My Top Five Favourite Books this year – with a surprise twist!

My Top 5 books for 2018

In my ‘spare’ time, I love nothing more than losing myself in a good book.  Every year I keep a list of what I’ve read and enjoy looking back at my lists, sometimes trying hard to remember what a book was about!

This year I’ve compiled a list of my favourite five books and it was really quite an easy task.

I have ordered them from most recent read back to the start of 2018, so don’t read anything in how I’ve listed them.  Although having said that, Boy Swallows Universe was probably my favourite but then Leigh Sales’ book was a standout too.  Maybe I can say Boy Swallows Universe was my favourite work of fiction and Any Ordinary Day was my favourite non-fiction read – phew problem solved!

Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.

Boy Swallows Universe
by Trent Dalton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An amazing read

This was an amazing book, full of life, love, hope and family. I really don’t know what to say, except it was unputdownable and a great story woven around a boy and his brother.

I worked in a correctional centre for over 20 years and could relate to some of these characters. I didn’t know some of it was about the author until half way through and so I found the story even more intriguing. I loved the question ‘are you a good man’ woven throughout and the title made sense to me later in the book.  It was sad, funny, scary and sometimes all of these at once. Very cleverly written and thoroughly engaging.

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

The Land Before Avocado

by Richard Glover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book and kept reading interesting bits out to my husband, before he told me that he’d read it so could I not share all the good bits along the way! As a child during the years of this book I remember lots of these happenings, but with perspective and age now, it appears they perhaps weren’t the heady days we remember. Richard Glover has covered so much in this book, attitudes to women, parenting styles, food, anyone who was different, politics, history…the list is endless. It was fun reading and looking back. I enjoyed his research finds and thinking about the way things have changed in the decades since the 1960s. I can’t wait to give it to my daughters to read, they probably won’t believe half of it!

The Land Before Avocado by Richard Glover
The Land Before Avocado by Richard Glover

Blog post: I also wrote a book review post about this book, I enjoyed it so much, you can read it here- The Land Before Avocado

The Lost Man

by Jane Harper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve read Jane’s two other books The Dry and Force of Nature and thoroughly enjoyed them so this book was eagerly anticipated. It was a fabulous gritty read and I heard recently that it is to be made into a movie with Eric Banna.

The Blurb:

Three brothers, one death, a fenceline stretching to the horizon.

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron.

The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cam. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

For readers who loved The Dry and Force of Nature, Jane Harper has once again created a powerful story of suspense, set against a dazzling landscape.

 

Any Ordinary Day – What Happens After the Worst Day of Your Life?

by Leigh Sales
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have just finished reading this thought provoking, brave, insightful and honest book by journalist, Leigh Sales. It should have been a depressing and dark read, and although it was sad in places, I found it to be full of hope and above all else, kindness.

I could relate to this book in so many ways – when I saw the the words Blindsides, resilience and what happens after the worst day of your life, I had a flashback to the worst day of my life.

It too started as any ordinary day and ended up in tragedy.

After 40 years of living with it inside me, I finally wrote about it earlier this year – What I’ve learnt from surviving a school trip that went terribly wrong

I understood much of what Leigh wrote in this book – the post traumatic growth and post traumatic stress; the thinking that happens when you survive such a terrible accident when others have lost their lives; the nothingness in the days afterwards when nobody talks to you about it, you even start to wonder if it actually happened.

The days afterwards were indeed dark. But here I am 40 years later, older, wiser and more empathetic as a result.

Leigh’s interviews with those who went through traumatic events – like surviving a landslide that claimed 18 lives including watching his wife die in his arms; being part of a terrorist hostage situation where 2 people were killed; having your whole family killed by a gunman; and many more people who started their day in an ordinary way only to have it end in tragedy – they were honest, open and inspiring.

I like the fact that these people were months and years down the track from their worst day and Leigh showed us through her interviews, just how they had processed their stories and managed to get on with their lives.

I enjoyed the way she broke the book into sections and addressed various issues with the personal stories and thoughts of those she interviewed. She also shared her own personal stories along the way in an honest and raw way, which gave us an insight into her not so perfect life too.

The first sentence in Leigh’s Introduction sets the scene: The day that turns a life upside down usually starts like any other.

How true is this?

I’ve been blindsided many times and often wondered what I’d done to warrant these sudden life changing events.

As Leigh breaks down the statistics of such life altering events, it all becomes a bit clearer.

One of my favourite lines in the book is on page 225 where Wendy Liu, a Forensic Counsellor, states:

‘Somehow we need to be aware that we’re mortal, that this time is finite’ she says. ‘It’s knowing this is all going top end, so let’s make it matter.’

If I’ve learnt nothing else from my own personal blindsides and events along the way, the need to make each day count and enjoy those around you – it’s this!

Hannah Richell says it all so well in the section (pages 203/204) about losing her husband in a surfing accident:

“I understand now that happiness isn’t some goal that we’re working towards…it’s just in the daily living of life.

It’s as if surviving the hardest thing – the greatest pain – frees me to live more courageously. You can crumble and give up. Or you can keep living and loving. I chose the latter.”

I couldn’t have said it any better myself!

Leigh ends the book with this – There’s only one lesson to take from all of this and that is to be grateful for the ordinary days and to savour every last moment of them. They’re not so ordinary, really. Hindsight makes them quite magical.

I’d highly recommend this book, it’s the best book I’ve read in ages by a long shot.

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales

Blog post: You can read my post and book review in more detail here – Any Ordinary Day

Saga Land

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you want to get technical, I actually started reading this book at the end of 2017 but finished it in early 2018 so I think it counts as a read for this year!

It was the book that cemented our desire to visit Iceland which we did in June 2018, travelling with our 35year old daughter, which I have to say was a whole load of FUN!!!!

The Blurb:

This is Iceland as you’ve never read it before …

Broadcaster Richard Fidler and author Kári Gíslason are good friends. They share a deep attachment to the sagas of Iceland – the true stories of the first Viking families who settled on that remote island in the Middle Ages.These are tales of blood feuds, of dangerous women, and people who are compelled to kill the ones they love the most. The sagas are among the greatest stories ever written, but the identity of their authors is largely unknown.

Together, Richard and Kári travel across Iceland, to the places where the sagas unfolded a thousand years ago. They cross fields, streams and fjords to immerse themselves in the folklore of this fiercely beautiful island. And there is another mission: to resolve a longstanding family mystery – a gift from Kari’s Icelandic father that might connect him to the greatest of the saga authors.

Saga Land
Saga Land

A Surprise Twist

So what binds these five books together, apart from being my favourites for the year?

They are all by Australian authors!!

I didn’t realise this connection until I made my list and suddenly it dawned on me…these are all by talented, clever Australian writers and I felt very proud for some reason.

So far this year I’ve read 72 books, from many great authors and covering all genres – dystopian, fantasy, crime, quirky, science fiction, memoirs, chick lit – just to mention a few. I enjoy recording them on Goodreads, mainly to keep track. Last year I only read 40 books so I’ve definitely upped my game!

If I’m particularly impressed with a book I will leave a review but at the very least I leave a star rating. These are all 5 stars! I usually read books on my kindle but do enjoy the feel of a ‘real’ book in my hands too.  I love giving books as presents and have quite a few ready to be wrapped for Christmas.

If you’re interested you can see my year in books at this link – My Year in Books 2018

Highly Recommended

I would like to give an honourable mention to two fellow Australian bloggers Toni Pike and Joanne Tracey, who wrote great books that were just pipped at the post for my Top 5.  Toni wrote Dead Dry Heart and Jo wrote Happy Ever After – both highly recommended and both Australian authors too!

Your thoughts?

Over to you – have you read any of these books and if so what were your thoughts?  I’m always on the lookout for books to read so let me know your favourites for the year.

Feel free to ask any questions or leave a comment below. I always love hearing from you and try to answer all your comments 🙂

Deb xx

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23 Replies to “My Top Five Favourite Books this year – with a surprise twist!”

  1. A great list here Deb – I think you and I have similar tastes – I’m in the middle of Sagaland (put it aside only for some Christmas reading) and also have the fold stories of the Shetland Islands on my TBR pile for the new year. Land Before Avo was laugh out loud one of my fave books of the year. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your shout-out of my book baby. I’m beyond thrilled to be part of this illustrious line-up! I’ll be posting my booky reviews tomorrow…having probs picking my top 5 though!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Debbie,
    I have a resolution to read more in my new retirement…but it means slowing myself down enough to sit down and enjoy the story. Sometimes hard for me to do, but I resolve to do better! I love to read, just must make time for it!!! These titles look like ones I could get hooked into.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These are great books you have on your list Deb. Sagaland and any ordinary day also appear on my list. The other three just missed the cut, but not by much. Looks like we have similar reading tastes. Merry Christmas to you and your family Deb x

    Liked by 1 person

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