Category Archives: WHAT TO READ NEXT

The Reading Women Awards

For my penultimate post on Reading Women, a selection of “awards”. Here are some of the most memorable books that I’ve  read this year, ones that made me laugh, think and cry.

Best Laugh-out-Loud Book (Non-fiction)

Unexpectedly, a psychology book! Cordelia Fine is a witty and clever writer, and her examination of the various kinds of self-delusion that we all practise is very, very funny. Look for the ‘Good Samaritan’ experiment that shows us up as less than saintly, in spite of good intentions. Highly recommended.

Most Ridiculous Murder Weapon (Crime Fiction)

This one was a re-reading, and it is still my favourite absurdity. The plot of Christie’s Towards Zero strains credulity in so many ways , it’s hard to know where to begin – but the deadly back-handed tennis stroke, with a racquet especially fitted with an iron knob (!), is as good a place as any. Several other ridiculous fictional murder weapons can be found here, in Murder by Toaster.

Best Pack-Up-And-Go Book

Travel writing at its best, Justin Marozzi’s The Way of Herodotus: travels with the man who invented history. A wonderful book, combining learning with humour and elegance, and leaving me keen to go back to the Mediterranean, and on to the East from there, as soon as possible.

Most Delicious Book

Easily Barbara Santich’s new book, reviewed here. Santich is a historian, an unpretentious foodie (yes, there is such a thing – just not enough of them!) and an excellent writer.

Best Book Club

Le Carmen in Paris, where readers meet in a bar housed in an opulent nineteenth century building. We need to recreate an atmosphere like this in the Barr Smith Library’s gorgeous Reading Room – we already have creative writers unofficially using it as a Writing Room, lets add to this!

Favourite eBook

Lots of competition from the wonderful ebooks around, but the Touch Press edition of The Wasteland, with all of its imaginative use of new technologies, has to be the winner. And it costs ( much) less than a bottle of French champagne – or the average print book!

Most Loved Library

Again, there are some great contenders out there – but I can’t go past the new library in Johannesburg, where the true value of libraries, our contribution to humanity, is enshrined.

Most Unreadable Book (2012)

Definitely Fifty Shades of Grey, a triumph of commercialism over intelligence if ever there was one. Calling it ‘mummy porn’ is insulting to mummies.

The Author Award (2012)

For the talented best-selling author who restored my faith in contemporary fiction, after my depressing encounter with Grey. Anna Funder is an accomplished author, and as Stephen Romei reported in The Australian ( Aug 18):

While All That I Am had sold 90,000 copies at the time of writing, which is Tim Winton territory, it is but a drop in the Fifty Shades ocean. Funder is mock rueful. ‘Yes, obviously I didn’t have enough sex, enough handcuffs.’

The Reader’s Award

Shared between Louise (for her contributions to the blog and her willingness to share her enthusiasm for reading), Ainsley (for her help with the NYR events and for her sense of humour) and Janette (for coming to every single event we organised, from the launch, to Children’s Books, to Chocolate and Champagne Readings.) Thank you to my favourite Reading Women.

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Australian Awards (Amanda Lohrey)

The most recent Australian literary award to be granted goes to Amanda Lohrey, author of many lovely novels and short stories. Lohrey has just won the prestigious Patrick White Literary Award, ‘which acknowledges a body of work rather than a single publication.’ Her latest book is a collection of short stories, Reading Madame Bovary (2010) and I can strongly recommend Camille’s Bread, the story of a single woman bringing up her young daughter in contemporary Sydney.

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Margaret Atwood: award winner

Atwood deserves an award for winning awards; incredibly, this famous Canadian author has won over ninety literary awards and has twenty honorary degrees to her name. The fascinating thing about her list of literary accolades is its sheer diversity: Canadian, obviously ( the Governor General’s Award) but also French, Italian, Swedish, Welsh and German. And there are awards for poetry, science fiction, economics, humanities, literary fiction and crime fiction here.

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The Cartier Diamond Dagger Award

This glamorously-named award – the nominees get a champagne reception at London’s Savoy Hotel as well as the diamond dagger- is the ‘lifetime achievement’ award offered by the Crime Writers’ Association. Consequently, the list of winners reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of contemporary crime writers –  Ruth Rendell, P D James, Ian Rankin, John le Carré, Elmore Leonard and so on. Eric Ambler won the first award, in 1986, and Frederick Forsythe the 2012 one.

The CWA committee selects writers nominated by the membership. Nominees have to meet two essential criteria: first, their careers must be marked by sustained excellence, and second, they must have made a significant contribution to crime fiction published in the English language, whether originally or in translation. The award is made purely on merit without reference to age, gender or nationality. (1)

The Barr Smith Library holds the work of all of these authors: we have an excellent crime fiction  collection.

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A Thousand Acres

First candidate for prize-winning novels to read over summer is a great American novel, Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres ( 1991). Smiley won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction  in 1992, a fitting accolade for ‘distinguished fiction by an American author … dealing with the American way of life.’

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First Prize

Awards and prizes are the lifeblood of contemporary literary fiction. They are often controversial, they attract media attention, and they can be worth a lot of money. From the odd (ever heard of Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award?) to the famous (the Nobel Prize for Literature), literary prizes are worth checking out. They can help us decide what to read; sometimes they also tell us what to avoid (I’m thinking of the Literary Review’s annual Bad Sex award, for example – there’s just so much pulsating heat and nipple clamping that I can stand.)

We’ll look at a wide range of prize-winning literature this month. 🙂

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Vietnam (Graham Greene)

The traveller / writer who accompanied me to Vietnam this year was Graham Greene; I read The Quiet American (1955) in Hanoi. Greene’s powerful novel about the war in Vietnam, set in the period of the French recolonization efforts against the Viet Minh,  was the perfect book to read on this trip. He wrote from experience as a war correspondent, and this ‘fictional reportage’ makes compelling reading.

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