What have you read this year?

How many adults, especially teachers and parents, discuss their own reading or passion for literature with children? How much reading for professional or personal pleasure do adults actually do? How central is reading to their busy days?

Every year, especially as I witness the growth and development of my own daughters’ ‘imaginary lives’, reading seems the most important but neglected activity amongst Australian children and adults. I am not certain that data supports this assertion (or at least I will not be quoting from booksellers, libraries or the ABS in this post) but my personal observations, over many years, does.

One antidote, during The National Year of Reading, has been for all of us to talk more about what we read, especially with children. I know at our house, my 6 and 9 year olds have finished both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (audiobook) in preparation for Peter Jackson’s film version opening here on Boxing Day and there is much arcane chat about Middle-earth enchanting our days. While I was marking exams I told them this story about why JRR Tolkien had a ‘hopeless’ student, who had left his exam paper blank, to thank for his development of the story.

I also read to the kids the first couple of books in (“Tolkien’s friend”) CS Lewis’ Narnia series. I never read these myself so enjoyed making some connections, previously unrecognised, to the brilliant books by Lev Grossman, The Magicians and The Magician King…but I digress.

The tags above provide a good overview of my reading interests generally, and for the year. In fact ‘reading’ seems to be a key topic for my blog as there are 114 posts listed when I search that tag. Reading is so central to my inner life that I cannot imagine what it would be like to not have an internal monologue that is constantly reflecting on the words of others and what that means for ‘me’ and ‘us’. Making connections seems to give humans pleasure and we know that learning relies on meaning-making of this kind. The less a student reads, especially in that period from 5-15 years of age, the harder it is to make sense of our rich culture. The harder it is to connect it all and the less likely we are to have a green and growing civil society based on shared understandings.

Here’s my complete list of books for 2012 via my shelf at Shelfari. I always read a great deal of nonfiction – especially about history, photography, politics, technology, popular or contemporary culture and learning or education – with a healthy dose of literature. Historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction and novels set in contemporary times are always favourites. The amount of young adult fiction I finish has dropped markedly but often I read in this genre as well. It is the English teacher in me as much as anything else. Here’s the fiction I finished in the last 12 months:


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore

My reading patterns have changed in recent years as I read by listening much more nowadays to audiobooks while I walk and commute, do domestic chores or relax. I often suggest this option to students and show them how the local libraries can assist them with stories that can be played on their mobile devices. Some books I read and then listen too, or vice-versa – if they are favs. For example, the seminal Francis Fukuyama work I blogged about here and was the ‘best book’ I read this year and was seriously worth re-reading.

Other favourites in 2012 have been Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel which I was looking forward to so much it led me to re-read Wolf Hall in preparation for returning to Tudor England. Other fiction delights included The Map and the Territory, by the controversial French author, Michel Houellbecq and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (I am currently two thirds through his epic Infinite Jest). I have mentioned Lev Grossman already this post but if you have not read his ‘magicians’ books I highly recommend them.

I am currently reading very popular The Book Thief , by Australian author Marcus Zusak, which has the potential to become an all-time favourite.


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore

Here is the link to my Shelfari site. Do you make any kind of online or other note about what you read for the year? What were your best reads of 2013?

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14 Comments

  1. Sam Schroder:

    I blog about my reading at samreads.wordpress.com. The Book Thief is in my top 5 ever and I am soon to wrap up my top fiction, YA fiction and non-fiction reads for 2012. The second best thing behind reading is talking and writing about reading!

  2. Victor Davidson:

    As part of preparations for the Ausralian Curriculum Cross-Curricular Priority on Australia’s engagement with Asia I have been reading Japanese literature. Ryu Murakami, Haruki Murakami (no relation), Kazuo Ishiguro and Kenji Miyazawa are favourites.

  3. Those I remember – Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwins biog of Lincoln and his Cabinet. Finest Hour, about Churchill. Rise and fall of the third Reich, William Shirer, audiobook. Half through Bring Up The Bodies, Hilary Mantel. Part through Nonsense on Stilts, Massimo Pigliucci. Part through Freedom Evolves, Daniel Dennet.
    If audiobooks count, what about podcasts, iTunesU and Coursera lectures? (Perhaps not).

  4. Jenny English:

    My favourite reading experience and book this year was Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore by robin sloane. this novel looks at the place of the physical book in the technological age. Will we still need books or will the e-reader make them a thing of the past? Full frontal nerdity from beginning to end and the paperback cover glows in the dark. I also read this book as part of a 24 hour book club and commented with other readers from around the world on Twitter, which was a great way to read a book about books, secret codes and the Internet

  5. Mary Billing:

    Still reading Wolf Hall as I am not keen on the present tense but the detail is amazing and the way that world is captured is impressive. Read Anna Funder’s All That I am which is stark and terrible and have Stasiland on my list. John Lanchester’s Capital took me to the world where I grew up and still miss although I shouldn’t by his account. Also Julian Barnes Arthur and George and his latest one whose title I forget. Have been re-reading Evelyn Waugh whom I love and have read Vile Bodies, Heat and Dust and am halfway through Brideshead. Also The Mitford Sisters, Cold Comfort Farm (for the umpteenth time) and Alan Bennet ‘s Smut. John McGahern was a new discovery even though he is dead. He writes beautifully about Ireland and its people and evokes it so well. In the Dark is well named as they are all dark novels. Also a few murder mysteries and some of those Jo Nesbro, Stieg Larsson Scandinavian thrillers. Lots of short stories courtesy of The New Yorker podcasts to which I am quite addicted. Also Dirt Music and As You Like It and Felicity Plunket’s poetry.

  6. Robyn Beyer:

    My absolute favourite YA reads for this year have been Looking for Alaska and The Fault in our Stars by John Green. Reluctant and voracious Year 10ish readers alike are devouring these books. Wonder by R Palacio a very special book too. . Discovered the works of Malcolm Gladwell ..want to re read them….so much to think about. My reading of All That I Am by Anna Funder was enriched by listening to her speak at the Writers Festival. A student recommended Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings..fantastic. Also recommend the extraordinary stories and illustrations of Chris Van Allsburg in the Chronicles of Harris Burdick. Remembering ths reminds me to re read his special Christmas story The Polar Express. I like to imagine myself into France …so really loved why French Children Don’t Throw Food, Left Bank Waltz : The story of the Australian bookshop in Paris
    but mostly I enjoyed the delicacy and gentleness of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by T E Carhart. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway about his years in Paris inspired me to read his short stories and marvel at his skill to position you in the moment in just a few lines. Right now I’m loving The 100 Year old Man Who Climbed Out of his Window and
    disappeared by Jonas Jonasson..light, quirky mix just perfect to escape into at this time of the year…..oh, and of course, The perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky.
    PS we started a staff book club using Edmodo this year…hope it builds next year but I think the 10 or so participants are really enjoying it . Also was excited to learn about The bookstackproject recently at a TL meeting….have plans to get it going at school. Beautiful. Way of sharing those books which have shaped us…..www.thebookstackproject.com.au

  7. Fiona McKay:

    Two books I’ve really enjoyed this year, both completely different, are ‘Riding the Black Cockatoo’ by John Danalis – the true story of one man’s search to find the history of the Aboriginal skull which has stood on his family’s mantlepiece for years – and ‘Mss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ by Ransom Riggs. This is a novel built around some old photos of children doing ‘tricks’. A very interesting concept. And my perennial favourite. ‘Prodigal Summer’ by Barbara Kingsolver.

  8. Diane Ridley:

    As Darcy knows I do read a lot. As Teacher Librarian at his school I always try to keep up with the latest reads, although they are mostly in the youth catagory. I have a list of the books I have read in Dapto High’s webpage & with very short reviews. I am currenty reading 2 books, The Casual Vacancy & The Hunters (third in the Brotherband series). The Casual Vacancy is reading better than some reviews & John Flanagan is a popular youth author. A book I read recently & recommend is Pan’s Whisper, a confronting youth book. I was going to list my reads for this year but they are too many, so refer to Dapto High’s webpage. I have the enviable response when I am seen reading, ‘I’m working’.

  9. Troy:

    Always amazing to read your thoughts on reading. I love how despite everything- the adminstration duties, your blog, your family, your photography- you still come to books. I do remember you telling me once that you were a speed reader though!

  10. Troy:

    My favourite reads this year have been Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, That Deadman’s Dance by Kim Scott, 2666 by Robert Bolano (I think I read your recommendation somewhere? for 2666), Peter Carey’s The Chemistry of Tears, The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson, Patrick De Witt’s Sisters Brothers…by far the favourite has been The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman. It crosses New York and Europe during world war 2 and finely crafted characters. Why are they all male, majority being Australian??

  11. Kelly Colquhoun:

    Even with a newborn and a toddler I still find time to read. I loved “The Book Thief” also and it is a favourite. Ken Follet has become another favourite. I started with “Pillars of the earth” and just finished his latest “Winter of the world.” Fantastic reading!

  12. Anthony Catanzariti:

    I read The Book Thief a couple of years ago and I don’t really understand the appeal. I think Marcus Zusak is a great author. in my mind, Fighting Ruben Wolfe is one of the greatest novels ever published for young people and engages Year 9 boys every time I teach it but I was expecting more from The Book Thief.
    This year I’ve read a whole lot of Jo Nesbo. His Harry Hole novels are a welcome addition to anyone who loves Scandanavian crime fiction.
    My big achievement for the year though, was Leo Tolstoy’s, Anna Karenin, easily one of the most wonderful and satisfying novels ever written.
    I am keen to follow your discussion on Asian literature, especially anything applicable for adolescent readers.

  13. The National Year of Reading really did help to motivate me to focus on reading this year, in many aspects. I tried to start a little book club for the Queensland ETA, and I’ve personally been making a big effort to learn more about Australian authors. Recently I finally got motivated enough to make a group on Goodreads for ‘Australian English teachers’: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/85998-australian-english-teachers
    (if you are an English teacher in Oz, you are most welcome to join!)

    I was most glad this year to read two volumes of poetry by Australian poets Michelle Dicinoski (Electricity for Beginners) and Lachlan Brown (Limited Cities). As a younger reader I was always given random poems out of context, or big poetry ‘anthologies’ to study. Reading a volume of poetry from one person is an entirely different thing – far more like listening to a record by a gifted singer/songwriter. Loving it!

    Other than that, my reading year was mostly consumed by series fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, from the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series. I have read the first three books, and am kind of holding off on the last two, because a) they are so good I don’t want them to end, but also b) they are so looooong that when I’m reading them I don’t get to read anything else for ages. Bitter-sweet!

    Lastly though, I have to give a massive shout out to the novel/(auto)biography ‘Sydney’ by Delia Falconer. If you are a Sydney-dweller, this book is a must-read, imho. Her language might seem indulgent or fanciful to some, but I adore the range of her vocabulary and the ways she has described my beautiful, wonderful city. Important historical narratives are interwoven with her personal memoirs to make an account that really resonated with me.

    Thanks for the chance to share Darcy!

  14. Hello from Chicago! I’m happy to share my reading for 2012, posted on my blog at http://whatsnotwrong.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/my-books-for-2012/ Thanks for asking.

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