lincoln in the bardo

The best holiday reads for Christmas, 2017

‘Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is a few days of peace and quiet and a pile of books….’  If you’re looking for the perfect gift, or a tender ‘treat yourself’ package for a few days of self-care, this list is designed as a Literate Lazy Susan for your biblio palette - or someone else’s.

first-personFor A Gorgeous Fictional Read - Richard Flanagan’s ‘First Person’ This is Tasmanian favourite Richard Flanagan’s return to fiction after his Mann Booker Prize Winner ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ in 2014. If you’ve never been treated to Flanagan’s prose you’re missing out on a delight, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint in First Person: compelling, comic and chilling.

A young writer is tasked with ghost writing the memoir of a con man, but the relationship between the two men morphs in surprising ways. It’s has the heft of a finely tuned literary work, while also being a stay-up-past-me-bed-time page-turner. It’s all the more thrilling for the allusions to Flanagan’s real-life early literary career.



lincoln-in-the-bardoFor An Audio Experience Like No Other - George Saunder’s ‘Lincoln In The Bardo’ The Mann Booker Prize for this year went to George Saunders’ Lincoln In The Bardo. A deserving win from a beautiful writer, Lincoln In The Bardo focuses on the sudden death of Abraham Lincoln’s young son, whose ghost is desperate to find a way home. It’s a funny, devastating and beautiful story, told from multiple points of view. At times, the book reads like a screenplay, as multiple character voices fight for themselves to be heard (or read).

This makes the audiobook a thoroughly enjoyable adventure, and may even be my preferred method of digesting this work. The all-star cast features Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Megan Mullally, George Saunders himself, Lena Dunham, Miranda July and Carrie Brownstein. If you’re not a regular audiobook listener, this is the perfect title to get you hooked. (And it will prep you for all of the For Pity Sake titles that are about to be released.)


For A Self-Help Lover - Mark Manson’s ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’

the-subtle-art-of-not-giving-a-f-ckI’m hesitant to suggest a self-help book at Christmas time. It can be a perfect opportunity to pause, reflect and do some self-work, but it can also come across as a slightly insulting Christmas gift. (Hands up if you got The Magic Art of Tidying Up in your stocking last year. What were they trying to tell you, hmmm?) Worse, some self-help books come with enough homework and ‘programs’ that you end up in a navel-gazing existential crisis that’s only worsened by having to hang with your blood relatives during the festive season.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is a refreshing change. Direct, readable, and filled with common sense, this book will remind you of the things really worth worrying about, making that awkward Christmas lunch a breeze. It’s also a great way to start a new year, and will make your resolutions more achievable and focused.



For the History Nut - Sara Dowse’s ‘As The Lonely Fly’

Yes, okay, admitted bias here. As The Lonely Fly is a For Pity Sake published title. But Sara Dowse’s new master work is something to behold. One reviewer described it as ‘writing of international importance’.

The book starts and ends in 1967 just after the Six Day War. This is significant because 2017 is the 50th anniversary of that war and the centennial of the Balfour Declaration in which Britain promised a national home to the Jewish people in Palestine.  The complex political background to the formation of Israel is instantly humanised by Dowse’s deft approach to the characterisation of three remarkable Russian Jewish women – a fearless revolutionary, an American immgrant and a devoted Zionist. It will keep you turning the pages.


For the Crime Lover - Dorothy Johnston’s ‘The Swan Island Connection’ Another For Pity Sake’s author, Dorothy Johnston, released the second in her ‘sea-change mystery’ series in 2017. The Swan Island Connection expands on the tales of Senior Constable Chris Blackie and his deputy, Constable Anthea Merritt, in her darkly charming crime novels set in the idyllic Victorian coast town of Queenscliff.

Local residents are disturbed by a shocking murder, but this is far from an open and shut case. Chris and Anthea uncover a long trail of deception linked to nearby Swan Island which houses a secret military training base. This is an intriguing novel with an artfully rendered sense of place, that will keep you guessing. Although it’s the second in the series, The Swan Island Connection is easily read as a stand-alone, or in partnership with its predecessor Through a Camel’s Eye. Both would make the perfect gift for the crime fiction fan.



illuminaeFor A Fun Space Trip - Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff’s ‘Illuminae’ Series

Okay, the two books in this series weren’t released this year, but the third, concluding part is to be released in 2018, and I can’t wait. This is, strictly speaking, a young adult series, but the genius behind this blockbuster means it has reach across all ages.

The space wars story that would be at home in a blockbuster film is told through e-mails, computer logs and other documents. The internal graphic design of these books is worth the price of admission alone, and elevate the work to a beautiful experience as much as a compelling one. Buy it for the non-reading teenager in your life, and grab a copy for yourself. You won’t be sorry.