For some, Christmas time isn’t about the beers or the sun or the beach, but the books. With late lunches and long nights, it sometimes seems impossible during the year to sink into a good read. If you’ve got some free time this Christmas, and have no idea what to read, check out five of our favourites. Can be an effective deterrent to annoying relatives, too.
1. Donna Tartt - The Goldfinch
If you were a big fan of The Secret History, the admiration may stop there. Donna Tartt’s third Dickensian Pulitzer Prize winning tome, The Goldfinch, is a big ask. At 897 pages, you’ve got to wonder exactly how red the editor’s pen was. There’s no doubt Tartt is a master storyteller - in this book we’re taken from an explosion in New York to a casino in Las Vegas - and while Theo’s story is interesting, one must ponder why it’s so detailed in parts. In saying that, if you’ve got time, and love sinking your teeth into a sprawling story, there probably isn’t one better suited to this holiday season.
2. Junot Diaz - This Is How You Lose Her
I had just come out of coma - aka finishing The Goldfinch - and needed something light (in size, not substance). I had never heard of Junot Diaz when I picked up his book on the shelf. This is his third book, a collection of short stories based around the theme of infidelity. But of course, each story sinks deeper than that. There’s lots in here about diaspora, racism, and each sentence is electrifying, every paragraph engrossing. If you’re after something intelligent, and something that will make you laugh out loud, this could be the book for you.
3. Helen Garner - This House of Grief
Helen Garner is one of Australia’s best writers. Her kitchen table candour and ability to question her own moral stance on issues has ensured readers either love and loathe her. In her latest book she positions herself into the narrative, writing about the court case of Robert Farquarson, who, in 2005, killed his three sons after driving them into a dam. It’s not exactly the sunny sit-on-the-beach kind of book, but if you’re into crime and stellar writing, you can’t look past this one.
4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche - Americanah
This book first caught my attention on Twitter. Bret Easton Ellis tweeted, ‘AMERICANAH, a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is not only first-rate fiction but it also feels in this moment completely essential.’
That was enough for me.
The story moves between America and Nigeria. There’s a love story that spans two decades, a blog about race, and plenty of insight into an unfamiliar cultural milieu. Adichie is an audacious voice.
5. Evie Wyld - All the Birds, Singing
I’d read every book on the Miles Franklin shortlist except this one. And it won. Later I bought it, and devoured the novel in one sitting. Wyld is a good writer, and the pace and shifts in time are spot on. One thing that irked me was how the Australian slang had been omitted or changed for an English audience. It’s authenticity lost a couple of points there. It’s a pretty skinny read, and is a perfect thriller if you’ve got a sunny afternoon on the sand.