Best Reads 2016

Dublin in ruins after the 1916 Easter uprising. Collection, Dublin City Public Libraries

The best reads of 2016? I have no idea. Try Kate W’s compilation of the best of the Best-Books-of-2016 lists (here).  I’m more of a literary history guy. So here are my lists for 50, 100 and 150 years ago drawn from Annals of Australian Literature.


There were 23 novels published, of which I’ve read three, and a few interesting works of non-fiction. Highlights were –

Geoffrey Blainey, The Tyranny of Distance

Elizabeth Harrower, The Watch Tower (Sue at Whispering Gums’ review)

Shirley Hazzard, The Evening of the Holiday (see Vale ShirleyHazzard (1931-2016) by Lisa at ANZLitLovers which contains links to reviews of this and other Hazzard novels)

Robert Hughes, The Art of Australia

Sumner Locke Elliott, Some Doves and Pythons

Morris Lurie, Rappaport

Christina Stead, Cotters’ England (review)

Judah Waten, Season of Youth

Patrick White, The Solid Mandala

No births are shown for this year or for any year after 1959 except one, Tim Winton in 1960. However it is noted that in 1966 publication began for the Australian Dictionary of Biography and the Australian Left Review (monthly journal of the CPA from 1966-1992 – that’s the Communists, not the Accountants’ association. I was a member of one and not the other but I’ll leave it to you to guess which).


Thirty-odd books were published, well down on the 45 of the year before. I’ve listed all the novels (8) and a couple of books of verse. The Helena Sumner Locke in this list is the mother of the Sumner Locke Elliott in the list above. She died of complications arising from his birth.

CJ Dennis, The Moods of Ginger Mick

Joseph Furphy, Poems (ed. by Kate Baker)

Doris Egerton Jones, The Coconut Planter (AG Stephens described one of her earlier novels as the most Australian story since My Brilliant Career)

Helena Sumner Locke, Samaritan Mary

Sydney de Loghe (Frederick Loch), The Straits Impregnable

Rosa Praed, Sister Sorrow

Ambrose Pratt, Her Assigned Husband

Katharine Sussanah Prichard, Windlestraws (Nathan Hobby’s review)

Steele Rudd, Grandpa’s Selection

Arthur Wright, Under a Cloud

There were some good births this year including Jessica Anderson, Paul Brickhill, Peter Finch, George R Turner, Googie Withers and Morris West.


Just four books, no novels. I should have done this last year when there were four novels, one of which I own and will review ‘shortly’ – Catherine Helen Spence, Mr Hogarth’s Will. The others were Henry Kingsley, The Hillyars and the Burtons, Benjamin Farjeon, Shadows on the Snow, and William Thomes, The Bushrangers.

In fact 1865 was a much more interesting year altogether. The most ‘notable’ writer born in 1866 was Barcroft Boake, but in 1865 Mary Gilmore, Breaker Morant and AG Stephens were born and John Gould brought out his Handbook of the Birds of Australia.


Nothing published. The only ‘Australian’ book published in the 5 years to 1816 was Matthew Flinders, A Voyage to Terra Australis (1814). Among the births was Annie Maria Baxter/Dawbin. Her first husband, Andrew Baxter had a station at Yambuk, where I used to camp and swim in the surf as a kid, around from Port Fairy, Vic. She left Baxter, and Australia, but later returned, married Robert Dawbin and they took up property in the Wannon region, 50 or 60 miles northwest of Port Fairy. In 1873, she published Memories of the Past by a Lady in Australia, drawn from her early diaries, of which there are 32 volumes covering the period 1834-1865.


Joy Hooton and Harry Heseltine, Annals of Australian Literature, 2nd Ed., OUP, Melbourne, 1992

8 thoughts on “Best Reads 2016

  1. Bill, you are just the man to help me out with a little quest I have set for myself….
    \If you look right down at the bottom of the RH menu on my blog, you will see that I have been tracking the year of publication of the Australian books I’ve read. My little quest is to have read a book from every year of the 20th century, and you can see that there are some gaps.
    To get the first decade out of the way, can you look in your Annals to recommend some titles for the missing years please?


      • I’ve made a note of all the missing years up to 1950. As it happens, for the first two, 1904 and 1905, I have Sandy’s Selection (Steele Rudd, 1904) and Rigby’s Romance (J. Furphy/Tom Collins, 1905) and I’ll bring them with me. I’ll be in Melb from 21-27 Jan. There’s also a Praed for each year, respectively Nyria and The Maid of the River; and for 1905 Mrs Gunn’s children’s book, The Little Black Princess. I’m working through xmas, so more homework anon.


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