When the book at the top of your list is a cookbook, I guess that says a lot about this year. Jane Webster’s ‘At My French Table’ swept me into another world and irrevocably changed the way I looked at food (the recipes were reliably delicious as well).
Granted, this is a little bit of an eclectic mix – contemporary fiction, memoir, fantasy, cookbook, crime fiction, self-betterment and an Enneagram tome. To make the list these books had to alter me in some way – carry me to a better place, point me to a better way of being, captivate me with exceptional storytelling.
Books have a way of finding us just at the right time. Taking us to places we could never otherwise venture, and passing on the benefit of wisdom learned and earned from eras past.
1. At My French Table: Food Family and Joie de Vivre (Jane Webster)
I asked Dave to bring me home a French cookbook from his school’s library. Instead, he delivered a portal to another world. This incredible story of an Australian family who moved (along with their four children) to a chateau in Normandy has captured every part of my imagination and sated my appetite. The recipes are simple, delicious and amazing, but they do not compare to the journey that Webster takes you on with her words and photographs – detailing every part of the crazy decision to relocate her family, the idea that sprouted forth into The French Table and the idyllic reality of an always brimming life centred around food and friends. One day, we will visit that chateau and drink in every second of the experience. As a result, I was inspired to craft a French feast to draw in a little of the magic hovered between the pages.
2. Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty)
It was the year of Moriarty. I devoured her books and could quite easily have put all of them onto this list. After reading this book (NOT the same as the morose television series, don’t be fooled) I totally wanted to move to the (fictional) Pirriwee Peninsula. I would make a beeline for Blue Blues Cafe, deeply inhale the scent of coffee, baked goods and old books, and settle into a comfortable armchair to write. The characters, as always, are perfectly conceived – the quietly steely Celeste, spunky Madeline, apprehensive Jane… Moriarty’s writing enabled me to picture these women as if I had met them before. I ended up guessing pretty early on what the twist would be, but it in no way diminished my enjoyment of the experience – instead I found delight in witnessing the mastery of Moriarty’s weaving of the threads and the introduction of red herrings. Perfection.
3. Oathbringer (Stormlight Archives, Book 3) (Brandon Sanderson)
Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series has been a vivid part of our lives for the past seven years and we eagerly await the arrival of each new lengthy tome. This year it was Oathbringer – a book that catapulted the world of Roshar into new heights of chaos and sacrifice. I love this universe, where spheres of stormlight power incredible feats, realms split and fracture, portraits come to life off the page, and swords can have dynamic personalities. Sanderson truly has a gift in bringing worlds and characters to life and I feel as if I have met Shallan, Kaladin, Dalinar and Adolin. I’m very interested to see where the character of Wit is taken in future books.
4.Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Greg McKeown)
This book is packed with rich insights into how to build a thriving, successful, meaningful life. It came along at the start of the year and set the tone – putting into words concepts that I vaguely knew I resonated with but wasn’t sure exactly why. Essentialism is a way of life – shunning busyness, embracing a life of no regrets, setting boundaries to ensure your days match your values. It is endlessly practical, applicable to career and family and is a breath of fresh air in a world that pulls us in so many unnecessary directions.
5. What Alice Forgot (Liane Moriarty)
Another Moriarty classic and one I couldn’t help but continually updating the family on as I read. I loved the concept of the book – a head injury causes Alice to awaken believing that she is a decade younger and the experience challenges her notion of identity, family, motherhood, friendship and value. Moriarty dealt so well with the complicated nature of motherhood and infertility and she is a masterful writer in all senses, but particularly in terms of character development. Loved it.
6. Rising Strong (Brene Brown)
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Having read Brene’s other books, I initially wasn’t sure whether this would be more of the same, but I was mistaken. Elizabeth Gilbert’s story of how this book was created in Big Magic piqued my curiosity and there is no question about it – this one is Brene’s best work. The storytelling is vivid, the concepts and insights are exceptional and I had so many inspired moments while buried in the pages. It gives such a helpful framework of how to filter the stories that we tell ourselves and a much better way of engaging in conflict resolution. Will be on my repeated reading list for sure.
7.The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge (Dr. Beatrice Chestnut)
If you are conversant with the Enneagram and want to go deeper, this is definitely the book for you. For me, it was the infamous one that made me realise I wasn’t a Type 1 after all, after discovering the hidden depths of the sub-types after having glossed over this information in the past. I feel like so many people must mistype because they simply don’t realise the distinctions in the sub-types. I found the arrow section a little confusing at first but ultimately hopeful because it showed me that under stress I can go to the health of the Type 8 instead of the dark side and I have been using that knowledge to my advantage ever since.
8.The Likeness (Tana French)
I think I’ll forever feel like I’ve been to the Whitethorn House and been a ghost in the walls after reading this book. Having not read the first in this series didn’t really make a difference, I enjoyed diving into the story, characters and psychology of Detective Cassie Maddox and Lexie Madison. Set around a murder, undercover agent Cassie Maddox gets a chance to revive her alter-ego in order to solve a mystery and gets caught up in a web of intrigue, politics and friendship. Fascinating read.
9.Three Wishes (Liane Moriarty)
I know, I know – three Moriarty books is a little excessive in this list but what can I say? This was my introduction to her work and I became hooked immediately. The characters of the triplets were so well crafted and I found myself laughing, crying, empathising and getting frustrated at their decisions and feeling very connected to the outcome. The way that Moriarty wove in external observations of the triplets was great as well. Very enjoyable read.
10. At Home In the World (Tsh Oxenreider)
If you feel like jet-setting off around the world but can’t fathom the reality quite yet, this is the book for you. Stretching across continents with tastes of rural China, far-north Queensland, the sparkling lakes of New Zealand, the red dust of Uganda, tea plantations in Sri Lanka, bustling markets of Fez, the cobblestoned piazzas of Italy and so much more – it is enough to spark a sense of wanderlust in anyone. We plan to go travelling with our brood at some point and this book made it all seem quite possible. Definitely recommended read, with poignant insights about life, home and family woven throughout.
What were your favourite books from this year? I would love to hear about them! I’m always looking for good titles to add to my reading list. You can connect with me on Goodreads too.