My top 5 reads of 2012

January 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, I recommended some favourite non-fiction that I’ve read in the last year, my favourite Australian novel and shared some of the greatest disappointments. Today, I give you my Top 5 Recommended Reads (that haven’t previously been mentioned). In no particular order:

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

I wasn’t lucky enough to have my own overseas journey of self-discovery in 2012, but one of my dear friends was. Struck with the winter blues, I went to Canada to visit her for a couple of weeks. There, she lent me her worn copy of Siddhartha, a book that made me think about life a little differently and affirmed my desire to get some travel under my belt.

Like all good stories, Siddhartha is one of growth and change. The young Siddhartha leaves his family and friends in the hopes of achieving spiritual enlightenment. While not altogether a happy tale, Siddhartha offers lessons on materialism, love and inner peace.

Written in German originally, Siddhartha reads like a moralistic fable. It is short and its language, simple, yet it explores complex beliefs and philosophies. Refreshing for its conciseness, but also for how it leads to reflection on one’s own life and personal philosophies, Siddhartha is one of those novels that I suspect gives its reader something new each time its flicked open, no matter where you may be on life’s road.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I raced through the debut novel from Ransom Riggs. Beautifully illustrated with genuine vintage photographs, some more disturbing than others, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is about teenager Jake’s search to discover the truth about the mysterious orphanage his grandfather spoke so often about. Convinced his grandfather Abe’s stories of battling monsters with knashing teeth and forked tails are stand-ins for the more distressing memories of WWII, Jake’s world is turned upside down when his grandfather is suddenly violently killed. Only the Children’s Home that Abe found salvation in during the early years of the war can offer any answers and so Jake travels to Wales to learn the truth about his grandfather.

Technically a Young Adult novel, Miss Peregrine’s has a lot to offer an adult reader. The story is intriguing and the photographs woven throughout the book give it an eerie quality. The characters lack some depth, which seems to have been sacrificed in favour of pacing, but these are debut novel jitters that can be forgiven. Riggs’ creative use of vintage images differentiates Miss Peregrine’s from the vast number of supernaturally-based YA novels published each year. That, coupled with its compelling premise, makes it a page-turner.

The Raven’s Gift by Don Rearden

The debut novel from Don Rearden was a pleasant surprise. I’d put my hand up for a review copy on behalf of artsHub not expecting a great deal because I’m not usually a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre. All I knew about The Raven’s Gift, with the exception of the short synopsis in the Text Publishing catalogue, was that it had won awards. Read my review here.

The Emerging Writer: An Insider’s Guide to Your Writing Journey edited by Karen Pickering

Last year, signalled my first confident foray into doing stuff on my own. One of those things was attending a couple of Emerging Writers Festival events. While there, I purchased The Emerging Writer, the festival’s official publication made up of commissioned essays focused on every aspect of writing – why we write, what we write, where we write and how. Within the first few essays, I felt pinned, as if someone had written this book just for me. I was the “scaredy cat” Christy Dena wrote so humourously about. I have difficulty finding the balance between humility and confidence that Alan Bissett outlines in his essay, ‘The Cockerel and the Mouse: On Competitiveness’.

The Emerging Writer is not just about writing. So many of the essays therein can be related to any kind of work or project. Gaining confidence, being persistent and knowing the industry or environment, as well as one’s strengths and weaknesses are qualities we all aspire to have a better grasp on. I like to think of The Emerging Writer as a guide to any journey. After all, the bottom line always seems to be to back yourself.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Read my review of Jeffrey Eugenides’ award-winning novel here

I already have several books lined up on my shelf to read next and my list of ‘Books to Read’ isn’t getting any shorter, so if all goes to plan this year I should exceed 36 books, no problem.

I’d love to know what your favourite reads were of 2012. I’m always looking to add to my list.

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