Tag Archives: Kurt Vonnegut

Five star reads of 2014

I’ve probably read more this year than any other year since I finished uni. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing this blog, I find I’m able to keep track of what I’m reading and I’m more inclined to try new genres and authors. It’s been a spectacular year for Australian literature, and, thanks to the almighty power of the internets, I’m more knowledgeable about Western Australian authors who are doing great things. Here’s my five star reads of 2014, according to my Goodreads account, posted in no particular order.

Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

Obviously not written in 2014 but one I finally got around to reading this year and spent some time carrying around with me even after I’d finished it, so much did I enjoy it.

The Ark, Annabel Smith

Inventive, chilling and entirely believable, this is science fiction at its very best. I’m interested in seeing if other authors follow Smith’s lead by embracing online content as an addition to their work, rather than a duplication.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North

Every time I think of this novel I’m reminded of the Time Traveller’s Wife but without the romance (which generally makes me cringe). It helps that this one hasn’t been made into a disappointing film as well. I and saw the world a little differently after I’d read North’s novel, which is exactly the point of art, right?

Frog Music, Emma Donoghue

I’m interested in this rating because I only gave Donoghue’s wildly celebrated Room, which I also read this year, three stars. I’m not sure if I’m being harsh on Room or generous with Frog Music but I definitely enjoyed the latter more. It got off to a shaky start but the sense of place, use of language and portrayal of gender in this historical novel was so satisfying, all the more so because of its factual basis.

A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing, Eimear McBride

This is a hard read, both because of McBride’s original stream of consciousness style and because of her subject matter, which follows a young girl through a violent and sexual coming of age as she deals with her brother’s cancer. Disturbing, powerful and moving this is one I won’t forget for a long time.

A Wrong Turn At The Office of Unmade Lists, Jane Rawson

Rawson’s thoroughly enjoyable, heartbreaking, story of a climate changed world and the power of invention is probably one of my favourite reads ever. Combining a bleak vision of a Melbourne of the future with talented story telling and emotional depth, the novel recently won the Small Press Network’s Most Underrated Book Award and deservedly so.

Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill

Part verse novel, part memoir, this slender work punches well above its weight. Offill’s gift with words made the isolation, loneliness and breakdown of her character so, so real. I wanted to give her a hug.

Letters to the End of Love, Yvette Walker

Speaking of hugs, Walker’s first novel is an absolute stunner, heart breaking, honest and beautifully written. You will probably cry in public and that’s okay. If anyone bumps into Walker in Perth tell her thank you from me. Thank you for writing this.

Only after compiling this list do I realise that it’s almost exclusively comprised of women. There’s three Australian authors and two of them are from WA. I hope this means I’m holding up my end of my commitment to read more Australian women writers. But it also means I could have missed something awesome. So it’s your turn. What are your five star reads from this year? Tell me why I should give them a go.

So that’s why they get those tattoos: Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

I am currently, blissfully, and with full recognition that I’m about a thousand years late to the party, reading Slaughterhouse Five. Now, as we all know it’s illegal to review books before finishing them. Even to give away tiny hints about how you feel about them. People have been imprisoned awaiting deportation for less, particularly in this country. But to hell with all of that.

I love this novel.

Let me tell you my favourite thing about this novel. It is the slimmest, tiniest paperback I have available on my bookshelf. I have never felt so engrossed in something that weighs less than a pencil. I’ve been carrying it around with me at work, on the weekend, down to the shops – you never know when you might have an idle moment in the cereal aisle.

Secondly, I love it for its nihilism, its absurdity. War is terrible, people die, they live, they move on or they don’t. There’s people fighting each other, both dying, starving, in their own time. So it goes. I understand why people get those tattoos now. It is the shrug of a teenager just grown out of angst and emerging blinking into resigned, slightly hysterical, horrific reality. It is the detached calm after a long bout of sobbing.

Thirdly, I hate it because I only just picked it up. I am a reader, I should read books that every first year lit student has read, written an essay on and tattooed themselves with, right? Perhaps it’s just too distinctly American to have registered on my consciousness? Have I unnecessarily, even prejudicially, spurned American classics? Yea gods, maybe I need to try Catcher in the Rye again? I have no idea why but I feel slightly ashamed. I has made me consider what other novels I should have read. What other popular culture event rages with me wondering where that music is coming from? Am I alone? Have you come to a book, well after everyone else has moved on, and realised you should have read it a really long time ago?

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