memoir of science, plants and academia. Her writing is enlivening and beautiful.
  30. True Girt (The Unauthorised History of Australia #2), David Hunt.
    #read2017: The way Australian history should be taught. makes you laugh, squirm, and think. Can’t wait for Vol 3.
  31. People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks.
    #read2017: A good holiday read. I found Hanna implausible, but the interleaved stories of the People of the Book were enthralling.
  32. Random Life, Judy Horacek.
    #read2017: The new collection from Judy Horacek. A perfect mix of irreverence, observation and sharp social commentary.
  33. * The Joy of SET: The Many Mathematical Dimensions of a Seemingly Simple Card Game, Liz McMahon, Gary Gordon, Hannah Gordon, Rebecca Gordon.
    #read2017: A comprehensive and conversational look at SET. From simple to deep maths with accompanying exercises and projects. Recommended.
  34. Why Men Are Necessary and More News From Nowhere, Richard Glover.
    #read2017: A witty collection of columns on ordinary family life. Breezy read.
  35. Depends What You Mean by Extremist, John Safran.
    #read2017: When extreme becomes mainstream. The far left + far right have more in common than you might think. Written in true Safran style.
  36. Booze Territory, Anna Krien.
    #read2017: I’ve tried and failed to find another word to describe this. A truly sobering read. The statistics are shocking.
  37. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.
    #read2017: A hopeful and practical book about the kind of growth that can come out of deep grief and loss, with lessons for all.
  38. One Halal of a Story, Sam Dastyari.
    #read2017: Part memoir, part manifesto. A glimpse of the many sides of the ebullient politician. A little uneven but a good read.
  39. The Museum of Words: a Memoir of Language, Writing, and Mortality, Georgia Blain.
    #read2017: Loosely chronicles the devastating final chapter of Blain’s life. An important voice in Aust writing taken far too soon. Vale.
  40. What Happened, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
    #read2017: Plenty of hubris and anger, but also deep hurt and bewilderment (and some snark!). A sorrowful reminder of what could’ve been.
  41. Pushing the Limits, Kurt Fearnley.
    #read2017: ‘Kurt Fearnley gives life a good name.’ Lots to learn from his infectious attitude and gritty determination. Great read.
  42. Moral Panic 101: Equality, Acceptance and the Safe Schools Scandal (Quarterly Essay #67), Benjamin Law.
    #read2017: Measured and clear writing. A timely and important read. Strongly recommended.
  43. The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion.
    #read2017: Wasn’t sure whether to like or hate this. In the end I was quite fond of it. A somewhat more satisfying way to spend the arvo.
  44. What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty.
    #read2017: Found the first half painful and repetitive with mostly vapid characters. Second half picked up with some brighter moments.
  45. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, Alice Munro.
    #read2017: Somewhat embarrassed that this is the first I’ve read of Munro (finally!). So much substance in her short stories.
  46. Turtles All The Way Down, John Green.
    #read2017: Absorbing. Glad to see mental health tackled deftly and realistically. I love how it’s never quite perfect in Green’s books.
  47. Births Deaths Marriages, Georgia Blain.
    #read2017: Saddened to have found Blain’s writing at the very end of her life. Slowly making my way through her work.
  48. The Rosie Effect, Graeme Simsion.
    #read2017: A fun follow-up to the first book.
  49. * How Not to Be Wrong: The Hidden Maths of Everyday Life, Jordan Ellenberg.
    #read2017: mpeccably researched. Meanders in a way that struggled to hold my attention. A shame; I wanted to like this more than I did.
  50. Talking to my Country, Stan Grant.
    #read2017: A powerfully lyrical reflection on the past and present injustices towards Aboriginal Australians. A must-read.
  51. Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy’s Son, Mark Colvin.
    Can’t believe I missed writing a #read2017 review of this. Exceptional book by one of Australia’s finest journalists.
  52. A Pale View of Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro.
    #read2017: Foreboding. The last few pages make you want to flip to the start and immediately re-read.
  53. Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks.
    #read2017: I love the occasional historical novel. This was well-paced and engaging.
  54. Rogue Nation, Royce Kurmelovs.
    #read2017: Making sense of the disconnect between ’ordinary’ Australians and mainstream politics to help explain the rise of One Nation + co.
  55. Autumn, Ali Smith.
    #read2017: Interweaves the story of an extraordinary trans-generational friendship with post-Brexit Britain, and more. Wish I understood more of the delicate construction, but that’s not a criticism of Smith.
  56. The Enchanted Wood, Enid Blyton.
    #read2017: The comfort of a childhood favourite. Given to me on my 7th birthday. First published in 1939 and still a delight.
  57. Why Weren’t We Told?, Henry Reynolds.
    #read2017: Filling in the gaps of what every Australian should know about white Australia’s black history. This is a confronting but important book.
  58. Black + White: Race, Politics and Changing Australia, Nyunggai Warren Mundine.
    #read2017: An absorbing memoir from one of Australia’s most opinionated and, at times, controversial Aboriginal leaders. A good blend of personal and political.
  59. * The Magic of Math: Solving for X and Figuring Out Why, Arthur Benjamin.
    #read2017: A conversational look at some key ideas in maths: algebra, geometry, trigonometry, e, i, calculus, infinity, …. ‘Magic’ is overstated, but the book provides a useful introduction.
  60. The First Casualty: A Memoir from the Front Lines of the Global War on Journalism, Peter Greste.
    #read2017: Combines Greste’s account of 400 days in an Egyptian prison on bogus charges with his insightful analysis of the attack on freedom of the press. An excellent book.
  61. Community: Salad Recipes from Arthur Street Kitchen, Hetty McKinnon.
    #read2017: Read cover-to-cover yesterday — twice! — then started cooking. All hearty salads. Each showcases a core vegetable. First two dishes were amazing. Lots of hours of good eating here.
  62. The Last Days of Chez Nous and Two Friends, Helen Garner.
    #read2017: Screenplays are quite a different story-telling device, driven mainly by dialogue. Garner expertly draws out the personalities of her characters.

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