It’s time once again for my annual list of recommended novels (here’s last year’s list). This custom dates from when I first started The Urbanist (known originally as The Melbourne Urbanist), as it was set up with the intent of discussing books as well as urban issues.
That ambition went by the wayside long ago but now, with Christmas only two days away and no one showing much interest in “serious matters”, it’s a good time to think about ramping up reading for pleasure.
Of the novels I read during 2015, a number stand out as worth recommending to others as good reads. I don’t classify them as “beach reads” or “serious literature”; if they’re worth spending a lot of time with then they’ve got to be engaging in one way or another.
The top picks from the novels I’ve read this year in rough order are:
- The story of a new name, Elena Ferrante
- Those who leave and those who stay, Elena Ferrante
- Big little lies, Liane Moriarty.
- The beloved, Annah Faulkner
- My brilliant friend, Elena Ferrante
- Euphoria, Lily King
- Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandell
- The eye of the sheep, Sophie Laguna
- Doc, Mary Doria Russell
- Submission, Michel Houllebecq
- Life or death, Michael Robotham
- True Grit, Charles Portis
- Bark, Lorrie Moore
- Redeployment, Phil Klay
- Department of speculation, Jenny Offhill
- Lila, Marilynne Robinson
The novels in the next group were mostly enjoyable but in my view weren’t outstanding. I don’t feel I’d be worse off if I hadn’t read them. Having said that, I’m aware there are plenty of people who really liked quite a few of these books e.g. both Joan London and Richard Flanagan won prestigious awards for their novels. So your mileage might vary from mine.
- Beauty is a wound, Eka Kurniawan
- Ghost fleet, PW Singer and August Cole
- Last day in the dynamite factory, Annah Faulkner
- Everyman’s rules for scientific living, Carrie Tiffany
- The husband’s secret, Liane Moriarty
- Landline, Rainbow Rowell
- The golden age, Joan London
- Past the shallows, Favel Parrett
- The cuckoos calling, Robert Galbraith
- The narrow road to the deep north, Richard Flanagan
Fortunately, I read very few novels I’d classify as one or two star. No point mentioning them…except I should acknowledge that Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island has quite a few design, architecture and planning references. And so does The architect’s apprentice by Turkish novelist Elif Shafak.
I read plenty of non-fiction but rarely from cover to cover so I don’t make recommendations. However this year I did read every word of Sapiens: a brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. It was translated from Hebrew last year. If you’re looking for a Guns, germs and steel “big question” kind of book, this might well be it. Five stars from me.
Over the holiday season, I plan to read Snow, Orhan Pamuk; Slade House, David Mitchell; and the final novel in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, The story of the lost child (note the Ferrante books should be read in order, beginning with My brilliant friend).